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County Meath's Tom Dolan will have his chance to seal Ireland's best ever La Solitaire du Figaro this evening after completing three stand-out legs to be in striking distance of a podium result.

The final, deciding stage of the La Solitaire du Figaro is usually billed as a 24-hour sprint, quite literally designed to test who still can best draw on the remaining reserves of energy for one last day-long no holds barred battle to the final finish line but this evening it may well be a drifting match according to the weather forecasts.

Looking at this light winds all or nothing scenario does not fill Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) with too much joy. The 33-year-old racer, on just his third La Solitaire, lies in an excellent fifth place overall, ready to challenge for the podium. He is within 28 minutes and 22 seconds of third-placed Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) but resolves to carry on with his same low-risk approach and to not get overwrought by the challenge that faces him.

“I feel grand, my back is a bit sore but then I am sure everyone’s is at this stage. It looks like a very complicated stage, light winds, strong tides. I am a bit worried to be honest because you could lose everything you have done good on this last stage. But I will just do as much as I can in terms of the prep. I have a couple of ideas in terms of strategy but I will work like I have these first three legs and see how I go. It would be a dream to hold on to fifth. I am definitely so much more confident in the way I am approaching things and sailing well enough.” Said Dolan, “But I have not really looked to closely at the standings, I am not sure I will. I think better to go out and sail own race as best I can.”

According to the weather gurus who advise the solo skippers on the fine detail strategies and the sailors themselves, the decisive Stage 4 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro looks set to be a drifting match for the most part of the proposed 83 nautical miles passage out from Saint Nazaire to round the Ile de Yeu. In winds predicted to be between one and just over six knots use of the tidal currents (coeff 113) could decide the race.

"It's a short course, because there is no wind," says Francis Le Goff, the race director bluntly. In terms of contingencies there will be a buoy set 12 miles north of the island to allow intermediate times to be taken in case they cannot finish. And, after the 1915hrs Saturday evening start time, if the leaders have not yet passed the south of the Island by 1000hrs Sunday morning the race will be abandoned. The stage must be at least 50 miles long.

Le Goff asserts “La Solitaire du Figaro is not a coastal race, this stage must be at least 50 miles long to uphold the ethos of racing on the open sea. And similarly, if there is not sufficient wind on the water by 2030hrs the race will be cancelled as the rules do not allow a start in the dark.”

Having been postponed by more than 24 hours to allow the skippers enough rest because Stage 3 overran on time, the schedule requires the race to be decided by Sunday afternoon.

It is perhaps not the ideal scenario to settle the destination of this year’s La Solitaire title. But the tension between leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and nearest challenger Fred Duthil (Technique Voile/Cabinet Bourhis Generali) was notable at today’s – virtual- weather briefing. Both in turn queried the finer details of the race planning.

Le Cléac’h is 10 minutes 43 seconds up on Duthil and victory in this edition was the sole focus of this year for the 44 year old two times overall winner whose La Solitaire career includes wins in 2003 and 2010 and is neatly punctuated by three consecutive Vendée Globe podiums, second in 2008 and 2012 and winning in 2016.

In contrast Duthil, at 46 the oldest sailor in the fleet, with three La Solitaire top threes to his name, came into this La Solitaire for the sheer fun of it, not having raced the Beneteau Figaro 3 before and having only sailed his borrowed boat four times before the start.

But his cheeky victory on Stage 3, allied to a solid 14th on the first leg at 14 minutes behind Le Cléac’h and eighth on Stage 2 48 minutes behind Le Cléac’h gives Duthil a fighting chance of lifting the overall title.

“Of course, this is the most complicated scenario for me, with very uncertain weather, little wind and a lot of current, I hope that this last stage can be contested under normal racing conditions”, confirms Armel Le Cléac'h who knows how small the winning overall margins can be having beaten Alain Gautier by just 13 seconds in 2003.

"I won’t be losing sleep, I have seen races like this before. As long as it stays as sport and we are all in the same boat, we will have to be good right until the end to get this victory. "

Frédéric Duthil is determined to mount a strong challenge. “Second, third, fourth, fifth, tenth in the standings, for me, that's not going to change my life. I have already made three podiums on La Solitaire, once second, twice third, a fourth would be great, but the past has taught me that you only want to be the winner. What interests me is trying to make up for those ten minutes and fight Armel. "

He continues, “Entering the last stage ten minutes behind the leader means that I'm no longer in a position to just tell myself that I'm going to sail for fun. I'm still going to sail for fun, but also to sail to win. I see that my speed is fine and so is the way I've been sailing from the start, so I am saying to myself: why not? I'm really leaving with a frame of mind to try to catch up.”

Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) is ready to fight to finish on a high note after the huge disappointment of being in the top three for most of Stage 3, leading into the final 30 miles before being caught in a calm which saw him drop from third to 17th overall.

He said “It is so annoying to come so close to getting a really good result and then falling at the last hurdle. But that is sailing. That is La Solitaire and why you come back to La Solitaire again and again. You come back to do better than last time.” Said Goodchild, “I have been on good form generally so hopefully I can re-find that form for this last leg. “There is such a small window to get this leg in. The positive side is if you are trying to protect a position then it could be quite stressful. Unfortunately, now I am not doing trying to do that. I might sail a little more freely than on the last leg where I knew the weather was unstable and light and so I did not take too many risks and go into corners.”

Like others, Goodchild found the last leg extremely tiring and that may have affected his decision making towards the end. “I don’t think I have been that tired before. And them with the frustration and the adrenalin mix of the final 24 hours of that leg, there was not much sleep. But right now when I look back with hindsight I can’t see or say what I would have done differently. We were going straight for the finish line and the plan was not to get too close to the island. But we sailed into a hole and everyone sailed round us. I hung on for a bit too long when Yann chose to cut his losses earlier. But basically everyone sailed round us. But it is history. I will just have to do the Figaro again. It is great racing, there is nothing like it, in one design like this there is no hiding place and no excuses.”

Stage 4 is due to start 1915hrs local time Saturday.

Rankings https://www.lasolitaire.com/rankings/live
Tracker: https://lasolitaire.geovoile.com/2020/tracker/

Published in Figaro

The newfound more robust, cool-headed approach continues to work for Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan who today finished seventh on Leg 3 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro, an epic four day 492 miles light winds slog from Dunkirk all the way down the Channel, around the Brittany peninsula finishing off Saint Nazaire on the Loire estuary this evening.

As Afloat reported earlier, The best ever finish of his three La Solitaires to date sees the 33-year-old skipper of Smurfit Kappa rising to fifth overall in the 33 strong fleet 1 hour and 29 minutes behind overall leader French skipper Armel Le Cléac’h but only 28 minutes shy of the podium.

No non-French skipper has finished on the overall podium since 1988 when Swiss skipper Laurent Bourgnon won. The best international finish overall recently was Britain’s Alan Roberts’ ninth in 2015, Ireland’s Damian Foxall was tenth overall in 1998 when he won the last leg.

The stage which started last Saturday afternoon from Dunkirk was raced mainly in light winds and passed through three major tidal gates where big gaps were opened up in the 33 boat fleet.

The final 30 miles today along the south Brittany coast were complicated and saw major upsets as the winds died completely. French ace Fred Duthil lead a breakaway trio offshore, outside Belle Ile island where they found more consistent breeze, they were able to pull back some eight miles of initial deficit to take the top three places.

Dolan was at one time leading the main peloton but was quietly delighted with his seventh place, adding to his 10th and 11th on Stages 1 and 2.

He wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best non-French skipper on the leg.

Dolan who was 32nd overall last year said: “To be honest with you I am a bit surprised because I really have not been doing anything different in the way I sail the boat, I trim the sails the same way and everything else but I really have made an effort to get my head sorted and so I don’t lose the plot a bit the way I maybe used to. And I really don’t focus on the other boats I just concentrate on my speed and trim and don’t get wound up where I am. But fifth overall, I better get some sleep before the last leg.”

He adds, “I am really enjoying the sailing much more too. That was a very hard leg, really very typical of what we had last year lots going on and very little time to sleep and recover. I had a bit of sleep on the first night but really very little since, but you really get very tired.”

Standings

Published in Figaro
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Ireland's Tom Dolan has finished the third leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro race in seventh overall, a result that will almost guarantee him a top five overall going into the final leg of the French solo marathon.

