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Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan moved up to 15th place over-night as the fleet in Mini-Transat continues to hold closer to the African coast in search of stronger northeast breezes writes W M Nixon. However, the decision to make the break to start to get nearer the base line to the turning point at Santo Antao in the Cape Verde Islands will rise steadily up on today’s agenda, and already current leader Remi Aubron is on starboard tack, and well over to the westward of the rest of the fleet.

But he has seen his speed go down to 8 knots, while Dolan and his sparring partner Pierre Chedeville, still on port tack over towards Africa, are on 11 and 10 knots respectively. Between them. but likewise still on port and on speeds comparable with Dolan and Chedeville, are the most consistent performers Tanguy Bouroullec, Clarisse Cremer and Erwan Le Draoulec, currently rated as 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the leaderboard. 

Race tracker here 

Published in Solo Sailing

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan has vowed to bounce back after a disappointing start to his bid to reach the podium of the Mini Transat when the second leg begins on November 1.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, admits he was "gutted" to finish the first stage of the iconic solo race in 12th place in the 56-strong 'série' division for production boats.

One of the pre-race favourites after a strong 2017 season, Dolan led the fleet out of La Rochelle, France, until realising he had made a course error and had to turn back.

The mistake relegated him to the back of the fleet but he managed to fight his way back to finish Leg 1 in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, just outside the top ten after just shy of 11 days at sea.

Tired and frustrated by the result, Dolan flew home to Ireland to rest and recharge at his parents' house.

With the start of the second stage - a 2,700 nautical mile race across the Atlantic to Le Marin in Martinique - looming, Dolan said he is ready to put leg one behind him and pull out all the stops for leg two.

“It was heartbreaking having to sail back under spinnaker towards La Rochelle when I realised I'd made a mistake a few hours after the start of leg one,” he said.

“I managed to claw my back back to twelfth but it wasn't the result I was after. I was gutted.

“I decided to go home for a bit to rest up. It was my first week off in months and it did me well.

“Now I'm looking forward to getting going again. The run-up to the start of leg one in La Rochelle were stressful but going into the second leg will be much easier without so many commitments. It'll be nice to concentrate solely on the sailing.”

Despite Dolan's disappointment his goal of a podium finish is still very much doable – the Mini Transat is scored on cumulative time, and he is currently just seven hours behind leg one winner Valentin Gautier.

Unlike in the first leg where the fleet sailed a fairly straight line south west to Las Palmas, the second stage across the Atlantic will provide plenty more tactical options.
“I need to make up seven hours on first place and five hours on second - it's nothing really over a 2,700-mile leg,” Dolan said.
“Because the next stage is across the Atlantic there will be much bigger lateral splits between boats. Anything can happen. One wind shift of a few degrees could see that time wiped off.”

The forecast for the start of leg two, beginning on Wednesday, is for stable North Easterly winds of 12-14 knots – perfect conditions to propel the fleet out into the Atlantic.

The stage is expected to take around two weeks to complete.

Follow Dolan's progress in the race here. Tom races in the Série Fleet. His boat is 910 Offshoresailing.fr

Published in Solo Sailing

Royal Cork's Mark Mansfield, the four time Olympic helmsman, dropped in on Tom Dolan in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria ahead of today's prologue in the second leg of the Mini Transat.

Regular readers will know that solo sailor Dolan, who led the first leg of the race before discovering he had made a course error, has given a sincere account of his first leg trials to Afloat.ie readers here.

Full–time sailor Mansfield, who featured on Afloat.ie recently, says 'Tom's in good form and raring to get back out there and show what he can do'. 

The race itself restarts on Wednesday with the transatlantic leg.

Published in Solo Sailing

Tom Dolan has had a good rest and recharge after ten and a half tough days at sea during the first stage of the 2017 Mini–Transat. Here he gives a short rundown of how things went with some video from his onboard camera too.

I'm still a bit guilt ridden about making such a stupid mistake at the beginning. Some of you may be wondering exactly what happened: They set up a gate for us to sail through before heading out to sea just to regroup the fleet one last time for photo's, sponsors etc. As the weather for the start was forecast to be foggy they moved the gate at the last minute. They did not tell us in the briefing but simply added it to the amendment to the racing instructions and in the rush of the start and my head being elsewhere I never noticed the line about the start gate.

An hour after the start my buddy Pierre called me on the vhf to say I hadn't passed the gate. This threw me into a daze of confusion as the GPS was telling me that the gate was another 2 miles ahead. As there was very thick fog I hadn't seen the two black buoys that everyone had passed. I knew I was very far left, but had planned it to catch the outgoing tide around Ile d'Oileron, so I actually thought I was doing very well. Once I rushed below and pulled out the amendment to the race instructions I read the line stating it had been moved and my stomach sank.

