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Tom Dolan will form an all-Irish partnership with the vastly experienced Damian Foxall for the first race for the new Figaro Beneteau 3, the Sardinha Cup which starts on March 27th.

After last year’s promising first season in the Figaro one design class, finishing third rookie overall, Dolan has embraced the circuit’s change to the brand new foiling Figaro Beneteau 3, and has spent recent weeks learning how to make the new boat sail fast.

Ten times round the world sailor, a winner of the crewed Volvo Ocean Race and the two-handed Barcelona World Race round the world, Foxall cut his teeth in the solo and short-handed world in the Figaro class in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He became was the first even non-French skipper to win a leg of La Solitaire du Figaro and who finished top rookie in 1997.

The decision to move to the new foil-assisted, faster and more responsive Figaro 3 has proven a magnet to many of the top French ocean racing stars such as Loick Peyron, Michel Desjoyeaux, and Charles Caudrelier as well as three times La Solitaire winners Jérémie Beyou and Yann Eliès.

Dolan received his new Figaro 3 on January 25th and had his first training sessions in February coached by Tanguy Leglatin and Gildas Mahe. “To be honest the training has been going very well.” Said Dolan, who hails from Kells in County Meath but lives in Concarneau.

“We have been among the fastest boats on the water. But like everyone we need to work hard on the manoeuvres. That is where the biggest losses are right now.”

Dolan adds: “It is great to have Damian with me. He is very calm on the boat and his experience is obvious but one of the most important learnings for me has been organisation, discipline and attention to detail, how to run a programme. He has been giving me a bit of a push in that direction and it makes a real difference in terms of confidence in yourself and the programme.”

“But besides all that, we have a good craic together and I have long since forgiven Damian for his County Kerry roots.”

Foxall is delighted to be back in France among many of his Figaro counterparts, French sailors who have remained friends and rivals over the 20 years, and loving the challenge of scaling the Figaro 3 learning curve as fast and efficiently as possible with his fellow countryman Dolan.

“Being on the dock here in Lorient it feels like only yesterday when I was here in my Figaro years. It is fantastic. There is the same kind of sensation with some of the best offshore racers in the world here. It is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase Irish sailing.” Foxall smiles.

“Tom has been here in France and doing it for a few years and he is well integrated with the sailors here and he is doing well. Here we have top guys like Charles Caudrelier and Alain Gautier and we are holding our place at the top of the fleet.”

Published in Figaro

Irish Sailing has named Volvo Ocean race veteran Damian Foxall as its sustainability ambassador.

The national governing body for sailing in Ireland says the Kerry sailor — who served as sustainability manager for Vestas 11th Hour Racing in the most recent edition of the VOR — “has committed to helping us support sailors, clubs and centres to make sailing in Ireland environmentally sustainable and help reduce our carbon footprint.

“We are excited to announce that he has committed to attending a number of Irish Sailing events to help share advice on sustainability and environmental impact.

“Damian brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table for us all to learn from. He completed 10 round-the-world races and is a passionate ocean conservationist.”

The ocean consultant will be guest speaker at the Irish Sailing Cruising Conference in Lough Ree Yacht Club next Saturday 16 February, and will also be presenting Irish Sailing’s first Sustainability Award at tonight’s Volvo Irish Sailing Awards – just a few days after his recent skiing adventures on Ireland's highest peak.

Published in ISA

Kerry’s own Volvo Ocean Race winner Damian Foxall has made the news for a very different achievement — descending Ireland’s highest mountain on skis.

The veteran round-the-world sailor made an early start on Saturday morning (2 February) for the ski climb to the peak of Carrauntoohil before the 400-metre descent to the Devil’s Ladder, making the most of the recent heavy snowfall.

As RTÉ News reports, the weekend’s feat marked Foxall’s first attempt to ski the slope known locally as the Shoulder of Corrán.

 

“The feeling was unreal, exhilarating, a once-in-a-decade experience,” he said.

But the weekend didn’t end there for Foxall as he joined his friend and fellow sustainability manager Lucy Hunt, from the Sea Synergy Marine Awareness and Activity Centre in Waterville, for an adventurous Sunday on skis in the mountains.

