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Displaying items by tag: Air Corps

The Irish Defence Forces have issued photos taken by the Air Corps of the Russian ships which have been off the West Coast for several days. Three have been spotted. Only two were earlier reported.

As Afloat reported previously, the Defence Forces have said they are “aware” that two Russian Federation-flagged ships equipped with sub-sea cable technology doubled back towards the Irish west coast late this week.

The latest information is that they appear to be headed towards the south UK coast.

The Russian Salvage/Rescue Vessel Bakhtemir in 80-metres long Photo: Air CorpsThe Russian Salvage/Rescue Vessel Bakhtemir is 80-metres long Photo: Air Corps

The Defence Force says in a statement:

This week Óglaigh na hÉireann monitored Russian commercial ships both outside and inside Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As part of their Maritime, Defence and Security Operations (MDSO), the Irish Air Corps Maritime Patrol Aircraft have observed Russian commercial vessels in international waters off the island of Ireland.

These vessels have now left Ireland's EEZ.

The Irish Air Corps and the Irish Naval Service continue to monitor activity in Irish waters and to undertake Maritime Defence and Security Operations (MDSO) throughout Ireland's maritime domain.

The Russian 80-metre Offshore Supply Ship UMKA Photo: Air CorpsThe Russian 80-metre Offshore Supply Ship UMKA Photo: Air Corps

Irish Defence Forces (105 Sqn, Irish Air Corps) Photos of Russian Ships off the West Coast of Ireland

Published in Navy
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In the third instalment of our three-part series of extracts from Lorna Siggins’ new book, Search and Rescue, the journalist and regular contributor hears from Commandant Jurgen Whyte about his and his crew’s extraordinary efforts to aid the stricken fishing vessel Locative off Arranmore 32 years ago…

Joan O’Doherty (McGinley) had led a very successful campaign from 1988 to establish the Irish Marine Emergency Service (later the Irish Coast Guard) after fisherman John Oglesby lost his life within sight of the Mayo coast.

The government’s decision to concede Shannon as a west coast air-sea rescue helicopter base was to prove its worth just a month after the report was issued, when the Air Corps search and rescue crew, relocated to the west, were involved in a most dramatic mission. “I have never seen such a sea state in my [fifteen-year] flying career,” Commandant Jim Corby noted afterwards.

The distress call came shortly after midnight on the night of 8/9 March 1990. A 20-metre fishing vessel, Locative, with four crew on board, had lost engine power and was taking in water somewhere off Arranmore Island in Donegal.

Commandant Jurgen Whyte, Dauphin commander on duty, alerted the crew — co-pilot Commandant Corby, winch operator Sergeant Ben Heron and winchman Corporal (subsequently Flight Sergeant) Daithí Ó Cearbhalláin.

Whyte was one of the search and rescue unit’s most experienced pilots, having flown initially in fighter squadron jets. He had held several key posts, including officer commanding the Naval Service support squadron, and officer commanding search and rescue.

Earlier that evening the crew had abandoned a winching exercise due to bad weather. A north-westerly gale was gusting to severe gale force 9, with seas of 3 metres and a very heavy swell of up to 10 metres in height. Whyte was concerned about the wind conditions and the lack of information on the vessel’s position. He requested support from an RAF Nimrod and a Sea King helicopter from Britain; the Arranmore lifeboat was also en route.

Corby got a detailed weather briefing. The worst conditions would be in and around Arranmore Island, with winds of over seventy knots and a heavy rolling sea. The captain decided to fly to Finner, refuel and reassess the situation there.

The Dauphin took off from Shannon for Finner at 1.55 a.m., and by Castlebar it had made contact with the RAF Nimrod. Flares had been sighted by another fishing vessel south of the island of Arranmore and close to Rathlin O’Birne. However, the helicopter crew was under pressure as the MRCC had informed them that the RAF Sea King had had to turn back due to icing weather conditions.

It had taken an hour and fifteen minutes to get to Arranmore, but the work was only beginning

The Dauphin made visual contact with the Nimrod when it reached Sligo Bay at about 3.10 a.m. Nothing had been heard from the fishing vessel for thirty minutes. By chance the Dauphin heard the Locative on VHF channel 24. Using direction-finding equipment, the Air Corps crew estimated its position to the west.

