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Meath Solo Sailor Tom Dolan Signs Sponsor to Take on Figaro Race

19th March 2018
Tom Dolan with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy in La Rochelle before the start of the Mini-Transat 2017. Tom Dolan with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy in La Rochelle before the start of the Mini-Transat 2017.

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan has revealed further details of plans to compete in the hotly-contested Figaro class in 2018 – a move that takes him one step closer to his ultimate goal of the Vendee Globe.

Dolan will join the gruelling Figaro circuit, which features some of the world’s best singlehanded sailors, after a successful tenure in the Mini 6.50 class.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, notched up numerous wins and podium finishes during his time in the class, earning him the nickname L’Irlandais Volant – the Flying Irishman.

His long list of achievements culminated in finishing sixth overall out of a fleet of 56 entries in the iconic Mini Transat Race last year, for which he was shortlisted for the title of Volvo/Irish Sailing/Afloat.ie Irish Sailor of the Year.

Dolan, has now teamed up with eco-friendly packaging giant Smurfit Kappa to launch his bid for the 2018 Figaro season and jointly promote a message of sustainability and innovation.

"Smurfit Kappa supported Tom in 2017 during his Mini 650 campaign and his constantly evolving results were very satisfying for us. Tom is a professional sailor with a very promising future, and this is why we are proud to be supporting him. Innovation and Sustainability are our key values and we are proud to be sharing them with Tom's campaign" said Gérard Mathieu, Marketing and innovation manager, Smurfit Kappa France

tom dolan mini2
Tom Dolan’s Minitransat boat in which Smurfit Kappa were joint sponsors. The eco-friendly packaging giant have now come aboard as lead sponsors for his Figaro campaign.

Tom’s steed will be none other than Figaro 15, the boat that French offshore legends Martin Le Pape and Roland Jourdain raced in 2014.

Despite having plenty of offshore racing experience, including five transatlantic crossings, Dolan admits that the jump into the Figaro, which is a third bigger than the Mini 6.50, is daunting.

“Joining the Figaro fleet this year is exciting, if a little scary,” Dolan said. “The Figaro is known as one of the most challenging classes to sail in because of the sheer level of sailors.

“It’s where the world’s best singlehanders come to prove themselves and if you look at the list of Vendee Globe winners they’ve practically all competed in the Figaro.

“This is very much the next step towards my dream of competing in the Vendee Globe, I want to do the best job I can, for myself and my sponsors.”

Dolan’s first venture in his new boat will be the AG2R La Mondiale – a doublehanded sprint across the Atlantic from the French town of Concarneau, Dolan’s adoptive home, to the Caribbean island of St Barts.

Dolan will team up with and close friend and old Mini 6.50 adversary Tanguy Bouroullec for the 3,800-mile race, which starts on April 22.

The season highlight will be the Solitaire du Figaro, a challenging 1,600-mile solo race around the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel, starting on August 26.

figaro racing3
Figaro racing – it’s the Big Boys’ League by comparison with the Mini-Transat.

Dolan’s main goal is to finish on the podium of the rookie class – a division for first-timers in the Solitaire.

“The AG2R is going to be a baptism of fire for me – it’ll be my first proper race in the Figaro and it’s all the way across the Atlantic with no stopover,” Dolan added.

“It’s a quick turnaround from finishing the Mini Transat back in November but I wanted to keep the momentum up, and make sure that I stay sharp.

“Sailing doublehanded is very different to solo sailing but I’ve trained alongside Tanguy for a few years now and we know each other well.

“He was renowned in the Mini for being fast when the conditions were heavy, so he’ll be the ideal guy to have onboard.

“My season goal is to end up on the podium in the rookie division of the Solitaire. If I can do well as a rookie it will have been a good season.”

Dolan is proud to be able to count on the support of Smurfit Kappa, one of Europe’s leading eco-packaging companies.

“Smurfit Kappa has strong values of sustainability and innovation, values that I share and want to spread as I race around the world,” Dolan said.

“Respect for the environment and sustainable development are things that affect me enormously.

“At sea we always try to be minimalist about what we take onboard the boat, and we constantly evaluate any waste we produce.

“This allows us to see first-hand the result of a world obsessed with consumption. When we arrive from a race we are asked if we have seen fish, sunsets, whales... but the reality today is that what we see most is plastic waste. This cannot continue like this.”

Published in Figaro
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The Solitaire du Figaro, was originally called the course de l’Aurore until 1980, was created in 1970 by Jean-Louis Guillemard and Jean-Michel Barrault.

Half a decade later, the race has created some of France's top offshore sailors, and it celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new boat equipped with foils and almost 50 skippers Including novices, aficionados and six former winners.

The solo multi-stage offshore sailing race is one of the most cherished races in French sailing and one that has had Irish interest stretching back over 20 years due to the number of Irish stopovers, usually the only foreign leg of the French race.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

In 2013 Royal Cork's David Kenefick raised the bar by becoming a top rookie sailor in the race

In 2018, for the first time Ireland will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.

 

At A Glance – Figaro Race

  • It starts in June or July from a French port.
  • The race is split into four stages varying from year to year, from the length of the French coast and making up a total of around 1,500 to 2,000 nautical miles (1,700 to 2,300 mi; 2,800 to 3,700 km) on average.
  • Over the years the race has lasted between 10 and 13 days at sea.
  • The competitor is alone in the boat, participation is mixed.
  • Since 1990, all boats are of one design.

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