The pair went from Curve Gully to Carrauntoohil, then followed the ridge line to four more peaks of the McGillycuddy Reeks “in Alpine conditions”, according to Foxall’s Facebook page.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - Kerry sailor and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Damian Foxall had a very different role in the most recent edition of the round-the-world yacht race.

As sustainability manager for Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Foxall was responsible for guiding the team towards the title of the race’s ‘most sustainable’. His secret? “No compromise.”

Foxall spoke to Sport Sustainability Journal upon the publication of his team’s comprehensive sustainability report, which outlines various initiatives from grants for local projects along the route, to carbon reduction and offsetting on the yacht and among the crew.

The latter included the likes of reduced plastic packaging for official race clothing supplied by Musto, to ‘meatless Mondays’ below deck.

“The further we got into the race … we found sustainability brought a depth and strength to our team,” Foxall says.

Sport Sustainability Journal has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Ireland’s Sailor of the month for October, Damian Foxall talks (play podcast below) about Sunday's start of the Volvo Ocean Race 6,000–mile leg two to Capetown. From the deck of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, he tells about crew 'shenanigans' aboard the VOR 65s and admits Dong Feng and Mapfre are two very serious competitors in a one design fleet where the gains between boats are very small. Ireland's high seas superstar also admits the fleet is waiting with 'bated breath' for news of the new race CEO.

VOR 65sVOR Teams that established themselves early with solid crews have already shown they have an advantage. According to Foxall, Dong Feng and Mapfre are two very serious competitors Photo: VOR

Foxall recalls last month's leg one win and sets out the clear objectives of Vestas 11th hour racing that includes so much more than just winning his second VOR title. Endorsing the VOR's marine debris campaign, the County Kerry offshore racer maintain's that it is 'unacceptable' for any sailing event to be using single use plastic bottles. There's news too about why marine clothing firm Musto has reduced its product packaging by 80% and who to call if you hit a whale...

Finally, Foxall has advice for Nin O'Leary, Annalise Murphy and all the other up and coming Irish offshore racers keen to follow in his wake...and why, as Foxall maintains, Ireland has not yet realised its great marine resource potential.

Listen in to the podcast below...

Damian Foxall Fact file

Date of birth: 7 March 1969

In: County Kerry, Ireland

Legs sailed in this edition: Leg 1

There’s not much that five-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and passionate ocean conservationist Damian Foxall hasn’t done when it comes to sailing. He won the Volvo Ocean Race as part of Groupama in 2011-12, set a round-the-world speed record onboard G-Class catamaran Cheyenne, and took victory in the two-handed Barcelona World Race in 2008, adding all that to his record as the first ever non-French entry to grab a leg win at the Solitaire du Figaro in 1997. Now, he returns to the toughest test of a team in professional sport looking to lift the trophy for a second time.

Previous Volvo Ocean Races:
2014-15 Dongfeng Race Team
2011-12 Groupama sailing team
2008-09 Green Dragon
2005-06 Ericsson
2001-02 Tyco

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

The Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” process in October is normally self-selecting, as the Senior and Junior awards go to the new Irish Sailing All-Ireland Champions. But when Fionn Lyden of Baltimore demonstrated at Mullingar in 2017’s Championship of Champions on Lough Owel that he was well able to transfer his skills in the Laser and Olympic Finn to the venerable GP 14, it provided the adjudicators with a new choice option, as he was already August’s Sailor of the Month for winning Bronze at the U23 Finn Worlds in Hungary, and the All-Ireland title simply added to his laurels.

Happily, in some very neat choreography, the final weekend of October brought forth a star of equal status. Going into the first leg of the seven-boat Volvo Ocean Race from Alicante to Lisbon starting October 22nd, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was far from being rated the favourite. But from an early stage she steadily increased her lead in such a convincing style that it wouldn’t be fair to say who had in fact been the pre-race favourites. Even a mixture of local windlessness and an adverse tide approaching the finish line still left Vestas with a clear lead of more than two hours. And a key role in all this was played by Ireland’s own high seas superstar Damian Foxall, our “Sailor of the Month (Senior)” for October.

Listen to the Damian Foxall podcast from Lisbon here

Published in Sailor of the Month

As Afloat.ie reported, Irish sailor Damian Foxall and the Vestas 11th Hour Racing crossed the finish line in Lisbon at 1408 UTC ahead of their competitors by a few hours earning 8 points and are now the leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race. They led the 7-day race since the first night staying ahead of the other seven boats through the Strait of Gibraltar, around the island of Porto Santo, and north to Lisbon via a virtual waypoint added by the Race Committee mid-leg.

