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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

There were highs, lows, thrills and spills – but Tom Dolan has emerged from his first season in the ultra-competitive Beneteau Figaro class with his head held high as third overall rookie.

Despite only taking charge of his racing boat Smurfit Kappa a few weeks before racing it across the Atlantic in February, Dolan went on to string together an impressive set of results throughout 2018.

That put him firmly on the podium of the French Offshore Racing Championship in the rookie division for newcomers, an achievement few sailors can claim.

Such a finish in a class respected and feared for the calibre of its sailors is no mean feat – and after a short break to rest and recuperate the 31-year-old skipper is already looking ahead to 2019.

“It’s been a big year,” said Dolan, who hails from Kells in County Meath but lives in Concarneau, Brittany.

“I got chucked in at the deep end – I got the boat in February, went straight into a transatlantic race then straight from there into the Figaro season, so I had very little time to learn the new boat.”

Dolan came to the class from the Mini 6.50 circuit, where he raced 21ft ‘pocket rocket’ boats. At 32ft, the Beneteau Figaro is almost a third bigger – and significantly more powerful.

“It is a very different way of sailing to the Mini 6.50 and I had to adapt quickly,” Dolan said.

Adapt quickly he did, and by April Dolan was blasting his way across the Atlantic in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale with co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec.

An impressive 11th proved Dolan had what it takes to compete on such a cutthroat circuit, and so he set his sights on the season finale – the iconic Solitaire du Figaro – backed by eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.

Starting the race as the top-ranked rookie Dolan was among the favourites for the newcomers’ title, but disaster struck an hour after the start when part of his rigging broke and he was forced to retire from the first of four legs.

Undeterred, Dolan fought his way back in the remaining three legs to secure third overall in the rookie division.

“Third rookie in the Solitaire du Figaro is a good end to the year,” Dolan said. “It could have been much worse, with the damage I sustained in the first leg. Yes, one leg went a bit pear-shaped, but I managed to make it up with the other three legs. It means I get a little something at the prize giving, and that’s nice. I learned a lot this year and I’m happy it was a success. It’s left me wanting more.”

Prior to the 2019 season kicking off, Dolan has been imparting his knowledge to the Concarneau-based sailors following in his Mini 6.50 footsteps.

He will also be recounting his adventures to audiences in Ireland, at Royal Cork Yacht Club on November 20, the National Yacht Club in Dublin on November 27 and Poolbeg Yacht Club in spring next year, as well as giving motivational talks to businesses.

“Since the end of the race I’ve managed to get in a good bit of rest,” Dolan said.

“I took a week or two off and then I did some work coaching and training. Up until Christmas, I’m coaching the group up in Concarneau who are preparing for the next Mini Transat. I’ll also be talking about my adventures over the past few years in Cork and Dublin and I’ll also be doing some motivational speaking.”

2019 holds more excitement for Dolan including a stacked racing calendar in a new boat.

Tom Dolan is shortlisted for the Irish Sailor of the Year Award, read more in WMN Nixon's preview here

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Tom Dolan of County Meath racing Smurfit Kappa took the coveted Top Rookie spot after a worthwhile little breeze finally spread in over the calm-bedevilled Figaro fleet last night as they raced Stage 3 from Northwest Spain, bringing leader Sebastien Simon towards the finish at Saint Gilles at 0540 hrs local time this morning.

For a boat with the speed potential of a Figaro 2, the winner's time of just under 3 days and 16 hours for a 410–mile stage is slow and challenging going, and keeping up the pace single-handed through four nights at sea was a ferocious test.

Tom Dolan RookieThe Irish solo sailor crossed the finish line in Saint Gilles Croix de Vie early this morning (September 12) after more than three and a half-days of intense boat-on-boat racing to claim 11th place overall in the 36-strong single-handed fleet and the coveted Solitaire first-timer leg trophy

After playing cat-and-mouse with the fleet for most of yesterday with frustrating breezes and the threat of total calm, the wind Gods finally relented last night. The final 50 miles were in a basically nor’east breeze which brought the leader Sebastien Simon towards the final turn at Ile d’Yeu at 0315 hrs at up to 7 knots, but local light spots at the island saw his speed drop back at times to 4 knots. However, his rate of progress picked up again in the final leg to Saint-Gilles, and now with sheets freed it was a matter of staying between the next boat and the line for the concluding two and a half hours to the finish.

The pre-Ile d’Yeu buildup to this procession had seen Ireland’s Tom Dolan in 9th, but where Sebastien Simon had judged the long close-haul to the north point of Ile d’Yeu to perfection, many other hadn’t been able to, and had to take a short tack to get round the island turn. One of these was Tom Dolan, and he slipped from 9th to 11th. But by maintaining this position in the straight line race to the finish, he came in at 11th as Top Rookie by a comfortable margin, a position which was confirmed with enthusiastic acclaim when he crossed the line with an elapsed time of 3 days 16 hours and 12 minutes – in other words, about a quarter of an hour astern of Sebastien Simon.

