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Tom Dolan Set For Final Warm-Up Before La Solitaire du Figaro

5th August 2020
Tom Dolan is racing in the Solo Concarneau this weekend Tom Dolan is racing in the Solo Concarneau this weekend

Ireland’s Tom Dolan sailing Smurfit Kappa is looking to the 380 nautical miles Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten, which starts Thursday, to confirm that he has everything in place for the season’s pinnacle solo event, the 1830 miles, four-stage La Solitaire du Figaro which takes place at the end of this month. The Solo Concarneau is the final key check-in for the solo fleet of Figaro Beneteau 3s before the annual La Solitaire.

Dolan will concentrate most on strategy and keeping a cool head during the three day long offshore which will take the fleet north to the notoriously rocky, very tidal Raz de Sein and south to Belle Ile as he seeks to follow up an excellent Drheam Cup last month when he finished second in the two-handed class and eighth overall. Racing then with his friend, Mini Transat winner François Jambou, “I am quite confident in the way I am handling the boat and my speed all round but the key is just to stay focused and not let things run away if I make mistakes. Racing with François we were able to sail up through the fleet after a less than perfect start, just making the right choices and taking things boat by boat. I have worked quite hard now on the mental side of the game and am definitely moving in the right direction.” Dolan commented as he returned Smurfit Kappa to the water this week after re-setting his rudders and routine maintenance and checks following the Drheam Cup. “Definitely I know that if I can keep my head together I can go fast enough to do well.”

Light winds are expected again around the 1500hrs start time Thursday and are likely to prevail at least through the first part of the race. “For sure that will make it interesting and challenging. That means lots of opportunities all the way through the race. I feel really good. Really, compared to this time last year it is just night and day, I feel fit and fresh whereas going into La Solitaire last year I was just exhausted with all that went into getting the new boats ready and learning them.” He explains, “I am sailing so much better than then, for sure, but the truth is that the fleet is getting faster and better all the time and you have to keep up. But here I can’t make stupid mistakes. That is the prime objective this time. I am not feeling under pressure to nail a result I just want to put together all the elements of a good race so I go to La Solitaire with confidence, knowing I can compete well.”

Dolan says he has also improved his starting and his first leg skills, claiming a ‘magic’ new strategy he believes can help launch himself from a stronger position rather than playing catch up too often.

If might seem to be the added comfort of starting out from home, Concarneau being his adopted home town, the race actually passes through the regular practice waters off Port La Fôret where almost all the top Figaro sailors have trained.

Thirty-two solo racers will compete in the Solo Concarneau which will see the timely return of French three times winner Yann Eliès. The race should finish Saturday afternoon.

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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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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