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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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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

Ireland’s Kenneth Rumball is in the final preparation stages before starting his first La Solitaire du Figaro which start this Sunday, 30th August in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc. Having made the twenty-four-hour delivery up from Port-La-Foret on Sunday, Rumball’s Team RL Beneteau Figaro 3 is docked with the rest of the fleet in the marina at Saint-Quay Portrieux while any last preparations are made.

“This is my first season racing in the Figaro 3 and on courses around this section of the French coast, with all the changing schedules and restrictions due to COVID 19 I haven’t had the opportunity to do much training so I’ve found it really beneficial to do the deliveries to the race starts myself. It gives me a chance to spend real time on the water and to familiarise myself with some of the navigation in the race areas,” says Rumball.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Rumball was a latecomer to the Figaro 3 circuit this year, originally intending to campaign doublehanded with Irish Co-skipper Pamela Lee with the aim of representing Ireland in the first Doublehanded Offshore Worlds, which were scheduled for October in Malta. When the Worlds and the majority of the rest of the planned schedule were cancelled, Rumball quickly made the ambitious decision to take on a solo campaign for the season, culminating in Le Solitaire du Figaro.

Kenny Rumball will be racing around the Fastnet Rock next week in the first leg of the 2020 La Solitaire du Figaro Kenny Rumball will be racing around the Fastnet Rock next week in the first leg of the 2020 La Solitaire du Figaro Photo: Alex Courcoux

“It’s very clear that the best way to get better at shorthand sailing is to compete in France with the French. The Figaro circuit is incredibly competitive with the best shorthand sailors taking part every year, the Solitaire is the pinnacle of this circuit and a great challenge as a sailor. My main goal this year is to learn as much as possible and the learning curve has certainly been steep!” says Rumball.

"We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!"

So far Rumball has raced in the Solo Maitre-Coq from Les Sables D’olonne, the Dhream Cup (doublehanded) from Cherbourg-en-contentin and the Solo Guy Cotton from Concarneau. The Solo Guy Cotton was the last lead up race before the Solitaire and was a final opportunity to really focus on addressing a number of speed deficiencies, to test the new North Sails wardrobe, as well as experiment with managing sleep while racing – one of the biggest challenges. It proved to be a tough race with very fluky, light wind conditions. “Although disappointed with the final result, I took a lot of positives - good speed, smart decision making, good boat handling and above all strong mental power,” said Rumball of the race.

Now in the final days before the beginning of the first Solitaire leg, which is a 642-mile course to the Fastnet and back, Rumball is focusing on ironing out any last issues onboard, familiarising himself with the course and the navigation as well as analysing the upcoming weather and tidal patterns. Of course, a vital part of the pre-race preparation is mental and physical too, so there’s a strong focus on rest, eating well and exercise with an effort to be in a focused headspace on Sunday. “I’m certainly nervous,” says Rumball, “This is a long leg and a long time to be intensely racing with potentially some adverse weather coming through! So far the experience here in France has been great with all the other Skippers being extremely helpful and welcoming. This racing is tough, but that is exactly why we are here. We are still on the vertical climb of this learning curve!”

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan sailing Smurfit Kappa is looking to the 380 nautical miles Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten, which starts Thursday, to confirm that he has everything in place for the season’s pinnacle solo event, the 1830 miles, four-stage La Solitaire du Figaro which takes place at the end of this month. The Solo Concarneau is the final key check-in for the solo fleet of Figaro Beneteau 3s before the annual La Solitaire.

Dolan will concentrate most on strategy and keeping a cool head during the three day long offshore which will take the fleet north to the notoriously rocky, very tidal Raz de Sein and south to Belle Ile as he seeks to follow up an excellent Drheam Cup last month when he finished second in the two-handed class and eighth overall. Racing then with his friend, Mini Transat winner François Jambou, “I am quite confident in the way I am handling the boat and my speed all round but the key is just to stay focused and not let things run away if I make mistakes. Racing with François we were able to sail up through the fleet after a less than perfect start, just making the right choices and taking things boat by boat. I have worked quite hard now on the mental side of the game and am definitely moving in the right direction.” Dolan commented as he returned Smurfit Kappa to the water this week after re-setting his rudders and routine maintenance and checks following the Drheam Cup. “Definitely I know that if I can keep my head together I can go fast enough to do well.”

