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Tom Dolan Makes Solid Start in the Second Leg of La Solitaire du Figaro at Kinsale, Despite Dropping to 20th Place

3rd September 2023
Light winds are set to prevail through most of the first 36 hours of Stage 2 of La Solitaire Du Figaro that began off Kinsale, County Cork on Sunday
Light winds are set to prevail through most of the first 36 hours of Stage 2 of La Solitaire Du Figaro that began off Kinsale, County Cork on Sunday Credit: Alexis Courcoux

Tom Dolan, the Irish solo sailor who won the first leg of the 54th La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec, has made a solid start in the second stage of the competition. The leg, which covers over 500 miles from Kinsale in Ireland to Roscoff on the Bay of Morlaix, promises to be a light winds affair with plenty of opportunities for the fleet to expand and contract in the strong tidal currents.

Despite not having a boat-on-boat dinghy racing background, Dolan has been proving himself on the longer courses. He made a good start in the second stage, finishing tenth out of the bay in good company just behind some of his closest rivals. However, after 30 miles of racing, he had dropped into 20th place and was two miles behind the early leader Romen Richard of France.

Before leaving the dock in Kinsale, Dolan said, "The leg looks tricky. I feel good now. The start looks quite clear, we will be sailing downwind along the coast in the sea-breeze. Tonight there could be a big split. Some of the weather models are sending us offshore, others are telling us to hug the coast, there are two extremes."

The course will take the solo sailors up to a mark in the Irish Sea, most likely to be offshore of Dun Laoghaire, and Spanish sailor Pep Costa, who is weather adviser to some of the international sailors, has described it as "a very tricky leg." Costa added, "It is going to be mostly a light winds leg with thermal winds today transitioning into a very very light winds zone before coming into a light north to north east wind for later tonight. So they will be very close to the coast under spinnakers. Downwind it is very close to VMG and then tonight into a NE to E wind. They will go offshore and tack in the NE’ly maybe a few tacks to Tuskar rock. The breeze will fill in around 10-15 knots but the current is quite strong so they need to be close to the shore when the current is against them and offshore when it is with them."

Gaston Morvan of Région Bretagne CMB won the Paprec Trophy for the first around the short, departure circuit, just as he also led away from Caen a week ago.

Standings after Stage 1

  • 1 Tom Dolan, IRL, (Smurfit Kappa-KIngspan) 3d 19h 16m 46 s
  • 2 Nils Palmieri, SUI, (Teamwork) 3d 19h 23m 13s + 6 min 27 sec
  • 3 Robin Marais, FRA, (Moi Chance Moi Aussi) 3d 19h 23m 13s + 8 min 17 sec
  • 4 Benoit Tuduri, FRA, (Capso en Cavale) 3d 19h00m 25s (+30 mins penalty) +13 mins 39 sec
  • 5 Basile Bourgnon, FRA, (Edenred) 3d 19h 31m 05 s +14 min 18 secs
  • 6 Romain Le Gall, FRA, (Centre Excellence Voile Secours Populaire) 3d 19h 32m 52s + 16m 06s
  • 7 Alexis Loison, FRA, (Groupe REEL) 3d 19h 32m 55 s + 16 m 09s
  • 8 Elodie Bonafous, FRA (Queguiner La Vie en Rose) 3d 19h 33m 07s +16m 21s
  • 9 Lois Berrehar, FRA, (Skipper MACIF 2022) 3d19h 33m 16m +16m 30s
  • 10 Guillaume Pirouelle, FRA, (Region Normandie) 3d 19h 33m 32s +16m 46 sec

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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.

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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