Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Ireland's Tom Dolan Leads the Solitaire du Figaro Race

30th August 2023
Solitaire du Figaro race leader Tom Dolan will aim to position for a favourable, fast spinnaker-reaching approach to the Fastnet today as he closes on the Kinsale Leg One finish line
Solitaire du Figaro race leader Tom Dolan will aim to position for a favourable, fast spinnaker-reaching approach to the Fastnet today as he closes on the Kinsale Leg One finish line

With 152 miles to the finish line of leg one at Kinsale, Ireland's Tom Dolan leads the Solitaire du Figaro race on Wednesday morning (0630 hrs) as the fleet races across the Celtic Sea.

Land's End, which the Solitaire du Figaro Paprec leaders passed around 2000hrs on Tuesday evening, proved a decisive section of the 610 nautical miles first stage from Caen in France to Kinsale.

Dolan's decision to position himself to the west alongside Tuesday leader Basil Bourgnon of Edenred was vindicated early on Wednesday when the Irishman took to the front of the fleet.

The Solitaire du Figaro Race shows Ireland's only competitor, Tom Dolan, leading leg oneThe Solitaire du Figaro Race shows Ireland's only competitor, Tom Dolan, leading leg one

Since 3 am, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa Kingspan Group has been leading. 

For his entry into the open sea home to Ireland, the fleet split, and Dolan chose the northerly option and the shortest route to the Fastnet Rock. 

Dolan has previously sailed to the Fastnet many times as a sailing instructor in Baltimore with the Glénans school, giving him an advantage in this leg of the race.

As they climbed NW across The Channel this afternoon – their third transit since Sunday lunchtime's start – there was still only one third of a mile between the top four solo skippers. Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) had benefited from being first to tack west late this afternoon and took the lead from Guillaume Pirouelle (Région Normandie) by a matter of 400 metres or so. But Land's End and the Traffic Separation lanes at the Scillies shook up the leading peloton.

The first hurdle around 1700hrs on Tuesday was a high-pressure ridge of lighter winds that the fleet tacked through when the wind headed to the WNW ahead of them. Being closer to the English coast should allow a quicker passage through the light winds zone but encountering more adverse tidal flow at Land's End.

The medium-term aim on Wednesday is positioning to get through a front and into the wind direction shift to the SW in the Celtic Sea for more favourable, fast spinnaker- reaching approach to the Fastnet. 

Two women are currently in the top ten.

Top ten positions at 0630 France

1. Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, Tom Dolan, 162.1 nm to finish of leg 1
2. Capso en Cavale, Benoit Tuduri, 0.8 nm to leader
3. Douze, Julie Simon, 5.9
4. Banque Populaire, Corintin Horeau, 8.5
5. TeamWork, Nils Palmieri, 8.7
6. Edenred, Basile Bourgnon, 8.7
7. Skipper MACIF 2022, Lois Berrehar, 8.9
8. Region Normandie, Guillaume Pirouelle, 9.1
9. Queguiner La Vie en Rose, Elodie Bonafous, 9.9
10. Region Bretagne CMB Performance, Gaston Morvan, 10.3

La Route du Rhum race Tracker

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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.

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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