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It's Unlucky 13th for Tom Dolan as Switzerland’s Brave Palmieri Builds Figaro Lead Into Final Night

24th August 2022
Nils Palmieri (Teamwork)
Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) Credit: Alexis Courcoux

With 150 nautical miles still to complete of the Stage 1 course shortened to 559 miles Swiss skipper Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) has established a break at the head of the 34 strong La Solitaire du Figaro lead after he made a big gain by sailing to the east of the Seven Stones traffic separation zone at Land’s End, very early this morning.

Whether by virtue of extra wind pressure or favourable tidal current, the 35-year-old Swiss racer who is on his third La Solitaire du Figaro, made a sizeable advance when he led a posse of five skippers to the east of the no-go zone whilst the main peloton stuck together out west and drifted at the Scillies in next to no breeze.

In the light downwind conditions this Wednesday afternoon Palmieri – winner of last year’s Two Handed Concarneau Saint Barths race with Julien Villion – was more than four miles clear of the second and third placed skippers, French rookies Romen Richard (Passion Santé-Trans forme) and Laurent Bourges (Unis Pour L’Ukraine 56-Devenis Partenaire).

But while Palmieri appeared to have banked his initial dividend the forecasts still show a high pressure ridge of light airs in front of the fleet which may yet prove a barrier to progress tonight, whilst the meteo experts still expect a new breeze to come in from the west.

Long time leader Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) has dropped to tenth alongside ninth placed Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) of Britain and 13th placed Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) who are all in a very tightly packed group about ten miles further offshore from Palmieri.

Laperche reported this morning: “I imagine that there are people behind who have gone to Land’s End. And how it looks here, where we are, well it could be almost favorable but I don't really know. Here we are with no wind at the Scilly Isles and of course I got here and ran into the calm first. I lost my lead. I had 3 miles yesterday afternoon. I expected that there would some kind of regrouping which was not going to be easy to manage. Fortunately the current is helping us for the moment in a good way. We'll see how it goes today after we get a little wind. I am waiting impatiently for the the broadcast of the weather report of the day but it seems like it is all restarting.”

An engaging final night at sea is promised and – as many skipper predicted before they left Saint Nazaire last Sunday – there seems every chance this marathon leg will be decided in the last miles into Port La Forêt where they are expected Thursday morning. As veteran Figaro skipper Alexis Loison warned the Figaro class website today, “But in a northerly wind at the end of the night a windless bubble could very well be present at the coastal level and the race might restart once again.”

Published in Figaro, Tom Dolan 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.

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