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Tom Dolan & Damian Foxall Thirteenth in Sardinha Cup First Leg

31st March 2019
Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall were 13th in the first leg but were as high as third at one point in the first leg of the Sardinha Cup Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall were 13th in the first leg but were as high as third at one point in the first leg of the Sardinha Cup

Irish offshore sailors Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall finished 13th in the new foil-assisted Figaro Bénéteau 3 in the first leg of the Sardinha Cup, France this morning. A second Irish team, Atlantic Youth Trust, skippered by Joan Mulloy and Mike Golding were 32nd in the “Warm Up” Leg of the Sardinha Cup which is part of the 2019 French Championship for Offshore Sailing.

The next leg starts of Tuesday 2 April 2019 with a 600-mile race from St Gilles Croix de Vie to the UK and back.  

See the full leg one results here.

The Irish duo had lead off the start line and remained very much in the match, in the leading group for most of the stage, succumbing to one small error on what proved to be the final leg in to Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, the start and finish port.

Dolan reported:

"We are happy with our place and happy with our speed too. We made a small mistake on the long tack between the Ile de Yeu and Les Sables d'Olonne by going a little too close to the coast. We were hoping to get more pressure than the others, but in the end, we lost a lot of places, "explained the skipper of Smurfit Kappa.

"We were in the game for the whole race. As Damian said, we arrived in good company. It's definitely fun to play in the best group, "added the Irish sailor, who reflected on their glamour start: "It was really nice to pass in front of the whole fleet. What I will remember though is that we really have good speed and so we can play a low-risk strategy and look to make small gains here and there."  The duo heart from finishing in front of some big names such as Loïck Peyron, Gildas Morvan, Xavier Macaire, Gwénolé Gahinet and Charlie Dalin. "It gives you confidence for the future," Dolan summarised.

Looking ahead to the send stage, Act 2 which starts on Tuesday, Tom said: "We will try to rest and work hard on our navigation and strategy homework as the next stage is longer and carries a three times coefficient. So we would love to do well and feel we can as we have decent speed."

The double-handed series of offshore races comprises a first 147 nautical miles 24 hours opening stage which starts on Saturday, followed by two longer stages of up to 650 miles, starting on 2nd and then the 9th April, each starting and finishing from Saint Gilles Croix de Ville on the French Vendée coast, a town well known for their sardines, hence the inaugural race series’ name.

Dolan, 31, from Kells, County Meath finished third rookie in his first season in the Figaro class but as the fleet adopts the new Figaro Bénéteau 3, he has chosen to draw on the experience of his compatriot co-skipper 10 times round the world racer Foxall, 50, from County Kerry on what promises to be a steep learning curve for all the sailors as they adapt to the new design.

Although the new boat is equipped with foils there seems to be little chance to benefit from them on the first stage, a triangle course formed by passing Ile de Yeu off Les Sables d’Olonne passed on the outwards and the return passage from a buoy Banc de Guérande lying to the west of the entrance to the Loire river at Nantes. 

Only very light winds are expected and although the name of the opening stage is the ‘Vendée Warm-Up’ the nights will still be long and chilly. Among the 68 sailors on the 34 boats are Volvo Ocean Race winner Charles Caudrelier, Route du Rhum winner Loick Peyron, and two three times winners of La Solitaire du Figaro, Yann Eliès and Jérémie Beyou. But as there has been no racing at all for the new boat, except for informal practice among the training groups, there is no form book.

Foxall explains, “There is a great mix of sailors in the field, some like Erwan Tabarly who joined the class in my last year has done 19 La solitaires in the last 20 years, and Loick Peyron is back, then there are a lot of very, very good singlehanded Figaro sailors, this really is the best of the best. But out of the 34 teams racing there are at least 20 which could win. It is amazing.”

“We feel good, we could all have done more and you can never have done enough,” Dolan confirms, “There is always something more to do, but in that respect, I think we are all in the same position. At the end of the day we have had more sailing than some of the other boats and we have had a couple of good solid weeks working on the boat too.”

The format of the races, long offshore stages with little rest between them, are designed to mirror that of La Solitaire du Figaro URGO, the season’s pinnacle solo event which takes place in June.

Foxall says, “It really is like a mini Solitaire, double-handed. The nights will be longer and colder and it will potentially be windier at some points. But it is a very similar format, short, hard legs where you don’t get a lot of rest, some crucial moments when you have to be absolutely on the ball, going fast and in the right direction, and you have to be doing that three times over the next three weeks. It is a really nice format. It is a really nice way to start with the new boat.”

The duo will rely on their experience to support each other, ensuring Smurfit Kappa is going fast in the right direction, Foxall, who won the two-handed Barcelona Race round the world, explains how they plan to work together on board, “I think it will happen naturally as it does in double-handed sailing. Sailing the boat fast in the right direction is a two-person operation with someone driving and looking after the performance of the boat and the other is maybe looking more out of the boat at strategy and tactics, and making sure the trim of the boat is right, and then when the odd occasion allows some rest we will try and do that.

Because of the very light winds forecast for today on France's Vendée coast, Sunday, Race Direction of the Sardinha Cup made the decision early this morning to shorten course for the opening stage of the three leg race series which is the first test for the new Beneteau Figaro 3 class.

Published in Tom Dolan Team

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Ireland & La Solitaire du Figaro

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 celebrated 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.

What Irish ports have hosted The Solitaire du Figaro?

The race has previously called to Ireland to the following ports; Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

What Irish sailors have raced The Solitaire du Figaro?

So far there have been seven Irish skippers to participate in La Solitaire du Figaro. 

In 1997, County Kerry's Damian Foxall first tackled the Figaro from Ireland. His win in the Rookie division in DHL gave him the budget to compete again the following year with Barlo Plastics where he won the final leg of the race from Gijon to Concarneau. That same year a second Irish sailor Marcus Hutchinson sailing Bergamotte completed the course in 26th place and third Rookie.

In 2000, Hutchinson of Howth Yacht Club completed the course again with IMPACT, again finishing in the twenties.

In 2006, Paul O’Riain became the third Irish skipper to complete the course.

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 had two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who joined the rookie ranks and kept the Irish tricolour flying high in France. Mulloy became the first Irish female to take on the race.

Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa competed for his third year in 2020 after a 25th place finish in 2019. Dolan sailed a remarkably consistent series in 2020 and took fifth overall, the best finish by a non-French skipper since 1997 when Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre finished runner up. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy.

Dolan finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. Stage four was abandoned due to lack of wind. 

Also in 2020, Dun Laoghaire’s Kenneth Rumball became the eleventh Irish sailor to sail the Figaro.

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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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