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Tom Dolan Stays with Lead Group in Figaro Tactical Battle

11th September 2018
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Tom Dolan with his Figaro 2 Smurfit Kappa nicely in the groove as as the fleet shapes up to take on the long slow beat across the Bay of Biscay. Photo Figaro URGO Solo Tom Dolan with his Figaro 2 Smurfit Kappa nicely in the groove as as the fleet shapes up to take on the long slow beat across the Bay of Biscay. Photo Figaro URGO Solo Photo: Alex Courcoux

With a hundred miles still to race this morning to the finish at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Biscay coast, the shortened 410 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain is even more of an endurance test of light wind skills and patience than was anticipated when the 36 boats finally started – after delay by total morning calm - at 1343 hrs on Saturday afternoon writes W M Nixon.

Back then, it was anticipated that it might take as long as 72 hours to complete the leg. But having come through light winds and fog off the northwest corner of Spain, while they may have been rewarded with some reasonable windward sailing on Sunday, it was in the knowledge that a slack high pressure area sat in the northeastly part of the Bay of Biscay like a giant spider’s web, yesterday making it an area of ever more flukey and often lighter winds from forward of the beam the nearer they got to the finish.

At an early stage of the long cross-Biscay transit, a small group led by Thierry Chabagny (Bretagne CMB Performance) which broke away to north of the fleet were doing best, and until this morning Chabagny was overall leader. But the experienced favourites in the tight-knit southern group – which includes Ireland's Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa – were playing the long game, and this morning they have seen Chabagny’s lead steadily whittled away until now it has evaporated, taken by Sebastien Simon.

Currently, star of the southern show, Sebastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance) showed a sudden burst of extra speed early this morning to put a two mile gap between himself and the rest, who are so tightly packed that Tom Dolan – currently shown as 12th – is only four miles astern. Such gaps can open and close remarkably quickly as local breezes briefly freshen and then fade, and during the past 24 hours Dolan has seen himself up in 5th place, while mostly he has been between 8th and 11th.

As they slowly near the French coast through today, late summer onshore sea breezes may become another factor in the final stages, as the Bay of Biscay is currently well clear to the south of the Jetstream which is currently making Ireland’s weather so Autumnal. Off the French coast by contrast, summer continues as the localised high pressure system seems to have life in it for a while yet.

While Tom Dolan has the stimulus of being among the leaders, 14 miles further back Joan Mulloy of Mayo in Taste the Atlantic may be placed at 30th overall, but she has seen herself in distinguished company during this long battle, and currently she is ahead of both the highly-regarded Scottish sailor Alan Roberts, and his fellow-challenger Hugh Brayshaw.

Race tracker here

Published in Figaro
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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