Tired, slightly disappointed but nonetheless armed with a number of valuable lessons which he will take forward to next month’s La Solitaire URO Le Figaro, Ireland’s Tom Dolan finished 28th into Les Sables d’Olonne on Smurfit Kappa yesterday afternoon (Saturday) at the end of the 380 nautical miles offshore race, so completing the Solo Maître Coq in 24th position overall.
Dolan, from County Meath, finishes almost exactly mid-fleet after the three races – two short inshores and the longer offshore which started on Thursday afternoon and took the 47 strong fleet south to the Ile de Re off La Rochelle, north to Belle Île to the NW of Nantes and back to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.
"The start cost me. I think I was fifth from last off the line and round the first mark"
A mediocre start, which left him towards the back of the white-hot fleet of France’s top solo racers at the first turning mark, left Dolan with a mountain to climb. Although he pulled up more than 20 places over the ensuing legs and spent 24 hours racing side-by-side with three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès a final finish in the top 20 eluded Dolan.
“The start cost me. I think I was fifth from last off the line and round the first mark. That is something I have to work on. I need a process, a formula to work from and stick to it. In this fleet you can’t afford to start badly.” Said Dolan on the dock in Port Olona.
“That was a proper Figaro Solitaire race, lots of transitions and you just could not afford to make mistakes. There was place changing until the end. Someone would get away a bit, there was a transition and they’d be caught. We saw Armel Le Cléac’h leading almost to the finish and then get passed on the last to legs. I was quick enough on the downwind to the Ile de Re but was out of phase with the shifts and I ended up to leeward of the fleet at the end of the first, long run which was not good and I took a bit of a kicking to there. But I felt like I kept my head, and stayed cool much more than I maybe used to and I worked back from there.” Dolan explained.
“The positives to take away from this is that I am definitely fast. I just need to now make sure I am going fast in the right direction. My manoeuvres are really good, I did some really nice work in the sail changes and I managed myself well – I slept at the right times and did not lose places – and so I don’t have too many concerns there.” He concludes.
After the long, intensive build up, working no stop since early February, rest is now a priority for the Irish skipper before the La Solitaire URGO La Figaro fleet assembles in Nantes in late May.
“I am very happy with the set up of the boat and everything, going sailing all the time now I think would be slightly counterproductive. I want to be starting the Solitaire in the best possible shape.”