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Tom Dolan Up to 13th & Delivering on His Promise of Consistent Sailing in La Solitaire du Figaro Leg Three

15th September 2020
Tom Dolan (left) and Erwan Le Draoulec in the middle of the fleet in stage three Tom Dolan (left) and Erwan Le Draoulec in the middle of the fleet in stage three Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is delivering on his pre-race promise of consistent sailing and is now up to 13th place and less than four miles behind the leader. It's an impressive performance from the County Meath sailor to add to his 10th and 11th places scored in the first two legs of La Solitaire du Figaro, making it the best offshore result so far from any Irish Figaro competitor.

Dublin Rookie Kenny Rumball in his first edition of the French marathon race lies 27th in the 33-boat fleet. Tracker here

Approaching the Chaussée de Sein mark late this Tuesday afternoon, with some 125 nautical miles still to sail to the finish line off Saint Nazaire, three times La Solitaire du Figaro winner Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Materiaux-Leucémie Espoir) was holding a very slender lead over Britain’s Sam Goodchild (Leyton). Racing through the strong currents off Ushant on the north-west corner of Brittany with only very, very light winds Goodchild continues to hold his own as he matches Eliès who he pipped to second place at the Stage 2 finish into Dunkirk. Were Eliès to cross first he would draw level with his long term rival Le Cléac’h on seven stage wins

But while the British solo racer continued his carefully measured approach through a day which was marked by a significant bounce back by General Classification Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire).

Just when observers in his native France were voicing concerns that the twice La Solitaire champion had spent all of his overall lead of 37 minutes – and maybe more as he lay 24th and some ten miles behind the pacemakers - Le Cléac’h, The Jackal, again proved his willingness to take risks.

Cutting the corner at Ushant, passing down inside the small islands of the Ile de Quemenes and Ile Molene Stage 2 winner Le Cléac’h steadily clawed back five or six miles back on the leaders. Momentarily up to second, his actual placing is of no consequence. Of more significance, the move brings him to within three miles of the two leaders, in theory just about restoring his overall lead.

It is the third time in as many legs that Le Cléac’h has been bold enough to split from the fleet. Each time he has gained. On the first leg, just as today, it got the Vendée Globe winner back into contact with the leading vanguard, while on the second leg’s first night it proved to be his winning move.

But with light, offshore north-easterly breezes set to remain at around nine knots or less until the finish line where the leaders are expected tomorrow morning, anything can still happen. Another small low-pressure centre looks set to develop tonight centred over Lorient which will again upset the wind fields and make for lighter breezes. There appears to be more wind pressure offshore but at the expense of sailing a longer distance, and the breeze seems set to head and drop near the line.

But with the worst of the tidal gates, and the rocky, technical, tidal Raz de Sein behind them this evening and it is largely a straight line gennaker reach to the Loire Atlantique line where the winners should cross tomorrow morning. After 370 miles of racing since leaving Dunkirk on Saturday evening there are just two miles separating the top ten solo skippers, and 28 of the 33 skippers within 10 miles of the lead.

For Goodchild, the battle over these final hours to the line is mainly with Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who is second overall at 6 minutes and 29 seconds ahead of him when they left Dunkirk. The British skipper in turn had 6 minutes over Eliès who is fourth overall and Goodchild has 7 minutes and 15 seconds over Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir).

Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is nicely positioned now in eighth, 1.8 miles behind the pacemaker but within reach of the podium, just half a mile behind his compatriot Goodchild. Phil Sharp (OceansLab) is 13th alongside Ireland’s Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) both 3.8 miles behind the leader.

Tracker here

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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