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Irish Trio Rumball, Dolan and Fogerty Flying The Tricolour on La Solitaire du Figaro

18th August 2022
Kenny Rumball (Offshore Racing Academy), Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan)  and Howth's Conor Fogerty (
Kenny Rumball (Offshore Racing Academy), Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) and Howth's Conor Fogerty (

After the host nation, France, which fields 25 of the 34 skippers, Ireland - along with England - has the second biggest representation in the 53rd La Solitaire du Figaro, the French solo offshore race which takes place each summer off the Atlantic and Channel coasts.

Three Irish solo racers are set to compete on solo sailing’s absolute pinnacle event which starts on Sunday with a 635 miles stage. French-based Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) moved to France 12 years ago to pursue his dreams of top level solo racing. He scored a fifth overall in 2020, the best finish by any non-French skipper for nearly 20 years and is looking to go better this time after a disappointing 16th last year.

Dun Laoghaire’s sailing coach, sailing school owner Kenny Rumball (Offshore Racing Academy), 35 is back for a second attempt after racing as a rookie in 2020. And Howth entrepreneur and amateur offshore racer Conor Fogerty, 51, ( is out to complete La Solitaire du Figaro for the first time as a learning experience.

Dolan, 33, who comes from County Meath has long since established himself among the very top echelons of the Figaro fleet and this has prepared perfectly in each area, drawing on his good and bad experiences garnered since he did his first La Solitaire in 2018 when he finished 30th.

“I am out to do better than that fifth and that will depend on not making these same mistakes as before.” Said Dolan, “I need to take it easy and stay conservative, not taking any risks on the first leg, just stay with the group. I know what it is like to have a shocker on the first leg and feel out of it and I never want that again, spending the whole race feeling miserable and trying to make amends. And I feel well prepared. We have done a lot of racing this season, less training. It has been one race after another and probably raced more miles than ever before. Experience also says ‘stick to the plan, stick to the roadbook which means when to eat when to sleep and stay with it because if you get overtired it affects your decisions and choices, so I’ve learned that.”

Rumball, high hopes of high teens, maybe 15th?

Rumball came to the La Solitaire du Figaro in 2020, like many before him, wide-eyed and with great expectations as an accomplished offshore racer. Only when he got into the race did he realise the gap between him and even the mid fleet. He is adamant his second attempt will be his last, but he just wants to see how he can do with a decent programme and some good training and racing under his belt. He has done all three major races ready to peak on this La Solitaire du Figaro. He has been in France since January and trained out of La Rochelle whilst setting up the Ocean Racing Academy with Irish project manager Marcus Hutchinson.

They are looking to provide coaching for offshore racers of all levels and disciplines but trying to provide a smoother, more efficient pathway into the French system avoiding the pitfalls and offering turn-key fast track routes into circuits like the Figaro.

April’s Solo Maître Coq marked decision time for Rumball. But a decent result, 19th, was enough to see him continue and step up preparations for this La Solitaire du Figaro.

“The Maître Coq was about how I felt compared to three years ago when I was bringing up the back of the fleet and had not a clue what was going on having had no coaching at all.”

“And so here I am. The speed is there, the decision making is not always there, the speed is not always there but the biggest challenge is still staying awake.” He smiles.

He is adamant: “ I am not addicted. This is my last attempt at La Solitaire, definitely. I need a big break from offshore racing I have done so much recently, it has been non stop and I need a break. I was coaching all winter. In fact, I have spent more time offshore than on land.”

But first, he has a goal in mind, “ I want to be in the high teens, 15th or thereabouts I hope is realistic. I am quite well set up. I have a great preparateur. Really this time I have no excuses. Three years ago I had not got a clue. I was saying, ‘I think I will do OK, I can sail offshore, I can race’ but I had had no training and really did not know what I was letting myself in for. Now this is me seeing what I can do with some coaching and the right things in place.”

Fogerty, a finish will be enough

Fogerty is very much an amateur ocean racer stepping into solo racing’s lion’s den for the first time. A 51-year-old whose business interests are in IT, Pharmaceuticals and property, Fogerty has raced most of offshore racing’s classics and is simply out to complete one of solo sailing’s toughest, unique challenges.

He explains, “My biggest goal is just to finish. But then I have met people who came in with the same idea and keep coming back, it seems to be slightly addictive when you get involved. It is very stressful and hard but when you walk away each time you think ‘well that was a lot of fun. I want to go back and do it again. And the more you do it the more you improve. I want to complete this race and then see what I do next. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. But then this is my own boat and so what I do with the boat next is my own decision.”

He continues, “ For me this race this is about personal challenge and enjoyment. I want to complete the race. I think there are three groups, top 10, 20s and the 30s and I’d like to be on the edge of 30s, trying not to be in the last four or five.

I tried to train in France early in the season but it was hard as I had to work and my French is not good at all. I struggled a little but Marcus has helped a lot. But to do this properly you need to immerse yourself in it, you have to live here. I don’t have that option.”

Published in Figaro Team

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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.

2023 La Solitaire du Figaro Course

Stage #1 Caen – Kinsale : 610 nautical miles
Departure August 27 (expected arrival August 30)

Stage #2 Kinsale – Baie de Morlaix : 630 nautical miles
Departure September 3 (expected arrival September 6)

Stage #3 Baie de Morlaix – Piriac-sur-Mer : 620 nautical miles
Departure September 10 (expected arrival September 13)

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