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Delighted with the warmth of welcome in Kinsale and the interest shown in La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro and his project Tom Dolan, solo skipper of Smurfit Kappa, put to sea this afternoon on the 545 miles course to Roscoff.

See Bob Bateman's report of the Kinsale Figaro race departure here

A last minute course change did not concern Dolan any more than it did the 44 other solo racers. The decision not to take the La Solitaire racers north to the Isle of Man in potentially difficult 35-40 knots winds which were predicted for Tuesday was only announced at 1130hrs this Sunday morning. Dolan immediately fell in step with his team's new weather and strategy briefings for a stage which will now take the fleet into the English Channel where much more sedate, even light winds are promised.

As he left the dock in Kinsale Dolan smiled, "The stop has been short, intense and with a lot of things to do, seeing old friends and so on, which has been lovely. But it has been so great to be here and be able to be doing something which should gain a bit of interest in the sport in Ireland. It is nice and there has been such enthusiasm in Kinsale it has been lovely."

Figaro Race Kinsale10

The 530-mile course goes from Kinsale to Bishop Rock at the Scilly Isles then up the Channel to the Needles by the west point of the Isle of Wight before racing back down the Channel to Roscoff. Winds along the southern English coast are set to be light to moderate, dropping for the rounding of The Needles in strong tides.

" This last-minute change is because of the tough weather forecast over the next few days in the Irish Sea. It would have been a bit rock and roll with more than 25 knots of wind, especially in the St. George channel where we also had to deal with the traffic separation schemes, sandbanks, and ferries and that would require us to do more gybes. We know that the seas can get big and messy in the channel in the strong currents. I understand the decision of Race Direction even if all the homework and preparation we have done here in the last two days goes in the bin. We have to start all over again! 
Dolan adds " And the last 24 hours I had really got into my head the course, thinking about the long upwind and looking forwards to the downwind. But there you have it. You have to adapt, roll with it."

The Irish skipper admits he is as unfamiliar with the Channel as he would have been racing up around the Isle of Man, as planned,
"It will be quite new to me, I do not know the South coast of England that well at all. Now we are expecting a lot of reaching in 10, 12, 13 knots of wind and then we sail into this low-pressure system which is off England, so it could be quite chaotic going across the Channel. I would say it will be one after the other and then at the end it will be light, like the end of the last one, tide, wind all over the place. 
I am grand. After the result I got in the first leg I just want to be back out there with the counter set to zero and going again. I took a bit of a kicking on the first leg and so I want to get out and do better."

The second stage started in perfect conditions off Kinsale, 12-13kts of westerly wind and sunshine. Smurfit Kappa was in the middle of the 45 boat fleet as they headed towards Bishop Rock after a characteristic conservative, safe start. Two boats collided on the start line. Alain Gautier, a previous winner, was heading directly to Roscoff with damage to his boat. That's part of the game, however, and it's the same for everyone, "

Published in Figaro

Forty five solo racers will take the start line on Sunday afternoon at 1700hrs local time, heading out from Kinsale, Ireland on the 615-nautical mile second stage of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro to Roscoff via the Irish Sea with a turn at the Isle of Man.

Enjoying the Irish stop-over, the sailors were ashore in Kinsale's Market Square where they got a chance to meet the locals as Bob Bateman reported here.

The course comprises four waypoints after the start; Coningbeg off Wexford so the south-east corner of Ireland; Chicken Rock light which is to the south of the Isle of Man; the Isle of Man to starboard and a cardinal buoy, Astan, on the approach to Roscoff and the Morbihan bay.

There is a prologue of about 11 miles, which in essence is the same format as last Sunday’s start from La Baule. From the start out in the Bay, there is a first mark towards Black Head, a second at Bulman which is up the estuary a little, and then to the Radio France buoy which is Daunt Rock, midway to the entrance to Cork Harbour.

The weather for this long leg initially promises more of the same; upwind in light winds, difficult transitions, some thermal influences close to the coast and strong tidal currents on the points, but there seems a good prospect of a fast run back down the Irish Sea at least to the Channel. Going towards the low pressure system(s) in the north will means a strengthening breeze for the leaders, with initial gains magnified by the slingshot downwind. A rich get richer scenario perhaps?