Dolan sailed back from as low as 21st place a day ago on the leg from Dunkirk and sailed into Saint-Nazaire this evening in fifth overall. For a time it looked like he may drop back as rivals such as Goodchild and Macaire finished but it looks certain now that Dolan will hold fifth overall with one leg left to race.

It's a deserved result for the Meath man who has kept to his promise of delivering a top result with some consistent sailing in this, his third Figaro Race.

32 miles away from his arrival in Saint-Nazaire after plenty of rebounds and surprises, the Flying Irishman, as he is is known among competitors, was as high as fifth on the most technical stage of La Solitaire du Figaro but the snakes and ladders continued and he dropped two places on his route to the line.

Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) kept his head through the final hours crossing seventh, the best finish of his La Solitaire du Figaro career. Tenth on the first stage, 11th on the second, Dolan is up to fifth overall, just reward for his good all-round speed, tenacity and consistent, minimal risk choices. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best overseas, non-French skipper to finish.

Dolan said: “ To be honest with you I am a bit surprised because I really have not been doing anything different in the way I sail the boat, I trim the sails the same way and everything else but I really have made an effort to get my head sorted and so I don’t lose the plot a bit the way I may be used to. And I really don’t focus on the other boats I just concentrate on my speed and trim and don’t get wound up where I am. But fifth overall, I better get some sleep before the last leg! ”

Published in Figaro

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is delivering on his pre-race promise of consistent sailing and is now up to 13th place and less than four miles behind the leader. It's an impressive performance from the County Meath sailor to add to his 10th and 11th places scored in the first two legs of La Solitaire du Figaro, making it the best offshore result so far from any Irish Figaro competitor.

Dublin Rookie Kenny Rumball in his first edition of the French marathon race lies 27th in the 33-boat fleet. Tracker here

Approaching the Chaussée de Sein mark late this Tuesday afternoon, with some 125 nautical miles still to sail to the finish line off Saint Nazaire, three times La Solitaire du Figaro winner Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was holding a very slender lead over Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton). Racing through the strong currents off Ushant on the north-west corner of Brittany with only very, very light winds Goodchild continues to hold his own as he matches Eliès who he pipped to second place at the Stage 2 finish into Dunkirk. Were Eliès to cross first he would draw level with his long term rival Le Cléac’h on seven stage wins

But while the British solo racer continued his carefully measured approach through a day which was marked by a significant bounce back by General Classification Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire).

Just when observers in his native France were voicing concerns that the twice La Solitaire champion had spent all of his overall lead of 37 minutes – and maybe more as he lay 24th and some ten miles behind the pacemakers - Le Cléac’h, The Jackal, again proved his willingness to take risks.

Cutting the corner at Ushant, passing down inside the small islands of the Ile de Quemenes and Ile Molene Stage 2 winner Le Cléac’h steadily clawed back five or six miles back on the leaders. Momentarily up to second, his actual placing is of no consequence. Of more significance, the move brings him to within three miles of the two leaders, in theory just about restoring his overall lead.

It is the third time in as many legs that Le Cléac’h has been bold enough to split from the fleet. Each time he has gained. On the first leg, just as today, it got the Vendée Globe winner back into contact with the leading vanguard, while on the second leg’s first night it proved to be his winning move.

But with light, offshore north-easterly breezes set to remain at around nine knots or less until the finish line where the leaders are expected tomorrow morning, anything can still happen. Another small low-pressure centre looks set to develop tonight centred over Lorient which will again upset the wind fields and make for lighter breezes. There appears to be more wind pressure offshore but at the expense of sailing a longer distance, and the breeze seems set to head and drop near the line.

But with the worst of the tidal gates, and the rocky, technical, tidal Raz de Sein behind them this evening and it is largely a straight line gennaker reach to the Loire Atlantique line where the winners should cross tomorrow morning. After 370 miles of racing since leaving Dunkirk on Saturday evening there are just two miles separating the top ten solo skippers, and 28 of the 33 skippers within 10 miles of the lead.

For Goodchild, the battle over these final hours to the line is mainly with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who is second overall at 6 minutes and 29 seconds ahead of him when they left Dunkirk. The British skipper in turn had 6 minutes over Eliès who is fourth overall and Goodchild has 7 minutes and 15 seconds over Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir).

Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is nicely positioned now in eighth, 1.8 miles behind the pacemaker but within reach of the podium, just half a mile behind his compatriot Goodchild. Phil Sharp (OceansLab) is 13th alongside Ireland’s Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) both 3.8 miles behind the leader.

Tracker here

Published in Figaro

Having led the 33 strong La Solitaire du Figaro fleet since the early hours of this morning Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton) has had to see his hard-earned margin evaporate in a fast failing breeze off the Baie de Morlaix this evening. The two Irish sailors in leg three are currently placed 19th (Tom Dolan) and (Kenny Rumball) 30th. Tracker here.

For the 30-year-old Brit solo racer who placed twice on the podium of warm-up Figaro races this season and who, on Sunday, started the 492 miles Stage 3 from Dunkirk in third position overall, seeing the fleet fall in on his stern was not unexpected as the forecasted shut down in the light easterly breeze arrived.

Goodchild has sailed an outstanding leg so far, fast in all conditions, focused and making assured, relatively low-risk moves. But the final 195 nautical miles, around the tip of Brittany, and south to the finish line at Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire look set to be painfully slow. “We are just coming up to the north Brittany coast. Forecast-wise now we only have what we get from MeteoConsult and that leaves some grey areas, they are not very precise. At the moment the idea is to get to coast quickly to be able to hide or anchor if we need from the strong tide.” Reported Goodchild today as he raced side by side with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who won Stage 1.

The Leyton skipper added, “I took advantage of my investment to the SW yesterday and managed to round the Cap de la Hague in the lead with Xavier Macaire who was further out to sea. Achilles Nebout went off Alderney and Adrien Hardy sailed off towards Guernsey, but we may all get back together again depending on what happens to the weather. We’re waiting for the next weather forecast to see what is coming up. We’re expecting to come to a stop off Northern Brittany and we’ll see how things get going again. As usual, there is a lot of seaweed. There are a hundred miles to sail now with very little wind. Guernsey looks good from here. I have never been there but we’re sailing close to the rocks and enjoying the view. Conditions have been easy and pleasant so far.”

Sounding relaxed today Sam Goodchild has already shown considerable maturity and serenity so far and worked carefully with Corentin Douguet on a weather strategy, his friend and rival French skipper being forced out of the race with a damaged vertebrae in his back. “Sam really has followed the game plan we developed beforehand to the letter.” Commented Douguet, “ He is sailing very quickly, always making the right decisions, without ever taking any risks and so far the conditions have been to his advantage. Certain options taken by skippers after passing Dieppe surprised me, but it is not in my philosophy to choose extreme routings when conditions are uncertain. We can still see guys like Eric Péron (French Touch) and Adrien Hardy (Ocean Attitude), who like to "bang the corners". The crucial phases went well for Sam, who is having a very good season. But the remainder of the leg seems more complicated. It seems to me that the hardest part is yet to come.”

With Armel Le Cléac’h more than 12 miles, or two hours behind, in 24th today these two sailors would top the General Classification, but this promises to be an exceptionally challenging, slow night as small, localised low pressure systems such away all of the breeze.
Macaire, who took a narrow lead back from Goodchild this evening, a matter of 150 metres of so, said today, “The sun is out, so it is fairly pleasant today. It’s nice to be out at the front of the fleet. We have got away from the pack behind. The wind is going to drop off this evening and during the night. So a lot could happen. The pack could catch up. I don’t know what to expect. It looks like it is going to be a long one. We knew what was going to happen back at the start with several areas of calm ahead of us. We have just been through one on this second day of racing. And there’s a second one late this afternoon or this evening. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I have a rough idea of what lies ahead, but I can’t say for the moment what my strategy will be. That will depend on how the wind shifts. We may be close to the coast or further off. We’ve certainly got plenty to amuse ourselves with”

The six leading boats were compacted back to within one mile of each other. The favourable ebb current should work with them from 1800hrs this evening to help them pass the entrance to the Baie de Morlaix. This is probably the most familiar stretch of coastline for the Figaro racers but there will certainly be elements of good and bad luck come into play tonight. The tide will help for the first part of the night but by Portsall, on the corner, the strong tides will be against them and anchoring may be required before Ushant.