Meawhile Ireland’s other entry - and also a Rookie – is Joan Mulloy of Mayo racing Taste the Atlantic. Though she finished at 06:37:38 well up with the main group, the pace is so intense that this gave her 31st overall. At the Figaro level, having five boats astern of you at the finish is a real achievement, and Mulloy has impressed with her determination and dedication. 

Race tracker here

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It’s a cruel scenario, the final wind-lacking 70–miles of Stage 3 of the Solo URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain across the Bay of Biscay to Saint-Gilles in the northwest of France’s Vendee region writes W M Nixon. We may feel the pain for Ireland’s Tom Dolan. He was looking at fifth place with Smurfit Kappa at one brief stage during the small hours of this morning. But then he lost the pace to slip back to 14th. Now, however, he is looking better. On a nice angle in a private breeze, for the moment there’s hope.

But overnight leader Thierry Chabagny’s fall from grace has been pretty well total during this Tuesday of Tribulations. The 46-year-old veteran of 17 Figaros has only once got on the podium after taking a stage place in the 2006 race. Yet he keeps coming back for more. For long enough it looked as though he could just possibly dream of a stage win. Even his opponents hoped for it. But currently he’s at 25th, out on his own to the north of the fleet, and with options closing as they crawl towards the turn at the Ile d’Yeu, the chances of getting back in the hunt lessen by the hour.

That said, there’ll be many hours when unicorn events may occur, judging by any of the weather predictions which all agree on light breezes or none at all, with the possibility of zephyr-like direct headwinds in the night. Spinnaker skills, untested on this leg thus far, may not be needed until Ile d’Yeu is astern. Meanwhile, at Saint-Gilles the Mayor, Francois Blanchet, has officially opened the Race Village, which will be heaving with conviviality for the next six days, as the final 165-mile sprint stage starts and ends at Saint-Gillles before the overall winner is declared.

It emerges that His Worship the Mayor is a former sailing journalist. What were we saying about unicorn events? If a sailing journalist can become the First Citizen of a coastal township, then all things are possible…….

We go into Night 4 with the highly-tipped Sebastien Simon back in the lead, but he’s at less than three knots, and there are a dozen boats within five miles of him, some of them currently going faster. Even as we’ve been writing this and wondering how we’d look in a Mayoral Chain of Office, Tom Dolan has got back up to 11th. But alas the gallant Joan Mulloy, having staved off the Scottish challenge for 300 miles, has now been passed by Alan Roberts who is 29th, while the Maid of Mayo is 31st.

Race tracker here

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With a hundred miles still to race this morning to the finish at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Biscay coast, the shortened 410 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain is even more of an endurance test of light wind skills and patience than was anticipated when the 36 boats finally started – after delay by total morning calm - at 1343 hrs on Saturday afternoon writes W M Nixon.

Back then, it was anticipated that it might take as long as 72 hours to complete the leg. But having come through light winds and fog off the northwest corner of Spain, while they may have been rewarded with some reasonable windward sailing on Sunday, it was in the knowledge that a slack high pressure area sat in the northeastly part of the Bay of Biscay like a giant spider’s web, yesterday making it an area of ever more flukey and often lighter winds from forward of the beam the nearer they got to the finish.

At an early stage of the long cross-Biscay transit, a small group led by Thierry Chabagny (Bretagne CMB Performance) which broke away to north of the fleet were doing best, and until this morning Chabagny was overall leader. But the experienced favourites in the tight-knit southern group – which includes Ireland's Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa – were playing the long game, and this morning they have seen Chabagny’s lead steadily whittled away until now it has evaporated, taken by Sebastien Simon.

Currently, star of the southern show, Sebastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance) showed a sudden burst of extra speed early this morning to put a two mile gap between himself and the rest, who are so tightly packed that Tom Dolan – currently shown as 12th – is only four miles astern. Such gaps can open and close remarkably quickly as local breezes briefly freshen and then fade, and during the past 24 hours Dolan has seen himself up in 5th place, while mostly he has been between 8th and 11th.

As they slowly near the French coast through today, late summer onshore sea breezes may become another factor in the final stages, as the Bay of Biscay is currently well clear to the south of the Jetstream which is currently making Ireland’s weather so Autumnal. Off the French coast by contrast, summer continues as the localised high pressure system seems to have life in it for a while yet.

While Tom Dolan has the stimulus of being among the leaders, 14 miles further back Joan Mulloy of Mayo in Taste the Atlantic may be placed at 30th overall, but she has seen herself in distinguished company during this long battle, and currently she is ahead of both the highly-regarded Scottish sailor Alan Roberts, and his fellow-challenger Hugh Brayshaw.