After two years of preparing for this, the months spent working on the boat, the hours spent on trains to Paris and planes to Dublin, the miles of deliveries between Lorient and Concarneau and the long nights spent squinting in front of the computer screen preparing presentations and proposals and it only took me one hour and one line on a piece of paper to mess it all up.

I then had to sail back towards La Rochelle under spinnaker while the others where en route towards Cape Finistere. Once I had rounded the way-point of where the gate had been (the gate wasn't even there any more!) there were 10 miles between me and the lead group. For the next two days I struggled to sleep due to the guilt mixed with the urge to catch up to the lead group, with whom I have battled all season.,

I thought a lot about everyone who has helped me with this project and about all of those who had made the trip to La Rochelle just for me, how I had let them down and how I wanted to do well for them. The intensity of these first days allowed me to work quickly back up the fleet, but also threw my routine completely off. The important part of this leg was to arrive at Cape Finistere fresh and rested, I had made a good comeback but at a price.

By the time the wind and sea picked up and we passed the TSS, the lack of sleep meant I was completely "In the red" as we say, I didn't know where I was and I started seeing things, I usually manage my sleep very well, but this had thrown it completely off kilter. The fatigue resulted in me taking my foot off the throttle, I struggled to make decisions and it cost me miles.

The first sleep came after the Traffic Separation Scheme, in about 25 + knots screaming down waves at up to 15 knots, I think it was the relief of being away from the coast, clear of the TSS and on flatter sea which allowed me sleep. The boat screamed along as I snored in symphony! Once I woke things started to go better, I had created a massive lateral split taking quite a risk but it paid off, the wind shifted 20° to the right to NE and as I was the furthest west it was Christmas!

The middle part of the race went quite well. We enjoyed typical trade wind sailing, without the squalls and I had managed to work myself from last place up to the top ten. I was back in the match and it was fun, I aimed for a western route as the forecasts were telling us that there would be more wind in the west, as we would round a weak low pressure system over Portugal and have a good angle for the weak NE winds forecast over the Canaries, generated by a Low pressure system over the West African continent.

However the weather for the final part of the race wasn't to be so simple. Two huge but very weak areas of low pressure descended over the Canaries and it was a lottery about who they let through. I found myself in the lead of a group of 5 or 6 boats and things looked good for finishing at least in the top ten, and perhaps not too far from the podium. Two nights in a row we played lottery in the flukey winds and two nights in a row I lost.

The first of these nights I sailed into a hole with no wind, and the following boats just sailed around me (they could see on the AIS that I was stopped.) That night I lost 4 places. Then the next night was the most heart breaking. The same group who had managed to pass me and were just 3 miles to the west of me sailed off at 4 knots while I was stuck at zero, drifting with the current for 6 hours. That night cost me 15 miles. If everyone is stuck in a whole it's okay but when your the only one stuck and your competitors gently sail away it becomes unbearable.

The western route that we had taken meant that we had more ground to cover in what we have named the "Mistoufle", the newly created maritime word for a windless lottery. In the end those who played the eastern card won the gamble.

This is an intense sport, we deal with more highs and more lows, more moments of desolation and elation in three days at sea than we would in a year on land. We must assume our mistakes in their entirety without having anyone to turn to, anyone but ourselves to blame. We all live around a motto to which we turn to in the most difficult of times, "ne rien lacher", or "never give up". It may sound cringey and to be honest it is but the simple fact is that you are on your own, in the middle of the ocean and you have no choice but to continue. And when the time comes that things turn in your favor it is all the more rewarding, and this is the beauty of this sport.

So now it is time to put my brain into goldfish mode, like tennis players do, and to think only of the second leg. To think of it as a new start, a new race and hopefully at the end I will manage to scrape back enough time on the others to achieve the correct result that I hope so much for and I owe to so many of you,

Thank you so much again for the support, I am back in county Meath for a few days rest then back to the Canaries on the 25th.

Published in Solo Sailing

They’d optimistically talked of “a week and a day” when the 54 solo sailors in the Production Class set out on 1st October in the 1350 miles La Rochelle to Las Palmas Stage 1 of the Mini Transat 2017 writes W M Nixon.

But current leader Valentin Gautier still has 74 miles to sail this morning, and ten days of racing will have soon elapsed. With speeds seldom enough staying above the 5 knot level over these final miles, it continues to be a slow-finishing light-air business as they close in on the capital of the Canary Islands.