“These small low pressure systems are lurking around the tip of Brittany ” explained Francis Le Goff, Race Director. "From tonight they will suck up all the wind, pretty much for whole of the night. In the end this leg is going to be around 96 hours of racing," said Race Director Le Goff, holding on to the idea of a finish time in Saint Nazaire on Wednesday afternoon. He has already postponed the start of the final leg.

Among the notable recoveries in the light airs Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was back up to eighth at three miles behind the leaders and Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) was in 12th 4,3 miles behind his compatriot Goodchild.

Tracker here.

Published in Figaro

Dun Laoghaire Harbour Rookie Kenny Rumball is currently as high as 15th place and staying very much in touch with the fleet in the opening hours of Stage 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro tonight while Ireland's top-ranked Tom Dolan is at at the back of the pack after this afternoon's start but such positions are most likely temporary.

Racing in very light and variable easterly winds, progress this Sunday afternoon has been as slow for the 33 solo skippers racing on Stage 3 from Dunkirk to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

With the fleet spread almost side-by-side along a north-south line 25 nautical miles long, gains and losses appear mostly temporary. The choice of staying offshore in the stronger ebb current and better breeze seemed to have paid a very welcome dividend for three times winner Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) and Britain’s Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) who came back to take the top positions in the middle of the afternoon but with the fleet racing side by side off Le Havre at 1600hrs this afternoon that gain appeared to evaporate again and there was nothing in it as the fleet race slowly westwards towards the headlands of the Cherbourg peninsula, Barfleur and then Cap de La Hague at some 45 miles ahead of them across the Baie de la Sein

“This is how we expected this stage to be.” Commented Race Director Francis Le Goff this afternoon, “Now the combination of light weather and the tides of the Cotentin (Cherbourg) will now push the sailors to make big choices. The seas are like a lake meantime, but a lake with a lot of seaweed.”

Le Goff, who accompanies the fleet on one of the three guardboats, considers there is a good chance for the leaders to still catch the last of the favourable current at Barfleur and the Cap de la Hague on the east of the peninsula but they may then be stopped at the Raz de Blanchard at Alderney, a tidal gate which proved crucial during last year’s race.

Meantime the focus is to stay on the pace with the group and try to keep rested and hydrated in the strong sunshine, looking ahead to a long second night at sea which should see the wind shift more to the north-east as the fleet start to escape a sticky ridge of high pressure centred in the east of the Channel.

Roberts and Eliès continue to take the offshore track and may well continue to profit, the French skipper who was third on Stage 2 is looking to back up that decent finish with another top five, whilst the British skipper Roberts is seeking his first top ten finish of a La Solitaire du Figaro on which he was tipped among the top favourites.

Meantime in terms of distance to the next waypoint there are just five nautical miles between first and 30th place but that picture will almost certainly be very different come Monday morning. Patience and focus will be key requirements tonight.

Published in Figaro

Tom Dolan is hoping the same measured, steady approach that has served him well on the first two stages of La Solitaire du Figaro will work just as well on Stage 3, a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

The 33-year-old Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa has logged a tenth and an 11th and lies 11th overall, one hour and 11 minutes behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). On a very tightly packed leaderboard he is just 33 minutes off second place after an aggregate of six days of racing, and a few seconds away from the top 10.

In Dunkirk today in the pleasant September sunshine Dolan was not letting the prospect of a very challenging third leg upset his mindset. The stage will include two of the most famous, rocky, tidal races in France, the Raz Blanchard at Alderney and the Raz de Sein off the tip of Brittany. Winds are once again expected to be light to moderate for the duration of the four-day stage which starts at 1600hrs local time. This race is immediately followed by Stage 4, a 24 hours 180 miles final sprint.

Stage 3 is a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuaryStage 3 is a challenging 504 miles leg from Dunkirk in the very northeast of France, round the Brittany peninsula to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary

“I am thinking like most people that this third stage will be crucial in terms of the final classification of the race. Even if I have done well enough these first two legs I go into this one just looking to try and do the same again, I stay focused, humble and not let things run away with me.” He said, “This is not an easy leg, we are in anticyclonic weather system with the ridge of high pressure to go through with light winds, again, then downwind in the light, then the tidal gates. I think people will get away the gaps will open and close like elastic. I just want to stick with my plan and keep pace with the fleet.”

Winds are set to be light on Sunday and timings on the headlands on a classic race down the Channel can be key, as will be making a good start off the line Saturday afternoon.

