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Tom Dolan Holding Lead in Closing Stages of Figaro Second Leg

31st August 2022
Three solo racers have largely profited inshore, closer to the Vendée coast. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) (above) wriggled clear of 20-year-old rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) around lunchtime
Three solo racers have largely profited inshore, closer to the Vendée coast. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) (above) wriggled clear of 20-year-old rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) around lunchtime Credit: Alexis Courcoux

With just over 100 nautical miles to the finish line of the 655 miles Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro at 17.00hrs French time this late afternoon, the leading group are tightly packed, the solo skippers doing all they can to sniff out the best of the breeze.

Light winds and a patchwork of calms have now prevailed for 24 hours since the leaders slowed first, punching first into contrary tidal current at the Occidental du Sein and the big, beautiful Audierne Bay. The chasing pack came down on the remaining breeze and after a beautiful, almost glassy evening yesterday by this morning, there were less than five miles between first and 16th.

Three solo racers have largely profited inshore, closer to the Vendée coast. Ireland’s Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) wriggled clear of 20-year-old rookie Basile Bourgnon (EDENRED) around lunchtime, making between two and five knots through periods of the day, almost 20 miles further east than the main peloton and is the nominal leader.

Dolan and Bourgnon were still holding first and second places but their boatspeeds were a crawling 2.5 to 3kts each while their rivals offshore seemed to have the new breeze and were making more than seven knots. The inshore duo still had three miles in hand but it appears the breeze offshore , perhaps thermally enhanced, did not appear to have rolled in far enough for them to profit.

The top three French skippers in the peloton have been glued together since before the turning mark at the Channel Islands on Monday evening, Achille Nebout (Amarris-Primeo Energie) leading rookie Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) and Tom Laperche (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) being less than 0.2 of a mile apart as they hunt together as a pack.

The first boats are due into Royan, at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, Thursday morning after an exhausting leg which started Sunday afternoon from Port-la-Forêt, Brittany and has taken the 32-boat fleet to the Channel Islands, to Eddystone and now back down the Brittany and Vendée coasts.

A NW’ly breeze should in theory push in the late afternoon heading a bit to West-North-West at 5 to 10 knots and by evening the leaders should be sailing downwind, under a North-Westerly flow increasing to 8 to 13 knots, off the Charente coast. But the forecasters say this wind will weaken again back to 5-10kts with stormy showers close to the land but by morning, this North-Westerly should be reasonably regular for the finish into Royan.

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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