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Tom Dolan 11th Overall in La Solitaire du Figaro After Solid Second Leg Performance

9th September 2020
Tom Dolan finishes in Dunkirk Tom Dolan finishes in Dunkirk Credit: Alexis Courcoux

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) retained an excellent level of consistency on Stage 2 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro to back up his tenth on the first leg with an 11th to lie 11th overall.

Sailing a near-perfect 404 miles race from the Baie de Saint-Brieuc where the 35 strong fleet started Sunday Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) won Stage 2 when he crossed the finish line off Dunkirk at 16:20:34hrs local time France yesterday afternoon.

The 43-year-old winner of the last Vendée Globe took 2 days 5 hours 20 minutes and 34 seconds to claim the seventh stage victory of his La Solitaire career, one which now spans 20 years and two overall victories in 2010 and 2013.

While Le Cléac’h takes over the top spot on the General Classification after two stages, Britain’s Sam Goodchild delivered Britain’s first podium finish in the modern era of the race, certainly since Clare Francis won the final leg from Kinsale to Le Croisic in 1975.

Dun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball is competing in the Rookie division in his first ever Figaro RaceDun Laoghaire Harbour's Kenny Rumball is competing in the Rookie division in his first ever Figaro Race

Thirty-year-old Goodchild, who spent the first six years of his life cruising the Caribbean with his parents before taking up racing as a teenager at school in England, finished second 34 minutes and six seconds behind Le Cléac’h and two minutes and 22 seconds ahead of three times La Solitaire winner Yann Eliès (Queguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir).

Goodchild overhauled Eliès in the final miles to the line to find himself sandwiched between the only two multiple winners of La Solitaire. He moves into third overall 43 minutes and 59 seconds behind Le Cléac’h and just six minutes and 29 seconds behind second-placed Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF)

“Passing Yann was the cherry on the cake.” Smiled an exhausted Goodchild who was ninth on the 642 miles first stage round Fastnet and back, “When I moved to France ten years ago I looked up to these guys and admired them. Yann was winning the Figaro back then and to be on a podium between the two of them today is pretty special. I didn’t expect it to happen and it’s really cool. I’ll try to keep the good work up for the rest of the Solitaire.”

The British solo skipper is in his first year back to La Solitaire after a four year break, and is on course to better his 11th overall in 2014. Scoring a second and first in the warm up races before La Solitaire showed was on form despite this being his first season in the Figaro Beneteau 3.

His second place today came as a result of good speed, solid tactics and patience, picking off boats throughout the second two legs after rounding Eddystone Lighthouse in sixth.

Goodchild acknowledged “Armel has had an awesome race and led from beginning to end so it’s the best I think I could do after he called the right shot in the first leg. It was slow in coming. It happened with one move at a time and went boat by boat. I’m really happy with second for sure and I’ll just have to try not to let it put too much pressure on for the rest of the Solitaire.”

Le Cléac’h’s stage win is his first since 2013 when he won from Porto to Gijon but he appears to feel his game is reminiscent of his 2010 overall victory when he triumphed on three of the four stages.

“I have the feeling of being in harmony with the boat, with my strategy, but also of being good in terms of speed, an area in which I maybe was not so good on the first leg. I managed to do what I wanted. I positioned myself well and when I took the lead at Eddystone, I was happy with my strategy, it gave me confidence for the future.” The current Vendée Globe champion commented, “. I'm super happy, it's certainly my seventh stage victory, but above all it's a good stage victory, I am happy with the way it came, it was strategically built and after that, there was the good speed, everything was fine all the way, I am 100% satisfied.”

On the northwards climb across the English Channel to Eddystone Le Cléac’h made his winning move, erring furthest to the east where he was best positioned for the windshift which came as an occluded front dissipated.

After tacking his leverage to the north of the fleet proved definitive and he was able to lead at the turn off Plymouth, and was never challenged by the chasing pack on what proved a very intense final 100 miles gybing down a narrow corridor bound by the shipping lanes to the north, as they skirted the busiest shipping lane in the world.

"That choice, several routings gave it, but there was an element of risk of falling into a light winds, Armel went there, not the others", admires Christian Le Pape, the boss of the Finistère Course Offshore Training group at Port-la-Forêt, where Le Cléac’h has been training since his beginnings in the Figaro Bénéteau almost twenty years ago.

“It was slightly gutsy, maybe, but I think he probably saw the cloud had moved away in front of him, suggesting the occlusion was going.” Suggested Marcel van Triest, who works on weather strategy with Le Cléac’h as well as Goodchild.

The winning French skipper reported this morning. "I was determined, fairly certain of my choice, I really wanted to position myself in the north of the fleet to anticipate the wind shift. It went well and allowed me to pass Eddystone in first place and to escape. When I felt that it was starting to slacken a bit ahead after Start Point, I took the opportunity to put press on, I steered a lot, because I knew that those meters were going to count double. "

With this seventh stage win Armel Le Cléac'h leads overall and is the new man to beat in this 51st edition and given the determination and concentration displayed he has shown since Sunday’s start on the Baie de Saint-Brieuc he may well be on course to join the elite group of five triple La Solitaire winners.

Overall rankings are here

Published in Tom Dolan, 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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