“We will be racing against the current, short tacking to start with and it will always be good to be in the top group. But I don’t really want to think too much about the result or what might be, I'll try to do my own race without looking too much at others at the AIS (radar). We'll see when we get there ".

Published in Figaro

Finishing 11th into Dunkirk, France on the 404 miles second stage of La Solitaire du Figaro this evening Ireland’s Tom Dolan has maintained the level of consistency which he was seeking when he left Saint Brieuc on Sunday morning.

As Afloat reported earlier, adding to his tenth on the 624 miles first stage, around Fastnet and back, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa now lies in an excellent 11th overall, one hour and 11 minutes behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h who won the second stage.

On a tightly packed leaderboard, Dolan is now only 12 minutes outside the top five as the 35 solo skippers seek to maximise their rest and recovery before Sunday’s restart for the 504 nautical miles stage to Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

“I seem to be going quite well. I am definitely staying much cooler and focused on the race course and getting away from the starts a bit better. To be honest, I am a bit surprised how well it is going, but in saying that I have worked hard and am doing more in terms of preparation. I feel more confident in what I am doing.” Acknowledged a visibly tired Dolan on the finishers dock in Dunkirk,

“What I planned to do I really pretty much did, I had in my notes to stay north of the fleet on the way back across the Channel and ended up to the south which lost me a few places but overall I am pretty happy with how it went. I am a lot more patient. The more I do this the more I realise that everybody makes mistakes on this race. And this race so far is so very close there is nothing really in it.” Dolan reported, “Now I really need to make sure I get as much sleep as I can for the next stage.”

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) retained an excellent level of consistency on Stage 2 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro to back up his tenth on the first leg with an 11th to lie 11th overall.

Sailing a near-perfect 404 miles race from the Baie de Saint-Brieuc where the 35 strong fleet started Sunday Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) won Stage 2 when he crossed the finish line off Dunkirk at 16:20:34hrs local time France yesterday afternoon.

The 43-year-old winner of the last Vendée Globe took 2 days 5 hours 20 minutes and 34 seconds to claim the seventh stage victory of his La Solitaire career, one which now spans 20 years and two overall victories in 2010 and 2013.

While Le Cléac’h takes over the top spot on the General Classification after two stages, Britain’s Sam Goodchild delivered Britain’s first podium finish in the modern era of the race, certainly since Clare Francis won the final leg from Kinsale to Le Croisic in 1975.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball is competing in the Rookie division in his first ever Figaro RaceDun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball is competing in the Rookie division in his first ever Figaro Race

Thirty-year-old Goodchild, who spent the first six years of his life cruising the Caribbean with his parents before taking up racing as a teenager at school in England, finished second 34 minutes and six seconds behind Le Cléac’h and two minutes and 22 seconds ahead of three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès (Queguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir).

Goodchild overhauled Eliès in the final miles to the line to find himself sandwiched between the only two multiple winners of La Solitaire. He moves into third overall 43 minutes and 59 seconds behind Le Cléac’h and just six minutes and 29 seconds behind second-placed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF)

“Passing Yann was the cherry on the cake.” Smiled an exhausted Goodchild who was ninth on the 642 miles first stage round Fastnet and back, “When I moved to France ten years ago I looked up to these guys and admired them. Yann was winning the Figaro back then and to be on a podium between the two of them today is pretty special. I didn’t expect it to happen and it’s really cool. I’ll try to keep the good work up for the rest of the Solitaire.”

The British solo skipper is in his first year back to La Solitaire after a four year break, and is on course to better his 11th overall in 2014. Scoring a second and first in the warm up races before La Solitaire showed was on form despite this being his first season in the Figaro Beneteau 3.

His second place today came as a result of good speed, solid tactics and patience, picking off boats throughout the second two legs after rounding Eddystone Lighthouse in sixth.

Goodchild acknowledged “Armel has had an awesome race and led from beginning to end so it’s the best I think I could do after he called the right shot in the first leg. It was slow in coming. It happened with one move at a time and went boat by boat. I’m really happy with second for sure and I’ll just have to try not to let it put too much pressure on for the rest of the Solitaire.”

Le Cléac’h’s stage win is his first since 2013 when he won from Porto to Gijon but he appears to feel his game is reminiscent of his 2010 overall victory when he triumphed on three of the four stages.