The pace may have been slow for the past 24 hours and more. But place changes have been rapid as first one group and then another has been favoured by localised breezes. Ireland’s Tom Dolan, at one stage up in ninth, currently finds himself in 13th with 121 miles still to race, and a current speed of 3.7 knots.

He is indicated as exactly neck-and-neck with 12th-placed Mathieu Lambert and showing the better speed (Lambert is on 3.4 knots), so Dolan may move up a place or two very shortly. But equally he only has a narrow margin ahead of Vedran Kabalin and Germain Kerlevo, both of them skippers of note, so the weary struggle will continue to the very end.

Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing

The extensive area of calms and light winds north of the Canary Islands did provide some gratefully-received local zephyrs last night for the Mini-Transat 2017 fleet writes W M Nixon. But although at one stage Ireland’s sole entry Tom Dolan had worked his way up to ninth place in the 56-strong Production Class, this morning a line of favourable breeze has been found by Remi Aubrun, and he leads at 3.9 knots with 150 miles to go, while Dolan has slipped down to 12th and is 30 miles astern, struggling in this morning’s lineup at just 1.1 knots.

But nearer the still-distant finish line, Erwan Le Droulac has found much the best local bite to the breeze, and is shown on 5.6 knots and only 2.4 miles astern of leader Aubrun. Overall, this marks a severe reversal of fortune for several-times-leader Clarisse Cremer, as she has cascaded down to 10th place, less than a mile ahead of Tom Dolan, and is making only 1.2 knots.

At the moment the race is such a lottery that the top priority for the lone skippers is not to finish too far astray on the main bunch. This is because the final placings in the Mini-Transat, after it has been completed with the second stage to the Caribbean, will be based on an accumulation of the elapsed times from Stages 1 & 2.

Nevertheless the fact that Tom Dolan is currently battling with Clarisse Cremer, who at one stage was so clear ahead that she’d a gap on the next boat of 16 miles, shows how astonishingly well the Irish skipper has recovered from his initial place at the back of the fleet a couple of hours after the start at La Rochelle nine days ago.

The prospect is for the winds maybe to firm in around the Canaries later tomorrow. But there’ll be hunger for wind – and just plain old-fashioned hunger for food, which may be running low by this stage on some boats – for a day or so yet.

Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing

Ireland’s Tom Dolan has put the disappointment of losing third place by just one second in the outward leg of the Mini 650 Transgascogne Race 2017 from les Sables d’Olonne across the Bay of Bidcay to Aviles in northwest Spain firmly behind him, and has been turning in a virtuoso performance at the front of the fleet in the return leg to Les Sables writes W M Nixon

It’s a tight-fought race, basically a dead beat in a moderate northeasterly whose local direction weaves slightly, depending on the time of day and the movement of the surrounding weather systems.

The top boats are staying in a fairy closely-packed bunch, and Dolan has come out of the first night leading overall, with 168 miles to the finish. However, he has a cushion of only half a mile between himself and Oliver Tessloff and Pierre Chedeville, but has managed to extend the gap to 2.2 miles over fifth-placed Clarisse Cremer, who carries a two-hour advantage from her breakaway win in the outward first half of the race.

The other big gainer from the outward leg breakaway, Erwan le Draoulec, currently lies seventh, 2.6 miles behind Dolan. But with a fleet of this calibre and tactical options to take local flyers increasing for boats astern as they close the finish tomorrow, Dolan will find it increasingly difficult to cover all challenges. However, for now he is doing very well indeed.

Tracker: click here

 

Published in Solo Sailing
Tagged under

Ireland’s Tom Dolan has had a magic second afternoon in the first stage of the Transgascogne 2017 race from Les Sables d’Olonne to Aviles in northwest Spain. With the wind now round in the northeast, the Meathman has been revelling in the increasingly speedy sailing, and at 6.8 knots is a tenth of a knot faster than leader Clarisse Cremer in 902, currently just a third of a mile ahead.

Additionally, Dolan in his uncompromisingly-named Still Seeking a Sponsor (he has partial sponsors, but needs to top up his war chest), has opened out 1.2 miles ahead of regular rival Pierre de Chedeville, and 2.4 miles on this season’s top performer Erwan le Draoulec.

Our man is in the groove. Keep your fingers crossed, folks.

Track chart here

Published in Solo Sailing
Tagged under

With 138 miles to go to the finish of the first leg at Aviles in northwest Spain, Ireland’s Tom Dolan is coping well with the vagaries of the summer winds of the Bay of Biscay in the Mini 650 Transgascogne from Les Sables d’Olonne writes W M Nixon.