The first stretch up to the Isle of Man is 240 nautical miles. Although the island, famous as a tax haven and for its motor bike TT (which finished yesterday), has featured on stages of the Solitaire du Figaro before, those have always been shortened. So this will be the first time that the race has ever been round the Isle of Man, and in so doing at 54 degrees north, it will be the furthest north that the race has ever been.

But although the leg is the longest of the race, the fleet will be much more constrained, there being no more than 50 or so miles of Irish Sea between Ireland and mainland UK. The tidal coeffiencts are low but the currents are tricky and there many sandbanks on the Irish coast especially which limit the options to go too close in.

 

The reward for climbing to the Isle of Man should be a fast descent with 25 knots expected during Wednesday night, meaning an express 275 miles downhill ride to Wolf Rock, the first chance for the skippers to really put themselves and the new Figaro Beneeau 3 to the test for such an extended period.

For the start on Sunday, a shallow depression to the north of Ireland will generate a pretty unstable SW’ly flow of around 12knots. Monday into the Irish Sea promises a transition into weak, unstable, variable winds caused at the intersection of two depressions, the one over Ireland moving south and one forming over Central Europe. Tuesday and Wednesday the unstable northerlies should build to be moderate to fresh.

The initial stages of the northwards climb will be contested in unstable breezes, perhaps with some taking an option to gybe further offshore. As the low pressure system moves north, the SW’ly will veer more to the west. A messy, weak front will then bring a shift to the NW. On Monday late morning it will be very light with the risk of calms in a transition area between the two depressions. The question here is which depression will prove the dominant influence and how to position for the future.

Two sailors will not start. The ever popular Gildas Morvan will take no further part on his 22nd La Solitaire. He hit a rock off the Ile de Yeu and suffered structural damage to Niji. He monitored the two cracks all the way to the finish but on inspection by the Beneteau expert in Kinsale, Morvan was advised to retire because the composite repair will take several weeks. He has made a request to the jury to use a replacement boat for the final two stages from Roscoff. The other skipper who will not start is Cassandre Blandin who retired into Brest after hitting a cargo ship.

At the top of the standings after Stage 1 the top three sailors are within four minutes of one another after a leg which lasted four days and three hours for them. Yoann Richomme (Groupe Telegramme-Hellowork) leads rookie Tom Laperche (CMB Bretgane Espoir) by one minute at 13 seconds. The top nine skippers, to Martin Le Pape (Skipper Macif 2017) are within 25 minutes of the leader but then there is a 25 minutes gap to tenth. Of the international competitors, Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork) in 14th is one hour and three minutes behind the leader. Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is 16th at one hour and 49 minutes behind and Kiwi Conrad Colman (Ethical Power) is two hours and seven seconds behind as well as being third-placed Rookie.

There is a one hour gap between 18th and 19th. Three times winner Yann Eliès (Saint Michel) finds himself in 22nd three hours and 54 minutes off the leader’s time and the delta between Richomme and Jérémie Beyou (Charal) is eight hours and 29 minutes.

Still very much in touch are the likes of past winners Armel Le Cléac’h in 11th at +55 minutes, Michel Desjoyeaux in eighth at +24 mins and sixth placed Loick Peyron at +21 minutes.

On a long stage like this second one, big breakaways are possible and similarly the approaches to Roscoff are never easy. Just as some of these deltas may appear big just now, they can easily close just as much on the second leg.

Published in Figaro
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Recovering from the baptism of fire that was leg one of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro race into Kinsale on Thursday, both Irish entrants, Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy, attended the Skipper's briefing in Kinsale this afternoon as the south coast town greeted the international fleet.

From what is considered the most competitive fleet ever, Yoann Richomme won the opening stage of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. The open, strategic 545-nautical mile leg from Nantes across the Celtic Sea to Kinsale in Ireland proved to be an appropriately testing introduction of the new Figaro Beneteau foil assisted one design yacht.

Dolan Mulloy OCoineenTom Dolan (left) with Joan Mulloy and her sponsor Enda O'Coineen of the Sunday Business Post

Predominantly light and very changeable winds prevailed through the marathon four days and four nights of racing offering very little opportunity to rest. Expected to finish into the picturesque Irish haven on Wednesday, the stage overran by a full 24 hours.