Several minutes later both the helicopter and the Nimrod spotted a red flare. There was no time to refuel; in any case they had enough fuel for ninety minutes. The helicopter flew out to the vessel, which was drifting broadside in an enormous Atlantic swell. The four crewmen were huddled at the stern of the heaving vessel, fortunately visible under a full moon. All were wearing lifejackets, a rare enough occurrence in such emergencies at the time.

It had taken an hour and fifteen minutes to get there, but the work was only beginning. The aircrew spent another thirty minutes trying to hold the aircraft over the vessel to allow winchman Ó Cearbhalláin down safely. As he recorded afterwards, the pitch and roll of the vessel was the worst he had seen to date during his career. He had to take account of the gear on deck, including a large ship’s aerial, a derrick at the bow and several lines and aerials running between it and the wheelhouse.

“The vessel was rising and falling 80 feet [24 metres] in the swell,” Whyte said. “This successive rate of change exceeded the capability of the Dauphin’s automatic hover system.” The hover system allows the pilot to set the minimum height between the belly of the aircraft and the sea; the aircraft will rise and fall with the swell ‒ and automatically fly away if that sequence is broken.

Whyte opted to fly the helicopter with manual height control, which involved the continuous calling of heights by the co-pilot, while the winch operator monitored how close they were to the sea’s surface. As Ben Heron explained, “You can see the clearances. It is the pilot’s job to do what he or she is told, and it is all based on trust.”

There was an additional danger: the aircraft was at constant risk of being skewered by the mast of the vessel below. “Due to the wind position of the Locative, I couldn’t see it below me and under these conditions the chance of collision is very high,” Whyte said. He decided to stand off and wait for the arrival of the Arranmore lifeboat.

Within fifteen minutes the lifeboat arrived — to the relief of the Dauphin crew. It was now 3.35 a.m. Over the radio the aircrew explained that they couldn’t attempt a lift with the vessel lying parallel to the swell and at “cross decks” to the helicopter in hover.

The lifeboat made several unsuccessful attempts to approach the Locative. At one stage Whyte recorded, “We witnessed the trawler bearing down on top of the incoming lifeboat” — and only “prompt, evasive action” by the coxswain averted a collision.

“We thought the lifeboat would be able to come alongside and drag the guys off the deck. Instead, we witnessed this incredible sight where the lifeboat was trying to dart into the vessel and the Locative would rise up over the swell and fall down towards it. The coxswain was incredible, but we knew then that the lifeboat wasn’t going to do it.”

‘The two vessels — lifeboat and Locative — were engaged in a surreal dance across the swell’

There was just forty minutes of hovering time left. The fishermen were totally dependent on the helicopter; if it flew away to refuel, the four men might not survive. The pilot and winch operator remembered reading an account of a rescue where a lifeboat had pulled a powerless vessel around.

“Picture the situation where the helicopter was hovering north‒south, and the vessel was lying east‒west. If the vessel could be pulled into a north-east position, we could at least see part of it,” Whyte explained.

The aircrew suggested that the lifeboat try to secure a line aboard and pull the vessel to a thirty-degree heading off wind, which might be enough to provide visual clues for the helicopter in hover. Coxswain John O’Donnell managed to get two tow lines on board and manoeuvred the Locative successfully into position.

“Once the vessel was lying at this 30-degrees offset, I could see a pattern,” Whyte said. “The two vessels — lifeboat and Locative — were engaged in a surreal dance across the swell, to the extent that the captain could anticipate the movement of one by the other. That sequence developed a distinct pattern, and this allowed us to go in safely.”

At this point the winch crew lowered the hi-line, a light line with a weight on its lower end, attached by a weak link to the helicopter’s winch cable. This allows the crew of a vessel to guide the main winch wire while the winchman, a stretcher, or a lifting strop is lowered and lifted away again, but it must never be attached to anything fixed. The winch crew hoped that the fishermen would know what to do with it and wouldn’t secure it to anything on the deck.

