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.