“Can’t argue with the results,” said skipper, Charlie Enright upon finishing in Lisbon. “For us, it has always been the process and improving every day. We prioritized getting the right people and this provides us with a lot of confidence. I can’t say enough about the squad on the boat and the ones on the shore.”

“To kick it off this way is a strong sentiment to the team,” added Team Director and Co-Founder, Mark Towill. “We have a long way to go for sure, and this is a great way to start the event.”

This is technically back-to-back ocean leg wins for the American duo, Enright and Towill. The pair along with their fellow US sailor, Nick Dana, won the final leg of the last edition onboard Team Alvimedica. This is the first leg win for Vestas, and for a Danish flagged boat in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The team is now in Lisbon for one week participating in outreach events with the local community, an In-Port Race, Pro-Am racing, and preparing for the 7000-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa that starts on November 6th.

vestas tagusAfter frustration by light airs and an ebbing tide, Vestas 11th Hour Racing finally gets the power to carry her to the finish line at Lisbon, and victory in Leg 1. Photo: John Duggan

The Race to Win
Vestas 11th Hour Racing led for the majority of the 1650 nm course that took the seven teams from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal.

"We had a good leg. And that’s due to the strong shore team preparation with Chris Bedford, our meteorologist, Anderson Reggio for navigation support, and Vestas’ meteorology team. We had a plan and could be proactive instead of reactive," said Simon Fisher (SiFi), winner of the last Volvo Ocean Race as navigator.

The first night the crew took a risk by sailing close to the shoreline of southern Spain hoping for wind coming off the mountains not seen on weather forecasts. The gamble paid off as they were the first in and out of the Strait of Gibraltar, an area known for high winds, shipping traffic, and a narrow path for maneuvers.

According to SiFi, "we then got fired out of Gibraltar at 30 knots. We saw as high as 35 knots and we gybed back and forth quite a few times to stay in the pressure which is definitely exhausting for the team."

By Day 2, the sailors extended their lead 25 miles from the second place boat, but it was short-lived as it shrank to 6 miles in just a few hours, as they were the first to sail into a lighter pressure system.

"We had good scheds and bad scheds," said Charlie Enright, referring the position reports delivered to the team every six hours. "It's frustrating to see the others take a bite out of your lead."

The vexations started to wane as the crew rounded the island of Porto Santo still in the lead, and a downwind drag race ensued north to a virtual mark 250nm away. The race committee added the mark after Day 2 to extend the course to align with the intention of a 7-day leg.

After turning the virtual mark, the team continued to extend attributing their speed to the sail choice and crew work. While all the teams have the same sails onboard, it is up to the individual crews to decide which of the seven headsails are the optimal combination for varying conditions.

"We are fortunate enough to have a well-rounded crew who can jump into any position on the boat, whether that is driving, grinding, or trimming," said Team Director, Mark Towill. "That allows everyone to stay fresh and execute our navigation plan." 

"We are not talking about the finish onboard yet," said young Australian sailor, Tom Johnson just 24 hours before the finish. "No one is taking a back seat, we are just all doing our job."

The last 24 hours were tough as the crew faced shifting light winds, a traffic separation scheme that limited their navigation, and 4 miles of upwind sailing in a narrow river to the finish, but in the end the crew recognizes this is only beginning of a longer race that will take them around the world over the next 9 months.

Vestas lisbonTeam Vestas celebrate leg one victory, Damian Foxall is fourth from right Photo: Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race

Life Onboard
The first leg of the race was an exhausting all-out sprint for the team. Executing multiple maneuvers in the initial 36 hours means there little sleep for the crew. Then in the light air, the monotony of waiting for wind is a mental game the teams must push through to be ready for the next situation.

When not keeping the boat going fast, preparing food, washing dishes, and maintenance are tasks the sailors share onboard. Fresh food only lasts for the first few days; then they switch to freeze-dried meals. The crew partook in Meatless Monday, an international campaign to reduce the impact the meat industry has on the environment on the first day out at sea. "We are enjoying Mediterranean veggie pasta," said Mark Towill, "it is one simple way of lowering our carbon footprint and is part of our commitment to sustainability."

