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Ireland’s Tom Dolan Scores Career Best Seventh on Stage 3 of La Solitaire, Fifth Overall

17th September 2020
Top form - Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan Top form - Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan

The newfound more robust, cool-headed approach continues to work for Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan who today finished seventh on Leg 3 of the 51st La Solitaire du Figaro, an epic four day 492 miles light winds slog from Dunkirk all the way down the Channel, around the Brittany peninsula finishing off Saint Nazaire on the Loire estuary this evening.

As Afloat reported earlier, The best ever finish of his three La Solitaires to date sees the 33-year-old skipper of Smurfit Kappa rising to fifth overall in the 33 strong fleet 1 hour and 29 minutes behind overall leader French skipper Armel Le Cléac’h but only 28 minutes shy of the podium.

No non-French skipper has finished on the overall podium since 1988 when Swiss skipper Laurent Bourgnon won. The best international finish overall recently was Britain’s Alan Roberts’ ninth in 2015, Ireland’s Damian Foxall was tenth overall in 1998 when he won the last leg.

The stage which started last Saturday afternoon from Dunkirk was raced mainly in light winds and passed through three major tidal gates where big gaps were opened up in the 33 boat fleet.

The final 30 miles today along the south Brittany coast were complicated and saw major upsets as the winds died completely. French ace Fred Duthil lead a breakaway trio offshore, outside Belle Ile island where they found more consistent breeze, they were able to pull back some eight miles of initial deficit to take the top three places.

Dolan was at one time leading the main peloton but was quietly delighted with his seventh place, adding to his 10th and 11th on Stages 1 and 2.

He wins the VIVI Trophy award for the best non-French skipper on the leg.

Dolan who was 32nd overall last year 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 maybe 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.”

He adds, “I am really enjoying the sailing much more too. That was a very hard leg, really very typical of what we had last year lots going on and very little time to sleep and recover. I had a bit of sleep on the first night but really very little since, but you really get very tired.”

Standings

Published in Figaro
Andi Robertson

About The Author

Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson is an international sailing journalist based in Scotland

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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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