La solitaire White ladyThe Skippers Briefing at Kinsale's White Lady night club

Figaro Kinsale1Tom and Joan give their impressions of the first leg at a public reception in Market Square

Figaro Kinsale1Jim Lyons of RCYC at the Figaro public reception in Kinsale's Market Square

Figaro Kinsale1

Figaro Kinsale1Competitor Adrien Hardy, who is from Nantes is a former French 420 dinghy champion and Mini class racer

Figaro Kinsale1Kinsale Yacht Club Vice Commodore Mike Walsh (right)

Figaro Kinsale1

Figaro Kinsale1

Figaro Kinsale1

Figaro Kinsale1

Published in Figaro
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It looks like heading home to Ireland is all the motivation Tom Dolan requires as the County Meath solo sailor has moved up from mid fleet last night to 10th place in the 47-boat La Solitaire du Figaro race fleet this morning.

Dolan and County Mayo sailor Joan Mulloy (currently 39th) are the two Irish sailors competing in the 50th edition of the race that is expected into Kinsale this week, the first port of call in a month long race.

Follow the tracker here. Twitter here. Afloat Figaro Race Irish update channel here

Published in Figaro
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Rather than any accumulated local knowledge it will be the strong, primal lure of returning to the homeland, Ireland, which might yield any additional speed advantage to Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan when the two Irish solo racers compete on the 550 nautical miles La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro opening leg from Nantes in France to Kinsale starting Sunday.

Both of the Irish sailors have done most of their solo racing and training in France during their sailing careers and actually probably concede any extra knowledge of the Celtic Sea to some of their French counterparts, some of whom will have raced into Kinsale as much as a dozen times before.

This year’s 50th-anniversary edition of the annual multi-stage French offshore classic solo race has attracted an unprecedented entry of 47 skippers including double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, three times La Solitaire winners Yann Eliès and Jérémie Beyou, French ocean racing legend Loick Peyron as well as several past overall winners. All have returned to La Solitaire because of the transition to the new lighter, faster, foil assisted Beneteau Figaro 3 one-design boat.

Tom Dolan, Skipper of Smurfit Kappa

This will be the second year of participation in La Solitaire for both Dolan, 32, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa who was brought up in a farm in Kells, County Meath and Mulloy, 33, skipper of Believe in Grace/Businesspost.ie from Westport, County Mayo in the west of Ireland.

And, after the stress and pressure of competing for the ‘bizuth’ or top rookie prize, both are pleased to be unshackled from the high expectations and ready to take on the four stage race with an open mind, keen to learn as much as possible over the coming month of racing, before the final stage finishes in Dieppe at the end of the month.

“I am surprisingly calm considering the start is Sunday but the boat is in good shape and everything is in place. As for me I have not had the training and preparation I had planned but I knew that would be the case a few months ago and so I take it as it is and just know that I will compete with every last fibre of my being to do as well as I can. I have such a great story with my sponsors Grace O’Malley and as soon as I knew I could do the race with them. I am so lucky to be here.” Mulloy smiles on the dock in Nantes on the Loire river at three days before the start.

“The fleet is wide open with this new boat. I have just done the one race solo and only a couple of weeks of solo training so it is important I approach this with the right mental approach and make progress. I won’t accept anything less from myself than trying to compete in the fleet.” 

Mulloy raced one of the preliminary two-handed races, the Sardinha Cup, with four times Vendée Globe round the world racer Mike Golding.

“Mike was great. I learned so much from his unflappable approach, some of that comes with experience but also from the logical way he approached some of the manoeuvres and processes, he made it sound simple and when we came to do things that worked, but also he sat back and allowed be to back myself and my decisions and that gave me much more confidence in myself.

Dolan finished third rookie in the French Solo offshore championship last year and has had a solid preparation and build up, sailing the two handed warm up races with top Irish round the world racer Damian Foxall. He and Foxall finished 14th in the Sardinha Cup, fifth on the last leg, then 24th in the Solo Maitre Coq including a sixth on a short solo inshore. In both races he underlined that his nickname L’Irlandais Volant, the Flying Irishman, is as appropriate in the Figaro Beneteau 3 as it was in the Mini 650.