Light winds are expected again around the 1500hrs start time Thursday and are likely to prevail at least through the first part of the race. “For sure that will make it interesting and challenging. That means lots of opportunities all the way through the race. I feel really good. Really, compared to this time last year it is just night and day, I feel fit and fresh whereas going into La Solitaire last year I was just exhausted with all that went into getting the new boats ready and learning them.” He explains, “I am sailing so much better than then, for sure, but the truth is that the fleet is getting faster and better all the time and you have to keep up. But here I can’t make stupid mistakes. That is the prime objective this time. I am not feeling under pressure to nail a result I just want to put together all the elements of a good race so I go to La Solitaire with confidence, knowing I can compete well.”

Dolan says he has also improved his starting and his first leg skills, claiming a ‘magic’ new strategy he believes can help launch himself from a stronger position rather than playing catch up too often.

If might seem to be the added comfort of starting out from home, Concarneau being his adopted home town, the race actually passes through the regular practice waters off Port La Fôret where almost all the top Figaro sailors have trained.

Thirty-two solo racers will compete in the Solo Concarneau which will see the timely return of French three times winner Yann Eliès. The race should finish Saturday afternoon.

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Ireland's 'Figaro Duo' teams are racing in the 400-mile Drheam Cup and after a 1 pm start this afternoon are neck and neck in the seven-boat Figaro division.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee are making their double-handed debut for Ireland and joining them on the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet start line are County Meath and French combination Tom Dolan and Mini Transat Winner François Jambou.

As Afloat reported previously, both Rumball and Dolan are looking for a performance boost after both Irish solo sailors posted mixed results in the Solo Maitre Coq last month.

The race represents the start of the Irish campaigns for double-handed keelboat selection for Paris 2024.

The course started from Cherbourg Cotentin and finishes in Lorient and first takes the fleet across the Channel to the West Shambles mark off Weymouth, westwards along the English coast to Wolf Rock off Land’s End and then back across the entrance to the Channel to finish at Lorient, some time on Tuesday.

The 400-mile race mirrors some of what is likely to be part of September’s pinnacle event the La Solitaire du Figaro offshore in which Rumball and Dolan have their sights on.

It is the first time the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet has been invited to race in this 100-plus boat event which has become a multi-class French offshore Grand Prix, set to feature the Ultime and IMOCA fleets too.

Published in Figaro

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball and Pamela Lee make their double-handed debut for Ireland at the Drheam Cup on Sunday and joining them on the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet start line are County Meath and French combination Tom Dolan and Mini Transat Winner François Jambou in what is the first major multi-class race on the French coast this season.

The 400-mile race mirrors some of what is likely to be part of September’s pinnacle event the La Solitaire du Figaro offshore in which Rumball and Dolan have their sights on.

Both Rumball and Dolan will be looking for a performance boost after both Irish solo sailors posted mixed results in the Solo Maitre Coq last month.

It will be the first time the Figaro Beneteau 3 fleet has been invited to race in this 100-plus boat event which has become a multi-class French offshore Grand Prix, set to feature the Ultime and IMOCA fleets too.

Tom Dolan Tom Dolan sailing with Mini Transat Winner François Jambou

The course starts from Cherbourg Cotentin and finishes in Lorient and first takes the fleet across the Channel to the West Shambles mark off Weymouth, westwards along the English coast to Wolf Rock off Land’s End and then back across the entrance to the Channel to finish at Lorient.

"We’ve had a bit of time off now with the boat in the shed getting antifouled and we had a chance to get the rig out ahead of the Drheam Cup. This we will do doublehanded, in line with the main aim of the programme" says Rumball who gives a nod to their Paris 2024 Olympic bid.