Ó Cearbhalláin descended and within a few minutes he had sent one of the crewmen up. “Due to the big swell the finer points of winching … were discarded and the survivor was ‘snatched’ off,” Ben Heron said afterwards in his report on the mission.

Once Heron had hauled the first survivor into the helicopter, he winched the strop back down to Ó Cearbhalláin. The hook got caught in a fishing net, but the winchman freed it and placed the second crewman in the strop.

However, “at this point things started to go wrong”, Heron said. A large wave hit the boat, throwing it up towards the helicopter and snapping one of the two tow lines from the lifeboat. The pilot had to climb rapidly and move back to avoid being hit by the ship’s aerial. Heron winched out as much slack as he could to prevent the second crewman from being dragged off the deck when the boat went over the top of the wave.

With one tow line gone, the coxswain on the lifeboat had to reduce his towing speed to maintain the second line. If it snapped, the vessel was gone. However, in reducing the tow the lifeboat and helicopter had to cope with the more erratic and haphazard motion of the vessel, which made winching all the more difficult.

‘The strain on all concerned was particularly severe … The crew didn’t know for how much longer the hoist would hold out’

As if there wasn’t enough going on, Ó Cearbhalláin noticed a problem with the hi-line, which was no longer attached to the helicopter’s hoist hook as it should be — a very rare occurrence.

With great presence of mind, he stuffed a bundle of the hi-line into the strop with the second crewman, just as the boat slid down the back of a wave and the crewman was dragged off and scooped up in a massive swing with the hi-line tangled around him. Heron recalled that he only knew he had the man when he felt the shock coming back up through the cable. “He spun around and got all caught up.”

The winch operator untangled the hi-line furiously as he had no knife to cut it. He then had to replace the “weak link” with one from a spare hi-line and winch the strop back down to Ó Cearbhalláin. It took a good ten minutes to make the repair. Fuel was running low and the winchman was getting anxious. The delay seemed like an eternity, according to Corby. His colleague, Whyte, had to maintain a hover which was “too close for comfort” over the vessel, without the vital assistance of “patter” from the winch operator.

“The strain on all concerned was particularly severe, as we had been in the manual hover for over an hour in the worst conditions any of us had ever seen. The crew didn’t know for how much longer the hoist would hold out in the violent snatch lifts,” Corby said.

With just twenty-five minutes of fuel left, winching resumed, with the third “snatch lift” as hazardous as the previous two. Shortly after the last fisherman was taken off, and as the lifeboat was towing the Locative, the second tow line snapped and the vessel was left to the mercy of the sea.

The helicopter routed directly to Finner with the four fishermen and landed with just five minutes of fuel remaining. Coxswain O’Donnell later told the Air Corps board of inquiry that it was a “hellish night”; a fitting statement, the Air Corps noted, from a man who had received a citation for his courage from the RNLI.

The aircrew agreed that the lifeboat was crucial in helping to position the fishing vessel and in acting as a visual reference. Both crews had demonstrated great courage, stamina and seamanship. The pilots knew that the winching crew were the very best they could have hoped for — “top guns”, Whyte remarked afterwards.

The vital need for constant radio communication between winchman and aircraft was raised by members of the aircrew in their reports to the Air Corps. For their efforts they were awarded a DSM with distinction, the first time a Dauphin crew had been recommended for one. It was also the first such medal for a sea rescue, and the first night rescue by a Dauphin attached to the Air Corps fleet.

From Chapter 10, A Developing Service. Search and Rescue: True Stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 by Lorna Siggins is published by Merrion Press, €16.95/£14.99 PBK.

Published in Book Review

The Air Corps bid to deliver a search and rescue service for the eastern seaboard at less than half the cost of an international aviation firm was rejected by senior government officials as not credible, according to tender documentation.

As The Sunday Times reports, the Department of Transport rejected the Air Corps bid as consultants KPMG found that splitting the new search and rescue contract in two would increase overall costs.

The Air Corps had said it could provide cover for the east and southeast coasts for €232 million over ten years, €378 million cheaper than a commercial provider.

