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Dolan Takes Seventh in Leg Three to Move into the Top Five of La Solitaire du Figaro Overall

16th September 2020
Tom Dolan approaches the Saint-Nazaire finish at the end of stage three in a highly creditable seventh place Tom Dolan approaches the Saint-Nazaire finish at the end of stage three in a highly creditable seventh place Photo: Alexis Courcoux

Ireland's Tom Dolan has finished the third leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro race in seventh overall, a result that will almost guarantee him a top five overall going into the final leg of the French solo marathon.

Dolan sailed back from as low as 21st place a day ago on the leg from Dunkirk and sailed into Saint-Nazaire this evening in fifth overall. For a time it looked like he may drop back as rivals such as Goodchild and Macaire finished but it looks certain now that Dolan will hold fifth overall with one leg left to race.

It's a deserved result for the Meath man who has kept to his promise of delivering a top result with some consistent sailing in this, his third Figaro Race.

32 miles away from his arrival in Saint-Nazaire after plenty of rebounds and surprises, the Flying Irishman, as he is is known among competitors, was as high as fifth on the most technical stage of La Solitaire du Figaro but the snakes and ladders continued and he dropped two places on his route to the line.

Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) kept his head through the final hours crossing seventh, the best finish of his La Solitaire du Figaro career. Tenth on the first stage, 11th on the second, Dolan is up to fifth overall, just reward for his good all-round speed, tenacity and consistent, minimal risk choices. Dolan wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best overseas, non-French skipper to finish.

Dolan said: “ To be honest with you I am a bit surprised because I really have not been doing anything different in the way I sail the boat, I trim the sails the same way and everything else but I really have made an effort to get my head sorted and so I don’t lose the plot a bit the way I may be used to. And I really don’t focus on the other boats I just concentrate on my speed and trim and don’t get wound up where I am. But fifth overall, I better get some sleep before the last leg! ”

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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