Dolan admits he did not do well on the Maitre CoQ.  "That was disappointing so I am really looking forward to putting that behind me and sailing with Francois. We have been good mates for many years together and started a little business teaching and coaching people on the Mini, so we know each other well.” Dolan emphasises, “Our skills are complementary, we work well together. He has shown he can win races and so it will be good to have some fresh ideas and to be able to support each other. A second opinion is what you lack racing solo and so it will be nice to have that this time.”

The Drheam 2020 programme

  • Thursday 16 July: Arrival of boats in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin
  • Friday 17 and Saturday 18 July: Technical and safety checks
  • Sunday 19 July: DRHEAM-CUP start
  • From Tuesday 21 July: arrival of boats in La Trinité-sur-Mer

Early mistakes in very light and very fluky winds cost Tom Dolan dearly, leaving the Irish solo racer with no real chances to recover and make the solid opening he had wanted in the 340 nautical miles Solo Maître CoQ which finished on Saturday in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

Dolan, sailing Smurfit Kappa, recovered a couple of hard-earned places in the latter stages of what was the first solo race of the 2020 season for the Figaro Bénéteau 3 fleet, to place 22nd.

He admits that once he had lost touch with the lead peloton on the mainly straight lines, reaching course there were not enough tactical opportunities to stage any kind of meaningful comeback.

The course off the Vendée took the fleet northwards in light winds from Les Sables d’Olonne to round the Ile de Yeu then a long southwards leg to the Ile de Re off La Rochelle. Dolan missed out on the first new breeze after a drifting start and then his losses were compounded by being on the wrong side of the next two rotations in wind direction.

“It is a disappointing way to start the season especially when we have waited so long to get racing. I know where I made the early mistakes and what is frustrating is that I didn’t really position myself early on to be able to follow my pre-race strategy which was to stay offshore where the new breeze was coming in from. I had it written everywhere ‘stay to the west’ but just could not get there in the breeze I had. Once I found myself in the east, to leeward you could not really climb back.” Dolan recalled Sunday after a decent night’s sleep. “Then it was all reaching.”

“ I sailed the boat well. I was fast enough and my manoeuvres were good and I take confidence in those fundamentals, but as ever I need to be with the lead group early on to really be able to sail the fleet rather than trying to catch up.” Dolan concludes.

Published in Figaro
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It's been a baptism of fire for both Irish competitors in the 2020 Solo Maitre CoQ after the first night at sea in light and tricky conditions.

Both Dublin's Kenny Rumball and Meath's Tom Dolan are currently in the bottom third of the 30-boat fleet but as anyone knows in offshore racing, with 300 miles still to sail, anything can happen before this weekend's finish. See Tracker below.

The start of the 17th edition began yesterday (Thursday) at 1:15 pm, off Sables d'Olonne.

Dun Laoghaire's Kenny Rumball on starboard tack shortly after the startDun Laoghaire's Kenny Rumball (centre) on starboard tack shortly after the start

The 30 sailors in the running then set off on a 340-mile course between Belle-Ile, Yeu and Ré, propelled by a northwest wind blowing between 5 and 6 knots. It was a breeze that quickly died out and almost completely died away on the approach to the rescue buoy, literally breaking up the fleet.

Meath's Tom Dolan at the first turning markMeath's Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa on mainsail) at the first turning mark 

Well in tune in these erratic conditions, top-ranked Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) was the first to turn south towards the Ile de Ré.

Overnight the fleet has spread out and leaders are now some ten nautical miles ahead of the rival Irish boats.

These are certainly challenging conditions for the Figaristes, where the challenge today for both Irish boats is to haul themselves back up the leaderboard.

Both Irish sailors are updating to Facebook. Tom Dolan here and Kenny Rumball here

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Lunchtime today effectively sees the first Irish battle on the long road to the Paris Olympic Games 2024 as two embryonic campaigns go head to head in the offshore keelboat discipline, in the French season opener, the Solo Maître CoQ.

Both Kenny Rumball and Tom Dolan are embarking on a journey for the single Olympic place in the new mixed offshore keelboat class that will ultimately see them sail double-handed with a female teammate but for now racing this season is on a solo basis, starting today.

