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Tom Dolan Drops Back to Fourth But Will the Fastnet Figaro Leader Win into Kinsale?

30th August 2023
Elodie Bonafous in good spirits in the Celtic Sea en route to The Fastnet Race
Elodie Bonafous in good spirits in the Celtic Sea en route to The Fastnet Credit: Alexis Courcoux

Irish sailor Tom Dolan, aboard Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, had been leading the pack in the first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec. However, after breaking to the northeast from the top group at the Isles of Scilly, he spent several hours slowed in the light winds and dropped to fourth in the late afternoon.

Meanwhile, the main peloton, including the solo skippers who had led in the English Channel, were still tightly grouped some 30 miles to the west of Dolan. The western pack is expected to hit strong downwind conditions first, but will have sailed many more miles than Dolan, who appears to be focusing on sailing the shortest distance to the iconic rocky light at Kinsale, Ireland.

"Fast, wet Fastnet passage in prospect"

The final 45-mile sprint into Kinsale is highly anticipated, with the town being the most visited stop in the 54-year history of the solo offshore race. The first leg of the race seems to be very finely balanced, but whichever skipper or group is able to set their kites and surf directly towards the rock could gain an unbeatable advantage. 

The best British skipper, David Paul, currently sits in 27th place on a Drop, less than a mile ahead of Kiwi rookie Ben Beasley (Ocean Attitude) and Germany’s Susann Beucke (This Race is Female). However, the young New Zealander has sailed a solid first-ever La Solitaire leg but will be disappointed to be protested for sailing into the TSS exclusion zone at the Scillies, a tough rookie lesson to take.

They said, by VHF…….

Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) 14th this afternoon, “I am with the group, my buddies. The right pack. What more can you want at this stage? We have some sunshine before the grey weather forecast for tonight in Ireland. At the Scillies, there were quite a few possible choices. We'll see what that produces at the Fastnet. But to get there, you will first have to deal with the light winds all today. We were a little ahead of the routings but it is evolving. Logically, we must pass the Fastnet tonight with fairly strong winds especially. It might be a night for the hard hat, but it should be nice by morning in Kinsale.”

Loïs Berrehar (2022 MACIFSkipper), 16th: “The wind has dropped a lot. It's light on this tack but I feel good. I am in pretty good shape, surprisingly. I just put on my gennaker, a sail for downwind work, as it has lifted now. And that’s a pretty good sign. It could allow us to accelerate towards the Fastnet finally. It is going to be an interesting night.”

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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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