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Tom Dolan Taking the Positives from his Solo Maitre Coq Mid Fleet Finish

5th May 2019
Tom Dolan - lessons learned in the 380–nautical miles offshore race Tom Dolan - lessons learned in the 380–nautical miles offshore race

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.”

Published in Figaro
Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson is an international sailing journalist based in Scotland

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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.


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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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