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Tom Dolan Disappointed With Opening Offshore Performance at Solo Maître CoQ

29th June 2020
Tom Dolan - missed out on the first new breeze after a drifting start Tom Dolan - missed out on the first new breeze after a drifting start

Early mistakes in very light and very fluky winds cost Tom Dolan dearly, leaving the Irish solo racer with no real chances to recover and make the solid opening he had wanted in the 340 nautical miles Solo Maître CoQ which finished on Saturday in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

Dolan, sailing Smurfit Kappa, recovered a couple of hard-earned places in the latter stages of what was the first solo race of the 2020 season for the Figaro Bénéteau 3 fleet, to place 22nd.

He admits that once he had lost touch with the lead peloton on the mainly straight lines, reaching course there were not enough tactical opportunities to stage any kind of meaningful comeback.

The course off the Vendée took the fleet northwards in light winds from Les Sables d’Olonne to round the Ile de Yeu then a long southwards leg to the Ile de Re off La Rochelle. Dolan missed out on the first new breeze after a drifting start and then his losses were compounded by being on the wrong side of the next two rotations in wind direction.

“It is a disappointing way to start the season especially when we have waited so long to get racing. I know where I made the early mistakes and what is frustrating is that I didn’t really position myself early on to be able to follow my pre-race strategy which was to stay offshore where the new breeze was coming in from. I had it written everywhere ‘stay to the west’ but just could not get there in the breeze I had. Once I found myself in the east, to leeward you could not really climb back.” Dolan recalled Sunday after a decent night’s sleep. “Then it was all reaching.”

“ I sailed the boat well. I was fast enough and my manoeuvres were good and I take confidence in those fundamentals, but as ever I need to be with the lead group early on to really be able to sail the fleet rather than trying to catch up.” Dolan concludes.

Published in Figaro
Andi Robertson

About The Author

Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson is an international sailing journalist based in Scotland

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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.

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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