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Tom Dolan Now Third In Figaro First Leg Round Fastnet Rock

1st September 2020
County Meath's Tom Dolan is vying for the lead as the fleet approach the Fastnet Rock County Meath's Tom Dolan is vying for the lead as the fleet approach the Fastnet Rock Photo: Thomas Deregnieaux/Figaro

Ireland's solo sailor Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) is in third position as the 35-boat La Solitaire du Figaro race to the Fastnet Rock off the County Cork. 

Dolan left the Baie de Saint Brieuc start line on Sunday with one avowed intention to exorcise the ghosts of the two 'disastrous' first legs which ruined both of his first two La Solitaire du Figaro.

In 2018 he was forced back to Le Havre when a spreader root failed less than one hour after the start - he did not even make it to the first buoy - while last year he was one of many who went west on the beat to Fastnet and he finished many hours after the winners.

Lying third the 33-year-old from County Meath who has based himself in Concarneau for 11 years and has finished fourth in the MiniTransat is making a decent fist of the first part of this stage, best of the eight international, non-French sailors, just 1.2 miles behind Macaire and seemingly well established within this main peloton.

The current Figaro leaderboard showing Ireland's Tom Dolan lying thirdThe current Figaro leaderboard showing Ireland's Tom Dolan lying third

After the first night at sea which proved painfully slow and frustrating at times, the leaders on the 642 nautical miles Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro had got their noses into the first of a forecasted new southerly breeze and by mid-afternoon this Monday, some 27 hours after the start, the pacemakers were intermittent periods of promising speeds, back up to 7knots.

French skipper Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) has led the 35 solo skippers since 0530hrs this morning, a middle track close to the most direct, shortest course proving most profitable. The 39- year-old from the Team Vendee Formation training group already has two overall podiums to his credit, second in 2013 and third in 2015, but in nine previous challenges has not yet won a stage.

Leading the fleet out of The Channel approaches this afternoon he had stretched from 0.3 to 0.7 nautical miles ahead of Corentin Douguet (NF Habitat) over a 90 minute period. The fleet are contemplating the passage of the Scillies and tonight and choose their passage around the forbidden zones marked by the Traffic Separation Schemes there.

Into the second night, the breeze was expected to build to present a rich-get-richer scenario for those in the vanguard of the fleet, gennaker reaching in 13-16kts of breeze towards the Fastnet, which is just under 200 miles from Macaire this afternoon.

Tracking

Published in Figaro
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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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