Racing over a varied 340-mile course the rival Irish will compete against a high-quality field of competitors, it is an ideal warmup for the main objective of the season: the Solitaire du Figaro from 25 August-20 September.

"We're docked up in Les Sabes D'Olonne, the course is plotted, it's all happening...." declared the rookie Rumball on social media who has completed just a month's training in his new boat on Dublin Bay in June, as Afloat reported here.

The race starts and finishes in the legendary French port of Les Sables d'Olonne and takes the 30 solo skippers up and down the French Atlantic coast in what promise to be light and fickle breezes.

Last year's event comprised two shorter races and one long offshore but this year the race, which has been rescheduled from its original mid-March date, spans the coastline between Belle Ile in the north, level with Nantes, and at the southernmost extremity, the Ile de Ré off La Rochelle of what looks set to be a mainly reaching course.

County Meath solo racer Tom Dolan will also get his 2020 racing season underway.

"It has been a year since I have raced solo but even though I, like everyone else in this sport, have not been able to train on the water much I feel well prepared and itching to go. I spent time during lockdown reading and re-reading the key weather texts and doing on-line courses. I have worked hard on the mental side of my approach as well as doing all I could to bolster my obvious weakness, starting." Dolan explains, "So I feel ready to go. I do believe I have a better, more mature outlook which i hope will serve me well in this second season in the Figaro 3."

At 1300hrs local time Thursday racing starts offshore of the famous town which hosts the Vendée Globe solo round the world race and it should finish Saturday morning or early afternoon.

"It looks like it will be light, tactical sea breezes a lot of the time with some very light spells. To be honest, right now the start time looks very, very light. But I think it will be essential to get away with the first pack and not be left behind if you are to have a good chance."

Dolan is looking for a good race to kick off the truncated season but will not over-pressurise himself. The big goal is to be competitive for September's La Solitaire du Figaro. In essence, this course is very much a Solitaire dress rehearsal in terms of length and duration but the pinnacle event this year is mainly in the Channel, finishing into Saint Nazaire at the entrance to the Loire estuary.

"I have worked on my decision making processes and most particularly minimising how a small mistake can lead to a downwards spiral, making more mistakes because you increase your risks and make rash decisions to try and make your losses back. Far better to stay patient and maintain a solid work rate and wait for others to make mistakes. This game proves the sailors who make the fewest mistakes win," Dolan concludes.

Dolan says he is keen to represent his home nation in the mixed offshore discipline at the 2024 Olympics and is keeping an eye on what other sailors from Ireland and from different countries are doing.

Published in Figaro

With the gradual easing of the French lockdown and offshore racing sailors now having returned to training, the future is again looking brighter for Irish solo racer Tom Dolan.

Since relaunching at the beginning of June the Brittany based racer, who originates from Kells, County Meath, has been accumulating hours on his Figaro Beneteau Smurfit Kappa and is now making final preparations for what will be the first race of the season, next week’s Solo Maitre Coq which starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne.

“It will be nearly a year since I have raced solo, so yes there is a wee bit of rustiness, but it comes back quickly. It is like riding a bike in some ways, you don’t lose it, but you’re looking for the finesse to return, making manoeuvres smooth and instinctive, especially looking towards working on a dark night when you can’t afford mistakes.” Dolan asserts, “But for sure I can’t wait to be back out racing. It has been much too long.”

Tuesday day and overnight this week, Dolan is making a 24 hour offshore training sortie with the Lorient Grand Large group of which he has been a long time member. Until now he has just had four or five days training locally himself as well as some important corporate sailing with guests from Concarneau who were due to support him and co-skipper François Jambou with whom he was due to race the AG2R Transatlantic in April which was postponed until 2021. The duo also took key workers who were on the front line during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis out for a sail.

“Immediately the objective is to have the boat ready to pass the safety and measurement checks. There are still some water ingress issues which other boats still also have. The builders are working on it but it is not an ideal situation as we approach the second season with these boats.” Dolan comments.