Tom DolanTom Dolan at the Figaro briefing Photo: Alex Courcoux

“I still have the speed and I am happy about that. The new boat has much more of the feel of the mini in the way you sail it and the feel and in the manoeuvres. I think I have had a good feel for speed since sailing Hobie cats and that has just carried on. There are one or two secrets I can’t tell you about!” Dolan quips. “In truth I am tired before the start but I think everyone is. I have to make that a positive and use that to really find the rhythm early on. It has been a long process prepping the boats and training and racing and then coming into the race. But I am very lucky. There is none of the pressure of the rookie thing last year, I know I am very lucky having Smurfit Kappa for three years and so there is no additional pressure other than my natural competitiveness.” Dolan adds, “But this is a long race. Four long legs. The first one is the home stop and I will be right up for doing the best I can. But I don’t have any special knowledge of the area. The crazy thing is I can remember only ten years ago being out at the Fastnet when I worked at the sailing school in Baltimore and seeing the Figaro racers out there then. Some of these guys are still racing or are back this time. I guess maybe that is where the dream started. But back then I never thought I would be here ten years on racing into Kinsale on La Solitaire. That is crazy, isn’t it?”

Published in Figaro
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Preparations continue in Kinsale, County Cork to welcome the 50th Figaro Race race when the solo race returns to Ireland on June 6th.

As added interest for Irish race followers, the huge entry for this 50th-anniversary edition of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro will have Irish participation too. Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will compete in the event that for the first time features a new foiler one-design boat. Full details were announced on Afloat in February by Jack Roy, President of Irish Sailing.

 The transition to the new foil assisted VPLP designed Figaro Beneteau 3 has seen the return to the race of Beyou, Yann Eliès, Michel Desjoyeaux, Yoann Richomme, Loick Peyron, Alain Gautier and Armel Le Cleac'h, creating a sporting level which is unprecedented.

The upcoming four-stage race which starts on Sunday in Nantes and finishes at the end of the month in Dieppe after stages to Kinsale, Ireland, to Roscoff, a loop off Roscoff and a final leg to the finish.

The Figaro has been described as the “ Tour de France” on the ocean. In Kinsale, it is organised by a locally based voluntary committee, chaired by Tony Small assisted by EnCircle Na Farraige, an event management company.

Published in Figaro

Joan Mulloy is set to compete under the black sails of the Irish pirate queen — and fellow Mayo mariner — Grace O’Malley, the Figaro contender has announced.

Following a months-long drive to secure sponsorship for her sophomore Solitaire bid, Mulloy has now inked a deal to ‘Believe in Grace’ and showcase the Grace O’Malley whiskey brand in this year’s race as well as as in further offshore adventures as a solo sailor.

“Celebrating female leadership through rebellious spirit, this brand honours the legend of Grace O’Malley, regarded as one of Ireland’s but the world’s most inspirational and extraordinary female trailblazers,” Mulloy posted on social media today, Monday 20 May.

Joan Mulloy Racing Grace OMalley Thomas Deregnieaux 2

“Like their namesake, who earned her maintenance by land and sea, Grace O’Malley plunders fine spirits from the best of Ireland and worldwide adventures to create something truly special in and from the heart of Co Mayo.”

Mulloy’s most recent race was the Solo Maître Coq, where she placed 45th but not far behind the pack that included another Irish Figaro hopeful, Tom Dolan, in 28th.

Both will be racing in more local waters later this summer when the Solitaire URGO Le Figaro returns to Kinsale for the first time since 2009, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

Published in Solo Sailing
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After minor frustrations marred the first two legs of the Sardinha Cup, Ireland's Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall on Smurfit Kappa finished the first offshore series for the new Figaro Beneteau 3 class on a high note, securing an excellent fifth place on the 280 nautical miles third and final stage.

"That is more like the result we felt we were capable of. On the first two legs, we were sailing fast and generally going in the right direction. But this was a leg when most things went right." smiled Foxall on the dock this morning in Saint-Gilles Croix-De-Vie on the French Vendée coast, the host port of the event and 'home' to boatbuilders Beneteau.

After their 13th place in the shorter, opening Vendée Warm Up leg, then 20th on the first long offshore stage and their fifth on this leg - which was shortened this morning from the scheduled 320 miles to 280 miles - the Smurfit Kappa pair finish 13th overall

From a 'mediocre' start from Saint-Gilles-Crox-De-Vie on Thursday afternoon, the flying Irish duo hit their stride in breezes to 20 knots and proved fast on the 130 nautical miles downwind to a turning mark off Arcachon, south of Bordeaux. They were well inside the top ten of the 32 boat fleet at the southernmost turn.

