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Solo Sailor Tom Dolan is Top Rookie at Stage 3 Finish of Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018

12th September 2018
Tom Dolan has achieved a clear win in the First Timers section in the 410-mile Stage 3 of Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, taking eleventh overall just 15 minutes behind the leader after 3 days and 16 hours of racing Tom Dolan has achieved a clear win in the First Timers section in the 410-mile Stage 3 of Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, taking eleventh overall just 15 minutes behind the leader after 3 days and 16 hours of racing

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.

Tom Dolan RookieThe Irish solo sailor crossed the finish line in Saint Gilles Croix de Vie early this morning (September 12) after more than three and a half-days of intense boat-on-boat racing to claim 11th place overall in the 36-strong single-handed fleet and the coveted Solitaire first-timer leg trophy

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

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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