Race tracker here

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan has seen his position move between 7th and 12th this morning as he features frequently in the Top Ten with the Solitaire URGO Figaro fleet racing in difficult headwinds across the southern Bay of Biscay from Northwest Spain to St Gilles in France writes W M Nixon. An area of slack higher pressure in the middle of the Bay has seen all but two of the fleet hold to the east of the base course line in the hope of finding firmer breezes indicated closer to the coast of North Spain. But at the moment it is one of the two boats which have struck out to the north, Thierry Chabagny’s Gedimat, which is shown as current leader of Stage 3.

Chabagny (who still has 231 miles to sail to the finish) and the group packed tightly around Dolan (currently in tenth) are moving at much the same speed of around 6.5 knots hard on the wind. But the predictions are that the often unpredictable mid-Biscay waters will see Chabigny losing wind power, yet it really is anyone’s guess.

Ireland’s other entry Joan Mulloy currently lies 32nd after a long and often frustrating night – like most of the fleet she is to the east of the baseline, currently sailing on starboard tack at 5.8 knots.

Race tracker here

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Tom Dolan, the Meath sailor racing Smurfit Kappa in his first Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, has been slowly working his way up the rankings of the 36-strong fleet as they run across the Bay of Biscay in nor’easters in the second stage from Saint Brieuc in Northern Brittany to Ria de Muros in Northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. Having at one stage been back towards 30th after taking the less favoured western option between Ushant and Brittany, Dolan has got himself back into the hunt with good sailing through the second night at mid-fleet, getting up to 23rd.

The northeast winds are expected to persist, but the tightly-packed positions at the front have changed again with Sebastian Simon, Eric Peron and Scotland's Figaro veteran Alan Roberts doing well out of favouring the eastern side of the leading group, with Simon in such good form that he is 2.4 miles ahead of Peron in second and 4.4 ahead of third-placed Roberts in Seacat Services.

Last night’s early leader Anthony Marchand is now back in 7th, 6.2 miles astray on Sebastien Simon, as the leaders begin to shape their positions for arrival off the coast of Northwest Spain – Sebastien Simon is now only 185 miles from the finish, and half of that will be semi-coastal or coastal sailing off Spain’s Finisterre coast.

Joan Mulloy of Mayo, racing Taste the Atlantic, was inevitably last after the delay caused by her broken main halyard at the start. But she has been sailing well, currently making 11.6 knots and at the moment looking good to overtake Damiena Cloarec to take over 32nd place.

Race tracker here

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A broken main halyard at the start delayed Joan Mulloy’s departure yesterday in Stage 2 of the Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018, but Ireland’s other entry Tom Dolan is snapping at the heels of the top ten in this Stage, which started yesterday off St Brieuc in Northern Brittany and crosses the Bay of Biscay to northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. With fair mainly east to northeast winds off the French coast, the turning of the tide later favoured an inshore course , and the fleet are tacking to lee this morning off Brittany’s northwest corner, with Gilda Mahe (Breizh Cola) in the lead at Pointe de Pontuseval, 1.3 miles ahead of Stage 1 runner-up Charlie Dalin, and 1.5 ahead of Stage 1 winner Anthony Marchand back in third.

Tom Dolan’s current twelfth has him in close contact with top contenders such as Seabastien Simon (currently 7th) Hugh Brayshaw (8th) and Alan Roberts (5th). The first night has been a matter of catch-up for Joan Mulloy after her main halyard was replaced by her shore team, and she is further eastward along the coast, currently close west of the Ile de Batz and shown as 36th.

Race Tracker here

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Ireland’s solo Figaro sailors Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan will be the focus of tonight's episode of RTE Radio 1’s Seascapes. Presenter Fergal Keane travelled to France to catch up with the skippers, teams, and sponsors ahead of leg 1 of La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro.

On the show will be the two skippers, Ireland’s only ever entrant in the Vendée Globe and Atlantic Youth Trust President Enda O’Coineen, we’ll hear why Smurfit Kappa decided to sponsor Tom Dolan, and Team Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson will give an insight into this incredible race.

Listeners will also hear Joan Mulloy speaking on the dock at 3am after spending three and a half days alone at sea on her yacht 'Taste the Atlantic - A Seafood Journey'. The show airs at 22:30 on RTE Radio 1 and will be available online.

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Andi Robertson spoke with Ireland's solo sailor Thomas Dolan about his retiral from leg one of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro. Listen in to the recording below

Race Director Francis Le Goff commented this morning from on board the monitoring catamaran the ‘Etoile’ shadowing near the fleet on the first period of Stage 1 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, “The fleet is just a little ahead of the (predicted) routing. The only thing is the breakages which we are sorry for. But, except for Nathalie Criou, the fleet is still in a good sized group which – in terms of us keeping an eye on everyone is good news. And the fact that no one passed south of the TSS (forbidden shipping lane area). It is not surprising to see Charlie Dalin, Seb Simon or Alexis Loison at the front after they all made average starts. That really is and an indication of their ambition and their ability. Alan Roberts has proven he is fit and in the match. The big question which we will see answered in the next 12 hours is what the choices will be as the wind drops away (with the return of high pressure, and summer!). It will be complicated all the way to Wolf Rock.”