Yesterday, Friday, Dolan and Foxall gained places on the ensuing upwind stage when there was little wind and the key was working the wind shift created as the sea breeze came in close to the land.

At one point they were up to fourth but a slight hiccup -dropping the spinnaker into the foil - cost them momentarily in the very close racing. Then the sensible choice was to consolidate and cover the fleet to secure the top 5.

"I'm happy with that." Dolan grinned, "It was disappointing not to hold on to good early positions on the first two stages, but this is more of a correct result in terms of how we have been sailing."

"We definitely had good speed again on the run and made our gybes at the right time. I have good sails from Technique Voiles, a smaller French loft, and with the big spinnaker, in particular, we seemed to be able to sail a little lower and stay fast." Dolan added.
Foxall, a veteran of ten round the world races whose first experience back with the Figaro class this was after a 20 years hiatus, added:

"Tom has been putting in the time and has good potential going forwards from here. It is a new boat, the Figaro Beneteau 3, and it will be a lot harder to sail solo, but this a great way to start the season for him."

"I really came in with no expectations at all." the round the world sailor from County Kerry admitted, "But in many ways, it is like riding a bike, the reflexes come back automatically and you get the boat going fast. Once we found the buttons to do that we seemed to be able to do that. He has good sails and has put in a lot of work with the Lorient training group."

Foxall moves on to his next major project now. Asked if his experience with the new Figaro and his ebullient compatriot Dolan might tempt him to return to the Figaro in which he cut his solo and short-handed teeth some 20 years ago, Foxall said: "I suppose it is 'never say never', but for sure it is great, great racing. It felt very familiar and it was nice to be in that comfort zone."

Won overall by three times La Solitaire champion Yann Eliès sailing with French-based British co-skipper Samantha Davies, the Sardinha Cup has been a useful first event for the fleet and for Dolan who now starts his solo training looking towards the season's pinnacle, June's La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro.

Published in Figaro

Smurfit Kappa, the new Figaro 3 being raced in the current Sardinha Cup series in France by Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall, has been comfortably in the top ten since the start of the 320-mile Leg 3 off St Gillles yesterday at 1330hrs. The course is south to a turning mark off Arcachon, then north leaving Ile d’Yeu to port before heading northwest to another turn before the final leg southeast to St Gilles, where the finish is expected tomorrow (Saturday).

"Smurfit Kappa has shown some impressive bursts of speed"

Smurfit Kappa has shown some impressive bursts of speed, but despite slower going since making the turn off Arcachon during the night, the Irish duo have been steppd up the challenge, and this morning are shown as a close third in line honours, just 1.1 miles astern of leaders Samantha Davies and Elies Yann in St Michel. The race has been slightly slower for Joan Mulloy and Mile Golding in Atlantic Youth Trust - they are shown at 29th in line honours, five miles astern.

Race Tracker here

Published in Figaro

The start of the Sardinha Cup Stage 3 for the new Beneteau Figaro 3 fleet has now been reset for 1330hrs local time tomorrow, Thursday, April 11th off St Gilles Croix de Ville, following a massive effort by the shore support teams and specialist squads from the manufacturers to put right serious rigging problems in several entrants. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 9th, this long race had looked for a while to need postponement to the weekend, but a very impressive display of repair and replacement resources is seeing the situation being sorted ahead of expectations.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan and Damian Foxall are itching to get back out racing again, as their boat Smurfit Kappa has shown as a real contender, and when they became fouled in abandoned fishing gear in hard driving in the middle of Stage 2, they were actually within shouting distance of the lead on the water. As it is, after two stages raced they are currently lying 19th overall, but it seems unlikely they’ll be able to demonstrate their notable heavy weather skills, as the expected winds are currently not forecast to go above 15-16 knots.

Published in Figaro
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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 celebrates 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.

The race has previously called to Dingle, Kinsale, Crosshaven, Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

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 will have two Irish boats in the offshore race thanks to Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy who join the rookie ranks and keep the Irish tricolour flying high in France. 

The 2019 course is more Than 2,000 miles between Nantes, Kinsale (Ireland), Roscoff and Dieppe and is the longest in the race's history.

 

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.

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