With doubt surrounding the running of this year’s La Solitaire du Figaro for many months, the news that it will go ahead in September is a considerable relief for Dolan and all of the Figaro sailors.

“For a while, it was looking pretty grim, as if there might not be any racing at all this season. To their credit, Smurfit Kappa have been very supportive. They have been stretched through the crisis supplying packaging for essential supplies. They completely understood the situation.” Dolan concludes.

The Solo Maitre Coq race starts Thursday next week and should finish Saturday.

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The Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

Irish Coastguard FAQs

The Irish Coast Guard provides nationwide maritime emergency response, while also promoting safety and security standards. It aims to prevent the loss of life at sea, on inland waters, on mountains and in caves; and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The main role of the Irish Coast Guard is to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction. It has three marine rescue centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal, and Valentia Island, Co Kerry. The Dublin National Maritime Operations centre provides marine search and rescue responses and coordinates the response to marine casualty incidents with the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Yes, effectively, it is the fourth "blue light" service. The Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for the coastal area between Ballycotton, Co Cork and Clifden, Co Galway. At the same time, the MRSC Malin Head covers the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle. Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) Dublin covers Carlingford Lough, Co Louth to Ballycotton, Co Cork. Each MRCC/MRSC also broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and MF radio, including navigational and gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings.

The Irish Coast Guard handles about 3,000 marine emergencies annually, and assists 4,500 people - saving an estimated 200 lives, according to the Department of Transport. In 2016, Irish Coast Guard helicopters completed 1,000 missions in a single year for the first time.

Yes, Irish Coast Guard helicopters evacuate medical patients from offshore islands to hospital on average about 100 times a year. In September 2017, the Department of Health announced that search and rescue pilots who work 24-hour duties would not be expected to perform any inter-hospital patient transfers. The Air Corps flies the Emergency Aeromedical Service, established in 2012 and using an AW139 twin-engine helicopter. Known by its call sign "Air Corps 112", it airlifted its 3,000th patient in autumn 2020.

The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for the Northern Irish coast.

The Irish Coast Guard is a State-funded service, with both paid management personnel and volunteers, and is under the auspices of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It is allocated approximately 74 million euro annually in funding, some 85 per cent of which pays for a helicopter contract that costs 60 million euro annually. The overall funding figure is "variable", an Oireachtas committee was told in 2019. Other significant expenditure items include volunteer training exercises, equipment, maintenance, renewal, and information technology.

The Irish Coast Guard has four search and rescue helicopter bases at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo, run on a contract worth 50 million euro annually with an additional 10 million euro in costs by CHC Ireland. It provides five medium-lift Sikorsky S-92 helicopters and trained crew. The 44 Irish Coast Guard coastal units with 1,000 volunteers are classed as onshore search units, with 23 of the 44 units having rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) and 17 units having cliff rescue capability. The Irish Coast Guard has 60 buildings in total around the coast, and units have search vehicles fitted with blue lights, all-terrain vehicles or quads, first aid equipment, generators and area lighting, search equipment, marine radios, pyrotechnics and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Community Rescue Boats Ireland also provide lifeboats and crews to assist in search and rescue. The Irish Coast Guard works closely with the Garda Siochána, National Ambulance Service, Naval Service and Air Corps, Civil Defence, while fishing vessels, ships and other craft at sea offer assistance in search operations.

The helicopters are designated as airborne from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours, and 45 minutes at night. The aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, on inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains and cover the 32 counties. They can also assist in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and can transport offshore firefighters and ambulance teams. The Irish Coast Guard volunteers units are expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time of departing from the station house in ten minutes from notification during daylight and 20 minutes at night. They are also expected to achieve a 90 per cent response time to the scene of the incident in less than 60 minutes from notification by day and 75 minutes at night, subject to geographical limitations.

Units are managed by an officer-in-charge (three stripes on the uniform) and a deputy officer in charge (two stripes). Each team is trained in search skills, first aid, setting up helicopter landing sites and a range of maritime skills, while certain units are also trained in cliff rescue.