The Department of Transport pointed out that there was no government approval to pay for the helicopters and pilot salaries the bid required.

Days after receiving the 415-page submission from the Air Corps in March 2021, the department’s secretary-general Ken expressed doubts about “the deliverability” of the bid in an email to Jacqui McCrum, Department of Defence secretary-general.

Spratt said the Air Corps was counting helicopters and pilots in its bid before “securing the requisite approvals and funding from DPER (Department of Public Expenditure and Reform)” for their purchase and for wage costs.

“The proposal relies on the procurement of at least two additional helicopters and an increase of over 40 per cent in pilot numbers, so these issues are crucial to the overall credibility of the proposal,” Spratt said in his email to McCrum.

In an earlier letter to Spratt, McCrum said that “the success of the proposed approach to recruiting and retaining such personnel is predicated on a range of remuneration and HR policy approaches, many of which are not in keeping with current practices across the public sector … DPER buy-in and agreement is, therefore, a pre-requisite to the feasibility of the Air Corps proposal.”

The Air Corps was eventually excluded from the tender process, understood to be worth over €1 billion.

Aerossurance, a Scottish aviation consultancy, had challenged the suitability and range of the AW1391 helicopters proposed to deliver the service, but the Department of Transport said it had continued to engage with Air Corps on the basis of using larger helicopters.

The correspondence was released under the Freedom of Information Act to Senator Gerard Craughwell, who had protested about the exclusion of the Air Corps on the basis of the Aerosurrance report.

However, the department has confirmed it was ruled out because its proposal was more costly, according to consultants KMPG.

Read more in The Sunday Times here (subscription required).

Published in Rescue
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The Air Corps was put on standby amid fears that an Irish Coast Guard helicopter would have to ditch in the sea, as The Irish Times reports.

Rescue 115 from Shannon was forced to leave one of its crew with an injured fisherman on a fishing vessel off the Co Kerry coast early yesterday morning, Sunday 4 July, when the helicopter’s systems warned of a mechanical issue.

The Sikorsky S-92 “diverted to land at the nearest suitable location” in line with standard procedure, according to a coastguard spokesperson, and the aircraft landed safely at Valentia half an hour later. The issue has since been confirmed to be a “hard fault” and the helicopter is now back in service.

Earlier today, as reported on, Rescue 115's crew airlifted to hospital a surfer rescued from the sea off Co Clare.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastguard

Four west coast islands received Air Corps helicopter delivery of Covid-19 vaccinations yesterday as part of a plan to vaccinate all residents over 70 years of age together.

As Times. ie reports today, general practitioners on the Aran Islands and the Donegal island of Arranmore welcomed the move which allows more vulnerable residents to be vaccinated on the islands.

Fears had been expressed about the impact on elderly and vulnerable islanders who might have been otherwise forced to make several ferry journeys to mainland health centres when vaccines became available.

The supplies of the Moderna vaccine were flown to the Aran islands primary cares centres and Arranmore from Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, west Dublin yesterday.

Aran island GP Dr Marion Broderick, based on Inis Mór, welcomed the decision to treat all over 70 years olds as one cohort.

There are an estimated 130 people over 70 years of age on Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran islands with a population of 800.

“The islands are not looking to jump any queue, and those over 85 will be vaccinated first,” she said.

Residents of the island’s community nursing home have already received their vaccines.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” former fisherman and basket maker Vincent McCarron (73) on Inis Mór said

Arranmore GP Dr Kevin Quinn said that there are some 155 people over 70 years of age on the Donegal island, out of a population of some 480 people.

“That’s a third of the island, and it is great that these people will be offered the vaccine here,” Dr Quinn said.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, also welcomed the development and paid tribute to the Health Service Executive and authorities.

There are about 3,000 people living on islands around the Irish coast.

Two former island ministers – Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív and Fine Gael senator Sean Kyne, both in the Galway West constituency – had called in the past week for offshore communities to be treated as a separate cohort for logistical and safety reasons.

The HSE said that "work is also ongoing to ensure that all remaining islands and remote locations are appropriately addressed" and "special arrangements have already been put in place to provide the vaccine to over 35 remote rural practices over the coming days".

Read more in here

Published in Island News
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Extra pressure will be put on the Irish Coast Guard’s helicopter rescue services this winter as the State’s air ambulance plans to shut down for 16 days between now and next February.

As RTÉ News reports, “mounting staffing and training problems” will force the Air Corps to ground the Athlone-based AC112 air ambulance it has been using since 2012 for a total of 16 days — four each month from now until February.

The Department of Defence confirmed in a statement that the coastguard “will provide reserve cover to the national ambulance service” in line with the establishment of the Emergency Aeromedical Service (EAS) in 2015.

The Irish Community Rapid Response air ambulance based in Rathcoole, Co Cork will also be available “and the potential for it to provide increased support is also being explored”.

The statement added: “The priority is to provide the best service possible using all available resources during the four-day periods each month when the Air Corps are not available for EAS taskings.

“This interruption is regrettable but necessary from a safety and governance perspective.”

The coastguard’s helicopter fleet was previously trialled as an air ambulance service, and subsequently engaged in night-time cover.

But the arrangement was scaled back two years ago over concerns with pilot doing double duty for patient transfers.

Published in Coastguard


On Monday 28th August to Saturday 9th September (inclusive) 2017 (excluding Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September) From 09.00hrs to 17.00hrs


The DANGER AREA (EID1) comprises the lands of GORMANSTON CAMP and the air and sea area contained within a circle having a radius of 3NM (5.4KM) centred on GORMANSTON CAMP with an additional area contained within the segment centred on GORMANSTON CAMP and bearing 015° T, through MOSNEY RAILWAY STATION and 106° T, through GORMANSTON RAILWAY STATION seaward for the distance of 10NM (18.5 KM)

The DANGER AREA extends from SEA LEVEL to a height of 10,000ft AMSL. RED FLAGS will be flown at BEN HEAD and GORMANSTON RAILWAY STATION when exercises are taking place.

OBJECTS found on the RANGES may be HIGHLY DANGEROUS and the PUBLIC ARE WARNED of the risk of handling or interfering with such objects. NO REWARD of any kind will be made for the finding of objects of a military nature on the ranges.


Published in Marine Warning

Why has no politician of any hue, Government or Opposition, of any party or of the Independents, raised concern in the Dáil about the strategic implications for the State of the threat to a fully operational Naval Service and its joint operations with the Air Corps? Scroll down to listen to the podcast below.

Why has no one questioned the Taoiseach who, in the formation of the new Government, took to his own responsibility the Department of Defence, about these issues? The Department has stated, clearly and unambiguously, in public that Naval and Air Corps joint operations, including those directed towards marine counter-terrorism, replenishment of Naval vessels at sea and other operations, are under threat.

The Haulbowline Naval Base is “an important strategic location for the Irish Defence Forces..”
“It is the only Naval Service base in Ireland..” The threat to it “cannot be an acceptable situation for the necessary functioning of a fully operational Naval Base.”

Those are not my opinions. They are those of the Department of Defence.

And yet, they do not seem to worry the members of our National Parliament.

Not a mention in the Dáil, the assembly of the duly-elected representative of the people, no concern expressed about the “strategic implications” for the country’s Navy and Air Corps.

Either the politicians have no interest in the defence of the nation or they care little about the maritime defence force and its joint operations with the Air Corps.

I live in Cork Harbour and when I look out my kitchen window I see three wind turbines powering chemical factories close by and I can see the operations of several of these plants every day from my home, so I am well used to the heavy industrialisation of the harbour. However, this is an issue of the operations of the Navy and Air Corps, identified by the Department of Defence as having "strategic implications for the State" and which, as the Department has said, makes it a nationalo, not a local issue.

This week on THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme which you should listen to here, the Managing Director of the commercial company which is posing those identified threats to the Naval Service and Air Corps, tells me that the Services should “compromise” with the operations of his company, which will co-operate with them.

In my long years of journalism, half-a-century at this stage, I have never before heard any company suggest that the nation’s defence forces should have to compromise with a commercial operation, which is not a benign, beneficent public service but an international operation with a profit motive. I had presumed that the Defence Forces are vital to the structure of a democratic nation and should be considered above such pressure from commercial interests.

John Ahern, Managing Director of Indaver Ireland, whose incinerator proposed for Ringaskiddy, close to the Naval Base, has been described by the Department of Defence as posing those unacceptable strategic implications for the Navy and Air Corps, agreed to be interviewed by me on this specific issue. He had extended the invitation to interview him. In the course of it he expressed respect for the Navy, but told me that the State, in regard to his company’s proposals, had two tasks – management of waste and operation of the Naval Service. I expressed surprise that he equated the two and reminded him that, during an accident causing explosion and fire at the Indaver plant at Antwerp Port earlier this year, all those in the vicinity were told to “stay indoors.” Was he suggesting that the Navy would have to “stay indoors” in the event of an accident at his plant? There is only one road servicing the Naval Base on Haulbowline, which the proposed incinerator would be built alongside. He accepted that there is no guarantee against accidents, even though his company theoretically maintains that there would be none which would impact on the Navy and he indicated that it would be a matter for the Naval Service to decide its response if there was an accident. He said his company had suggested an alternative escape route through nearby premises of the National Maritime College/IMERC, though he also said that people in that area, just across the road from the proposed incinerator site, might have to be told to “stay indoors” in the event of an accident.
We did not agree, as I believe that the Naval Service should be of priority importance to the nation and its operations should not be subject to any threat from commercial interests and that there should be no strategic implications for it and the Air Corps, which has said that incinerator operations will cause a ‘no fly zone’ to be imposed over the Naval Base.
I was overly concerned with Naval Service operations, in his view.
I do not agree.
Mr. Ahern appeared confident of gaining approval from Bord Pleanala, the national planning board, to proceed with the incinerator construction after a public hearing which has concluded and a decision is awaited.
Can it be that this Board, unaccountable to anyone, now has the power to decide on future Naval Service and Air Corps operations?
Can this be acceptable in an independent nation, that a planning board and not the Government, should have the power to decide on the future operations of Defence Forces?
Also on the programme, the President of the Nautical Institute, the world representative organisation for professional seafarers, says that Ireland needs a strong maritime voice. I agree with this view expressed by Captain Robert McCabe
Regrettably, it seems that a strong voice of concern about the “strategic implications” for the “fully operational” maritime defence force, the Naval Service and it Air Corps operational partners, is not present in Dáil Eireann.

Listen to the podcast below.

Published in Island Nation

#COASTGUARD - The Irish Coast Guard has taken delivery of its new search and rescue helicopter at its Shannon base, The Irish Times reports.

As previously reported on, Sikorsky completed production of the new S-92 helicopter for the Irish Coast Guard last December under the rescue service's €500 million deal with CHC Ireland to revamp the aircraft fleet.

The deal will also see the coastguard's remaining four Sikorsky S-61s replaced by second-hand S-62s from Scotland over the coming months.

Training with crews at Shannon is set to begin shortly ahead of the S-92's first public demonstration at the centenary of the Titanic’s departure from Cobh in Cork Harbour.

Meanwhile, it is expected that the Air Corps may be offered an upgraded air ambulance role, after they were ruled out as contenders for search and rescue work amid some controversy.

The Department of Health has reportedly been in exploratory talks with private firms regarding the provision of an inter-hospital emergency air transfer service, as called for by the Roscommon Hospital Action Group.

The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.

Published in Coastguard

#RESCUE - The Irish Times reports that an Air Corps maritime patrol aircraft joined a search and rescue mission to evacuate a fisherman off the West Cork coast today.

The Casa CN 235 - one of two operated by the Air Corps - diverted from its daily patrol to provide a communications relay in the operation to rescue an injured crewman from a Spanish fishing boat some 100 miles south of of Castletownbere.

The fisherman was airlifted by an Irish Coast Guard helicopter which at last report was taking him to medical attention in Cork.

Published in Rescue
Page 1 of 3

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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