Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

In association with ISA Logo Irish Sailing

'Top Secret Plan B' for Solo Sailor Tom Dolan if Figaro Race is Cancelled

22nd May 2020
Tom Dolan racing downwind in Smurfit Kappa Tom Dolan racing downwind in Smurfit Kappa Photo: Thomas Deregnieaux

In the wake of the two-month lockdown from which it emerged on May 11th, France has reopened the coast and allowed all types of marine activities along the Atlantic. This is, of course, good news for Tom Dolan. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa, who kept busy during the two-month lockdown period, will launch his boat this week to get back training on the water. 

"It's going to feel good to be back at sea after two long months, even if I feel a bit like it was non-stop. In mid-March, I made a long list of everything I wanted to achieve and I still haven’t reached the end yet!" says the Irish sailor, who managed to keep up a certain rhythm in his overall organisation.

“I tried just to keep to a normal schedule, getting up, getting dressed, working, and then switching off at the weekend and evening, except all that within 1km of the flat. People suggested that it must have been like being isolated at sea but I don’t see the connection much because we are doing what we love and by our own choice, I think I’ll pinch the quote of the great single-handed sailor Eric Tabarly who once said “Sailing means accepting the restrictions that you have chosen. It is a privilege. Most people are subjected to the obligations that life has imposed on them.” The only real comparison that I see between the two is our mindset as we come out of lockdown. The difficulty and the time it has taken to readapt to being around people reminds me a lot of coming back to land after weeks alone at sea.

A busy lockdown for Tom Dolan

"A good chunk of the weeks were made up of theory courses organised by our training centre in Lorient, all conducted by videoconference. During these sessions, we prepared in detail each leg of the upcoming Solitaire du Figaro, the dangers, important points of passage as well as local weather and tidal effects. Another week we worked on performance analysis and then I dissected the numerous traces of last season's races in order to work on the polar charts (graphical representations, expressing the speed of a boat as a function of the wind direction and strength) then the Sailects (creation and display of the places where the sails are used). I am starting to become a real geek (laughs)! I've also managed to get myself a bit more up to speed on all the paperwork involved in running a small business, which has never been my strong point. And then at the same time, I got to do a lot of catch up on physical preparation, doing a lot of muscle-building sessions and running around the house. I even lost a bit of weight, which is pretty good", explains Tom, who has set his sights once again on the famous Solitaire du Figaro, the only race on the class calendar which should remain in the running this season, if all the health and safety indicators stay in the green.

The Solaire du Figaro maintained for the time being, Plan B on the cards

"We will know on 15th June whether the race is to take place or not, and whether it will be on the scheduled dates (from 30th August to 20th September) or slightly later in September," explains the skipper of Smurfit Kappa, who keeps a plan B in the corner of his head in case the current pandemic turns the programme upside down once again.. "I have a great Plan B in mind, but it is top secret for now! So while waiting to find out more, I'm going to continue to prepare my boat in Concarneau. At the same time, we hope to organise sailing days with the teams from Smurfit Kappa as well as the different companies around Concarneau who had signed up to support us for the Transat AG2R La Mondiale and some of whom continue to accompany us. We will also take out the local council workers who kept working and supported the local community during the lockdown, such as the bin men, bus drivers and people from the town hall. We hope it will be a way we can thank them." concludes Dolan.

Published in Figaro, Solo Sailing
Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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.

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Car Brands

subaru sidebutton

Featured Associations

ISA sidebutton dob
ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Events 2020

Wave button for Afloat new dates

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
viking sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton

quantum sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
sellingboat sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating