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Ireland's Tom Dolan Takes Fifth Overall in La Solitare du Figaro, Best Finish by a Non French Skipper Since 1997

19th September 2020
Tom Dolan dockside - the County Meath solo sailor finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. It is an excellent result for the 33-year-old on just his third La Solitaire Tom Dolan dockside - the County Meath solo sailor finished 10th on the first stage, 11th on the second and seventh into Saint Nazaire at the end of the third stage. It is an excellent result for the 33-year-old on just his third La Solitaire

Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) took fifth place overall in the La Solitare du Figaro Race tonight, the best finish on the General Classification overall 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. It is an excellent result for the 33-year-old on just his third La Solitaire. 

With the fourth and final stage of the race cancelled this evening due to the complete absence of wind, French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st edition. It is a third victory for the 43-year-old skipper of Banque Populaire, who already triumphed in 2003 and 2010. Frédéric Duthil (Technique Voile / Cabinet Bourhis Generali) and Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Espoir) completed the podium.

Vendée Globe winner Le Cléac’h joins the elite group who have won the French multi stage race three times, Philippe Poupon, Jean Le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux, Jérémie Beyou, Yann Eliès.

French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st editionFrench skipper Armel Le Cléac'h wins the 51st edition

It is a very special victory for the skipper of Banque Populaire, who, before the start of this 51st edition, made the race his "big objective of the season", and for which he has carefully prepared since January. 

He was fourth on the first stage round Fastnet and into Saint-Quay-Portrieux, he was the imperious winner of the second leg into Dunkirk – scoring his seventh stage victory on La Solitaire and then fourth on the very long third stage into Saint-Nazaire, after having been very deep in the pack. He made back more than ten miles to rescue his hopes of winning outright.

Friend and rival Gildas Mahé (Breizh Cola) said of Le Cléac’h Stage 2 win, “He gave us a sailing lesson. It reminds me the form and feeling he had when he won La Solitaire by winning three stages out of four in 2010. When he's like that, he's scary ”.

La Solitaire du Figaro race director Francis Le Goff added: “Armel didn’t come here to finish second, he doesn't care about being on the podium, he just wants to win. So when he feels there is a good option, he pushes it all the way. " 

Saint Nazaire which hosted the Stage 3 finish and Stage 4 has been good for Le Cléac’h. He won the 2003 race here by beating Alain Gautier by 13 seconds. With the hat-trick in his pocket he moves on to his future projects with added confidence, supporting Clarisse Crémer in preparing for the Vendée Globe under the Banque Populaire colours and seeing the build of the Ultim Banque Populaire XI, concluded next spring. 

Le Cléac’h said: “Winning this third Solitaire was the goal I had been chasing for two years so that's great. I join my friends with whom we almost started out together, Yann (Eliès) and Jérémie (Beyou), as well as the ‘grown ups’ Michel Desjoyeaux, Philippe Poupon and Jean Le Cam, they are all great sailors, I am happy to join this little closed club. This is my twelfth participation, I started my first Solitaire twenty years ago, and it has been a long course since then. I have not won every year, there have been 2003, 2010 and now 2020. I had to be patient to get this third one. I am so delighted, there was a great atmosphere on this Solitaire, a level of fun and a bit of madness, all the generations mingling with each other, with the experienced like me, Yann and Fred (Duthil) who made a nice second place, and behind the youngsters who will grow and get better and better, they are the champions of tomorrow. I'm glad I beat them again this year, but it will be more and more complicated in the years to come. We did more than 1,500 miles, three big stages all with lots of suspense, varied weather, we managed to race what was a very complete course, we went as far as Dunkirk, we went to the Fastnet, we finished here in Saint- Nazaire, it's such a great race the Solitaire, I'm happy to have put my name on in the book again and to have achieved my goal. I had given myself two years to win, coming back after having experienced a very difficult Route du Rhum. All the work that we did with the team paid off, we had to re-motivate ourselves, start again on a new project, that will really get into the best possible conditions for the rest of the project with Banque Populaire. I thank them again for their trust, because 2018 has been a very hard year, two years later I am dedicating this Solitaire to them as they have never won it , it's great! "

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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