In the early morning, Gregoire Mouly in Ganesh looked to have done well from his long lone port tack to the west after yesterday’s start. But the heavy brigade of rock stars which had gone south on starboard in search of stronger winds have been paid off twice over, as they found breeze, and it has markedly freed them.

Thus they’ve spent the morning hunting down Ganesh, and at lunchtime Mouly was only a third of a mile ahead of the inevitably successful Erwan Le Draoulec in Emile Henry. But Tom Dolan is very much of this hunting pack, as he’s barely a mile astern of Le Draoulec, yet is fifth in class,

This is a reminder that although the MiniTransat 650 stars are solo sailors, they go even better if there’s another boat or two nearby to pace and push them, forcing them to up their game that bit more. By contrast, for a long period Gregoir Mouly had only himself to race against, and though he still cannot see the hounds on his trail, he’ll know from the AIS that within an hour they’ll have overtaken him on their more southerly route.

Tracker chart here

Published in Solo Sailing

Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan currently lies a close 8th in the Mini 650 class in the Trans Gascogne Race 2017, which started yesterday from Les Sables d’Olonne writes W M Nixon. A two-stage event across the southern half of the Bay of Biscay to Aviles in northwest Spain and back, the outward race had been originally intended to include a dog-leg course to take in Belle Ile off southern Brittany as a northern turning mark. But light winds saw the organisers shortening the route to a direct line, which immediately provided the fleet with difficult tactical choices beating into light southwest winds.

Yesterday evening it seemed initially to have paid to keep to the right, with Gregoire Mouly in Ganesh (FR 893) holding the lead well to the west of the main body of the fleet. But most of the top-ranked bulk of the fleet chose to hold on starboard from an early stage in the hope of finding stronger winds further south, and after a brief stab to the westward on port tack, Tom Dolan in Still Seeking A Sponsor (IRL 910) also took up this tactic.

This morning Ganesh still leads with a clear 8.7 mile gap on the next boat. But all the boats between second and tenth are within a mile of each other, with IRL 910 currently showing one of the better speeds, albeit at only 5.6 knots with 173 miles still to race.

Race tracker here

 

Published in Solo Sailing
Page 3 of 6

The Rolex Fastnet Race - This biennial offshore pilgrimage attracts crews from all walks of life:- from aspiring sailors to professional crews; all ages and all professions. Some are racing for charity, others for a personal challenge. For the world's top professional sailors, it is a 'must-do' race. For some, it will be their first-ever race, and for others, something they have competed in for over 50 years! The race attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts, from beautiful classic yachts to some of the fastest racing machines on the planet – and everything in between.  The testing course passes eight famous landmarks along the route: The Needles, Portland Bill, Start Point, the Lizard, Land’s End, the Fastnet Rock, Bishop’s Rock off the Scillies and Plymouth breakwater (now Cherbourg for 2021 and 2023). After the start in Cowes, the fleet heads westward down The Solent, before exiting into the English Channel at Hurst Castle. The finish is in Plymouth, Devon via the Fastnet Rock, off the southern tip of Ireland

  • The leg across the Celtic Sea to (and from) the Fastnet Rock is known to be unpredictable and challenging. The competitors are exposed to fast-moving Atlantic weather systems and the fleet often encounter tough conditions
  • Flawless decision-making, determination and total commitment are the essential requirements. Crews have to manage and anticipate the changing tidal and meteorological conditions imposed by the complex course
  • The symbol of the race is the Fastnet Rock, located off the southern coast of Ireland. Also known as the Teardrop of Ireland, the Rock marks an evocative turning point in the challenging race
  • Once sailors reach the Fastnet Rock, they are well over halfway to the finish in Plymouth. The lighthouse first shone its light on New Year’s Day in 1854
  • Fastnet Rock originally had six keepers (now unmanned), with four on the rock at a time with the other two on leave. Each man did four weeks on, two weeks off

At A Glance – Fastnet Race

  • The world's largest offshore yacht race
  • The biennial race is 605 nautical miles - Cowes, Fastnet Rock, Plymouth
  • A fleet of over 400 yachts regularly will take part
  • The international fleet is made up of over 26 countries
  • Multihull course record: 1 day, 8 hours, 48 minutes (2011, Banque Populaire V)
  • Monohull course record: 1 day, 18 hours, 39 minutes (2011, Volvo 70, Abu Dhabi)
  • Largest IRC Rated boat is the 100ft (30.48m) Scallywag 100 (HKG)
  • Some of the Smallest boats in the fleet are 30 footers
  • Rolex SA has been a longstanding sponsor of the race since 2001
  • The first race was in 1925 with 7 boats. The Royal Ocean Racing Club was set up as a result

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