Volunteers receive an allowance for time spent on exercises and call-outs. What is the difference between the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI? The RNLI is a registered charity which has been saving lives at sea since 1824, and runs a 24/7 volunteer lifeboat service around the British and Irish coasts. It is a declared asset of the British Maritime and Coast Guard Agency and the Irish Coast Guard. Community Rescue Boats Ireland is a community rescue network of volunteers under the auspices of Water Safety Ireland.

No, it does not charge for rescue and nor do the RNLI or Community Rescue Boats Ireland.

The marine rescue centres maintain 19 VHF voice and DSC radio sites around the Irish coastline and a digital paging system. There are two VHF repeater test sites, four MF radio sites and two NAVTEX transmitter sites. Does Ireland have a national search and rescue plan? The first national search and rescue plan was published in July, 2019. It establishes the national framework for the overall development, deployment and improvement of search and rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue Region and to meet domestic and international commitments. The purpose of the national search and rescue plan is to promote a planned and nationally coordinated search and rescue response to persons in distress at sea, in the air or on land.

Yes, the Irish Coast Guard is responsible for responding to spills of oil and other hazardous substances with the Irish pollution responsibility zone, along with providing an effective response to marine casualties and monitoring or intervening in marine salvage operations. It provides and maintains a 24-hour marine pollution notification at the three marine rescue centres. It coordinates exercises and tests of national and local pollution response plans.

The first Irish Coast Guard volunteer to die on duty was Caitriona Lucas, a highly trained member of the Doolin Coast Guard unit, while assisting in a search for a missing man by the Kilkee unit in September 2016. Six months later, four Irish Coast Guard helicopter crew – Dara Fitzpatrick, Mark Duffy, Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith -died when their Sikorsky S-92 struck Blackrock island off the Mayo coast on March 14, 2017. The Dublin-based Rescue 116 crew were providing "top cover" or communications for a medical emergency off the west coast and had been approaching Blacksod to refuel. Up until the five fatalities, the Irish Coast Guard recorded that more than a million "man hours" had been spent on more than 30,000 rescue missions since 1991.

Several investigations were initiated into each incident. The Marine Casualty Investigation Board was critical of the Irish Coast Guard in its final report into the death of Caitriona Lucas, while a separate Health and Safety Authority investigation has been completed, but not published. The Air Accident Investigation Unit final report into the Rescue 116 helicopter crash has not yet been published.

The Irish Coast Guard in its present form dates back to 1991, when the Irish Marine Emergency Service was formed after a campaign initiated by Dr Joan McGinley to improve air/sea rescue services on the west Irish coast. Before Irish independence, the British Admiralty was responsible for a Coast Guard (formerly the Water Guard or Preventative Boat Service) dating back to 1809. The West Coast Search and Rescue Action Committee was initiated with a public meeting in Killybegs, Co Donegal, in 1988 and the group was so effective that a Government report was commissioned, which recommended setting up a new division of the Department of the Marine to run the Marine Rescue Co-Ordination Centre (MRCC), then based at Shannon, along with the existing coast radio service, and coast and cliff rescue. A medium-range helicopter base was established at Shannon within two years. Initially, the base was served by the Air Corps.

The first director of what was then IMES was Capt Liam Kirwan, who had spent 20 years at sea and latterly worked with the Marine Survey Office. Capt Kirwan transformed a poorly funded voluntary coast and cliff rescue service into a trained network of cliff and sea rescue units – largely voluntary, but with paid management. The MRCC was relocated from Shannon to an IMES headquarters at the then Department of the Marine (now Department of Transport) in Leeson Lane, Dublin. The coast radio stations at Valentia, Co Kerry, and Malin Head, Co Donegal, became marine rescue-sub-centres.

The current director is Chris Reynolds, who has been in place since August 2007 and was formerly with the Naval Service. He has been seconded to the head of mission with the EUCAP Somalia - which has a mandate to enhance Somalia's maritime civilian law enforcement capacity – since January 2019.

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

Sources: Department of Transport © Afloat 2020

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