Tom Dolan of County Meath racing Smurfit Kappa took the coveted Top Rookie spot after a worthwhile little breeze finally spread in over the calm-bedevilled Figaro fleet last night as they raced Stage 3 from Northwest Spain, bringing leader Sebastien Simon towards the finish at Saint Gilles at 0540 hrs local time this morning.
For a boat with the speed potential of a Figaro 2, the winner's time of just under 3 days and 16 hours for a 410–mile stage is slow and challenging going, and keeping up the pace single-handed through four nights at sea was a ferocious test.
After playing cat-and-mouse with the fleet for most of yesterday with frustrating breezes and the threat of total calm, the wind Gods finally relented last night. The final 50 miles were in a basically nor’east breeze which brought the leader Sebastien Simon towards the final turn at Ile d’Yeu at 0315 hrs at up to 7 knots, but local light spots at the island saw his speed drop back at times to 4 knots. However, his rate of progress picked up again in the final leg to Saint-Gilles, and now with sheets freed it was a matter of staying between the next boat and the line for the concluding two and a half hours to the finish.
The pre-Ile d’Yeu buildup to this procession had seen Ireland’s Tom Dolan in 9th, but where Sebastien Simon had judged the long close-haul to the north point of Ile d’Yeu to perfection, many other hadn’t been able to, and had to take a short tack to get round the island turn. One of these was Tom Dolan, and he slipped from 9th to 11th. But by maintaining this position in the straight line race to the finish, he came in at 11th as Top Rookie by a comfortable margin, a position which was confirmed with enthusiastic acclaim when he crossed the line with an elapsed time of 3 days 16 hours and 12 minutes – in other words, about a quarter of an hour astern of Sebastien Simon.
Meawhile Ireland’s other entry - and also a Rookie – is Joan Mulloy of Mayo racing Taste the Atlantic. Though she finished at 06:37:38 well up with the main group, the pace is so intense that this gave her 31st overall. At the Figaro level, having five boats astern of you at the finish is a real achievement, and Mulloy has impressed with her determination and dedication.
Race tracker here