Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Ireland's Tom Dolan Claims Second in Race to Kinsale After Exciting Figaro Leg One Finish

31st August 2023
Meath solo sailor Tom Dolan celebrates his second-place finish in Kinsale tis morning after completing the first 610-mile leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro Race
Meath solo sailor Tom Dolan celebrates his second-place finish in Kinsale tis morning after completing the first 610-mile leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro Race Credit: Mark Mansfield

Ireland's Tom Dolan took a career-high second place this morning, sailing into Kinsale to complete the first 610-mile leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro Race.

After rounding the Fastnet Rock, Dolan finished at 08.18 hours into a drizzly Kinsale Harbour in County Cork, 16 minutes behind leg winner Benoit Tuduri, after three days of hard solo sailing from the start in Caen, France. 

The County Meath sailor took three days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 46 seconds to complete the theoretical 610-mile course of the first leg. In practice, he covered 642.23 miles at an average speed of 7.04 knots.

The 36-year-old sailor is taking part in La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec for the sixth time.

The result on the first step of the three-stage 1850 miles race to Piriac sur Mer on the French Atlantic coast, sets up Dolan for the rest of the event with a useful cushion – around 14 minutes - over what can be considered his normal rivals.

When he crossed the finish line it was relief which was Dolan’s primary emotion. In truth he has no more local knowledge than is accumulated and disseminated through the fleet’s by coaching and support staff.

Being solo and with no outside assistance or communication, once on the ocean the skippers only get the most basic weather information and their position in the fleet from race direction. Each sailor leaves the dock with a detailed road book of different weather scenarios, their homework done.

But the Irish skipper admits the extra mental pressure of his own and other peoples’ expectations of coming to Ireland weighed very heavily on him as well as last month having had a disappointing Solo Concarneau Guy Cotten – the de facto dress rehearsal before the ‘big one’.

“It was great coming in this morning, there were loads of people out to welcome me which was really touching.” Grinned the exhausted Dolan, clearly ‘running on fumes.’ “I always feel more pressure on this leg ‘home’ to Ireland, it messes with your head because I want to do well. So there is a lot of relief. A lot. Earlier in the year when I found the race was coming to Kinsale I was immediately getting a bit nervous because there it is. coming to my ‘home’. I was worried and the last time we raced in here I did terrible.”
Of his decision to stay east he said, “I had this huge wind shift to the left and tacked and was pointing at the Fastnet. I stacked the stuff, tidied the boat a bit and said to myself ‘right, who will be the first to tack but no one did. And of course it was night so I could not see anyone. I had a second thought to go back but it made no sense. And the tide was perfect for me.”

He summarise, “It was a really typical Figaro leg. We started a very shifty wind with the whole pack compacted up together and looking at each other, seizing each other up, and then doing maybe 50 tacks and sailed 100 miles to get to the first mark because the wind was shifting around so much. It was non stop all the time. And then at the Scillies the fleet exploded and opened up a bit. You are thinking you are great thinking you are awful, thinking you are doing great, thinking you are awful thinking you are great. You start imagining a great finish and reel yourself in..It was a really classic Figaro leg. And at one stage some of the favourites are 20 miles behind and they still catch up. I thought the lead over them would have been a bit more, but I’ll take it.”

Looking back at the intensity of the course he said, “I am tired. These two or three occluded fronts, so dying depressions, meant the wind was all over the place, never steady. It seems like it was never settled for more than fifteen minutes, so you really got small, snatched naps.”

Now he has two days and two nights to recover before Stage 2 to Roscoff via the Isle of Man and the Welsh coast which starts on Sunday at 1302hrs.

A delighted Tom Dolan in Kinsale after achieving second place in the first leg of the Figaro Race Photo: Alexis CourcouxA delighted Tom Dolan in Kinsale after achieving second place in the first leg of the Figaro Race Photo: Alexis Courcoux

The next leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro race will take the sailors from Kinsale to Morlaix via the Isle of Man, covering a distance of around 600 miles.

Tom Dolan is looking forward to this leg as it's his favourite one. He has previously sailed this leg twice and is hoping to make up some ground on the leader during this leg.

With his impressive performance in the first leg, Dolan has proven himself to be a strong contender for the overall title in the race. He is determined to give his best shot during the remaining legs of the race and make Ireland proud.

La Route du Rhum race Tracker

You may need to scroll vertically and horizontally within the box to view the full results

Published in Figaro, Tom Dolan Team

About The Author Team

Email The Author is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

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)

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Associations

isora sidebutton

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton

Please show your support for Afloat by donating