“I have the feeling of being in harmony with the boat, with my strategy, but also of being good in terms of speed, an area in which I maybe was not so good on the first leg. I managed to do what I wanted. I positioned myself well and when I took the lead at Eddystone, I was happy with my strategy, it gave me confidence for the future.” The current Vendée Globe champion commented, “. I'm super happy, it's certainly my seventh stage victory, but above all it's a good stage victory, I am happy with the way it came, it was strategically built and after that, there was the good speed, everything was fine all the way, I am 100% satisfied.”

On the northwards climb across the English Channel to Eddystone Le Cléac’h made his winning move, erring furthest to the east where he was best positioned for the windshift which came as an occluded front dissipated.

After tacking his leverage to the north of the fleet proved definitive and he was able to lead at the turn off Plymouth, and was never challenged by the chasing pack on what proved a very intense final 100 miles gybing down a narrow corridor bound by the shipping lanes to the north, as they skirted the busiest shipping lane in the world.

"That choice, several routings gave it, but there was an element of risk of falling into a light winds, Armel went there, not the others", admires Christian Le Pape, the boss of the Finistère Course Offshore Training group at Port-la-Forêt, where Le Cléac’h has been training since his beginnings in the Figaro Bénéteau almost twenty years ago.

“It was slightly gutsy, maybe, but I think he probably saw the cloud had moved away in front of him, suggesting the occlusion was going.” Suggested Marcel van Triest, who works on weather strategy with Le Cléac’h as well as Goodchild.

The winning French skipper reported this morning. "I was determined, fairly certain of my choice, I really wanted to position myself in the north of the fleet to anticipate the wind shift. It went well and allowed me to pass Eddystone in first place and to escape. When I felt that it was starting to slacken a bit ahead after Start Point, I took the opportunity to put press on, I steered a lot, because I knew that those meters were going to count double. "

With this seventh stage win Armel Le Cléac'h leads overall and is the new man to beat in this 51st edition and given the determination and concentration displayed he has shown since Sunday’s start on the Baie de Saint-Brieuc he may well be on course to join the elite group of five triple La Solitaire winners.

Overall rankings are here

Published in Figaro
Tagged under

There's another strong performance in the making for County Meath's Tom Dolan in the second stage of the La Solitaire du Figaro today with the third time Irish Figarista lying 11th in the 35-boat fleet, having been as high as fourth at one stage yesterday. Dolan, who finished tenth in the first leg, is expected to finish leg two this evening is currently ten miles off the leader. 

Ireland's Kenny Rumball of RL Sailing from Dun Laoghaire is lying 33rd in his first-ever Figaro competition. 

Two times La Solitaire du Figaro champion Armel Le Cleach (Banque Populaire) said before the start that he was 'going to be an opportunist' on this 51st edition. For the second time in as many stages the Vendee Globe winner has been true to his word but this time his risk was positively rewarded.

Prepared to hold further to the east, to leeward of his rivals on last night's beat from the north Brittany coast 100 miles to Eddystone Lighthouse, Le Cleac'h's slightly gutsy move was rewarded with a small jump on the pack which this Monday afternoon he has increased to a very useful 3.3 miles over a very compact group of pursuers. Transitioning an occluded front it may be Le Cleac'h was prepared to press his luck, but more likely he saw less cloud coming toward him and so was confident the front had evaporated and was therefore confident in his break away from the peloton.

Early on Stage 1 to the Fastnet and back Le Cleac'h chased his hunches and had strayed away from the pack and initially paid a heavy toll in miles to the leader. But a remarkable comeback got him to fourth at the finish, 10 minutes and 20 seconds behind stage winner Xavier Macaire. It not only got him into contention but also underlined that the 44 year old has ample speed and is very much a title contender. Indeed he would be top of the overall classification this afternoon if the race was stopped. With a new Ultime in build, the Vendee Globe title in his back pocket and the solid support of the French bank, Le Cleac'h has nothing to prove to the sailing world, or his peers.

At approaching the halfway point of the leg, with the winds due remain moderate to fresh for the remainder of the passage to Dunkirk the pacemakers should reach Dunkirk around 2000-2100hrs Tuesday evening.

Published in Figaro
Page 1 of 16

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