"I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud"

Thomas Dolan (IRL) Smurfit Kappa this morning in Le Havre: 
What happened exactly? 
TD: "I had been under heavy spinnaker for a mile or two in distance and we were just passing the Radio France Buoy and I heard a thud. It was not a normal thud and straight away you have that feeling inside. I did think straight away about the spreader and had Lois right beside me and so I shouted 'Is my spreader OK?' He looked and said it was OK. And then I saw the leeward shroud (which holds the mast up) banging around. It did not sink in. But automatically to save the mast like, I dropped the sails and tied on a couple of halyards. Then it settled in for me. It took a while to realise the leg is over. I rang Francis Le Goff( Race Direction) and said 'here how does it work, can I fix and go on?' and he said 'Afraid not because you have passed the Radio France buoy. You can't go back. And so I had a bit of a cry about that. As soon as I dropped the job there was a lump of metal dropped on to the deck. I thought 'that's it' I can't fix it. I took the seal off the engine and that is it. 



How did you feel then and now, the morning after? 
It is weird to come back into the village with all the flags being taken down. It is the first time it has happened to me. I did my first race in 2012 and have sailed the equivalent of a lap of the world at least, and have never had to give up. I broke a rudder one year in the Mini Fastnet but still finished. I guess if you do so many miles over the years it is going to happen, but on the first leg of your first Solitaire, it's hard to take.

The Rookie podium may be gone then? 
I guess so. That is a one-shot thing. It is more or less cooked. I will head off this evening with Eric Delamare (Region Normandie). It is such a pity for us Gildas Mahé (retired into Cowes with broken spreader too) was my coach for a while and Fred (Duthil) helped me out with sails a while ago, and so for us, all to drop out is hard to take.

What's the plan? 
I will head off this evening with Eric for a little leisurely sail to Saint Brieuc.

It is more frustrating because you were going well with a decent start? 
"I was going well, I was happy with my speed. And I saved all my sails.

Does it make it better or worse to know there are other good guys dropped out of Leg 1? 
Worse probably, I am quite close to them so it is worse. Gildas was almost first and has had a tough few years. He deserves much better.

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Unfortunately, Stage 1 of his La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro only lasted about 90 minutes for the Irish solo racer Tom Dolan yesterday. He has been forced to retire in to Le Havre because of a damaged starboard spreader. Dolan informed the race organisers that he was returning to the race start port where he is expected to repair and head directly to Saint-Brieuc to be ready for Stage 2. Abandoning the leg means his elapsed time is calculated at that of the last skipper to finish plus an additional two hours.

Listen into Tom Dolan speaking about the spreader failure on podcast here.

spreader mastDolan's broken spreader in Le Havre port last night. The breakage gave the County Meath sailor no choice but to retire and make repairs for leg two.

Meanwhile, Joan Mulloy, Ireland's first female in the race is currently lying 29th from 30 still racing. See tracker here.

The first stage of this 49th edition, La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro, is the longest of the four legs and it will be something of a baptism of fire for the 36 solo racers. They may have a relatively straightforward first afternoon after the start Sunday at 1300hrs but there will be a fast crossing of the Channel under spinnaker as a fast moving and active front passes over the fleet at the start of this evening.

It will be a pretty tough, challenging first night at sea with little chance to rest. But by Monday afternoon it there will be a big change in the weather as the anticyclone re-establishes itself and with that comes a measure of uncertainty, bringing light and unsteady winds. To get to Wolf Rock off the tip of Cornwall first and then across to the Portsall mark off the Breton peninsula in good shape, up to Guernsey and in to the finish in Saint Brieuc, it looks like a long, hard and very open game.

Only six and a half hours after leaving the La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro start line in Le Havre the leaders have already turned west, upwind at the Pullar mark, to the west of Owers. Anthony Marchand (Groupe Royer-Secours Populaire) lead at South Pullar at 1930h French time (1830 BST) being chased hard by Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola), Tanguy le Turquais (Everial), Sebastien Simon (Bregagne Credit Mutuel Performance), Eric Peron (Finistere Mer Vent), Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF )and Vincent Biarnes (Baie de Saint-Brieuc). Brit Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) is tenth at 1.3nm behind leader. The fleet now race upwind leaving the Isle of Wight to starboard. Low water at Saint Catherine's point was around 1720 BST/1820 French time and so they will be sailing against the building flood tide.

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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