The boat also had to overcome a few systems failures onboard during the leg. A broken water pump the first day left the crew without fresh water until boat captain, Nick Dana, was able to fix the issue. He explains, "it's not like we can go out and get a new one, everything must be fixed onboard, but that's the Volvo Ocean Race." Repair and reuse is another key element of sustainable living.

Then on the evening of Day 4, skipper Charlie Enright, felt the performance of the boat "just wasn't right" so he went below only to discover a disconnected water ballast hose filled the yacht with 800 liters of water. The crew bailed the water and repaired the hose, luckily, not losing too much speed in the process.

It’s not all work onboard a Volvo Ocean 65. On the morning of Day 6, race rookie and British sailor, Hannah Diamond took a moment to soak it all in: "It's been a really nice sunrise and had a couple of pods of dolphins come past, so couldn't ask for more really."

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

The favourable east to southeast winds which carried the seven Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018 contenders so positively through the Straits of Gibralter and into the Atlantic are already a fading memory writes W M Nixon.

The leaders – with Vestas 11th Hour Racing still the pathfinder, and Damian Foxall in a senior crew role - are dealing this morning with the here-and-now of light headwinds, and a large area of calm which is threateningly near to their track southwestwards to the first turn at the island of Porto Santo in the Madeira group.

After that, they can head northeast to the finish of Leg 1 at Lisbon, by which time 1,450 miles will seem much longer than most crew had anticipated. Vestas’ closest challenger is the pre-race favourite Mapfre, but her challenge comes from far away as she tacks westward some distance to the northwest, with the boat actually closest on the water to the leader being AkzoNobel.

The other four boats, including Turn the Tide on Plastic with Annalise Murphy on board, are in a closely-backed group northeast of Vestas, all making between 9.5 and 10.5 knots. In her weekly diary in the Irish Times this morning, Annalise reports on her relief in finding she hasn’t been affected by seasickness, her joy in achieving even two hours of uninterrupted sleep, and the fascination of racing so closely with the other three boats nearby, thereby greatly speeding her growing awareness of what gives a Volvo Ocean 65 an extra knot or two of vital speed.

And of course she alludes to that crazy start sequence on Sunday which we featured here on Afloat.ie, when a fleet of racing boats which have cost tens of millions of Euros to build, tune and crew, found themselves making their start through a spectator fleet of mini-liners which seemed determined to risk everything by closing vital gaps in order to give their paying passengers an even more intimate view of the proceedings.

Race tracker here

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

The Charlie Enright-skippered Vestas 11th Hour Racing, with Ireland’s Damian Foxall in a senior crew role, continues to lead the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet runs into the Atlantic towards the turn at Porto Santo off Madeira in the 1450-mile Leg 1 from Alicante to Lisbon writes W M Nixon.

West of the Straits of Gibraltar, they’ve held over towards the Spanish and southern Portuguese side, as the east winds are lighter along the African coast. Pre-race favourite Mapfre, which had a frustrating time in the Mediterranean, is now back in the hunt, and looks to be lying second overall.

Annalise VORAnnalise Murphy onboard Turn the Tide on Plastic shortly after the start Photo: Theo Lyttle

Annalise Murphy on Turn the Tide on Plastic is currently vying for fourth place with Dongfeng, Team Brunei, and Team Sung Hung Kai/Scallywag, while in third place is AkzoNobel.

Under present conditions, the second stage of Leg 1 from Porto Santo to Lisbon will be a tricky proposition, as winds are mostly light northeaster, though with the usual localised blast of easterly breeze coming through the Straits of Gibraltar.

Race tracker here

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

After their first night at sea, the seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race are approaching the Straits of Gibraltar with Vestas 11th Hour Racing narrowly in the lead writes W M Nixon.

As a senior member of her crew is Ireland’s Damian Foxall, this rings bells at home. At the moment, however, our other star world racer, Annalise Murphy in Turn the Tide on Plastic, is towards the back, but it’s still a fairly close-packed fleet.

The Volvo Ocean 65s are in a rising easterly wind that will become a full-blown Levanter as they go through the Straits, and the course then takes a slight curve to port to carry them out to the island of Port Santo in the Madeira group. This provides the turning point to ensure they sail the required 1450 miles in the first leg to Lisbon in Portugal.

Race tracker here

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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