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Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan will see his dream become reality on Sunday when he starts the iconic Figaro du Solitaire race.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, will set out on his 32ft–yacht Smurfit Kappa to become the first Irish sailor in history to win the ‘rookie’ category for first-time entrants when racing begins at 1 pm local time.

The Solitaire du Figaro is among the world’s most revered solo sailing races and is renowned for making – and often breaking – the very best singlehanded racers.

While landlubbers might consider it a modern-day voyage for madmen, for Dolan just taking part will be a dream come true.

“I’ve been dreaming about doing this race for years, and it’s amazing to finally be here,” he said. “I remember looking at these boats ten years ago and never even contemplating being on the start line but here I am.

“It’s a special race – it’s not really even one race it’s four races, one after an another with no rest in between. It’s like doing three Fastnets and a bit more back to back, which puts it into perspective.”

Dolan, nicknamed L’Irlandais Volant – the Flying Irishman – by the French press for his sheer speed on the water, will be among 38 skippers including eight newcomers departing Le Havre on the first of four gruelling legs.

The stages range in length from 165 nautical miles to 570nm, and the race is scored on cumulative time.

The legs are long enough to test the skippers’ navigational skills but too short to allow for any downtime.

To make things even tougher, they all start within a few days of the previous one finishing, allowing for little rest in between.

Despite the challenge that lies ahead, Dolan says he’s ready to give his all in pursuit of his goal: to be the top rookie.

“I’m ready,” Dolan said. “There are always tiny little things you could keep doing but at some point, you have to just stop and get on with things. I’ve done a lot of miles with the boat this year – probably seven thousand – so I think I know it well now. It’s been a full-on year but I don’t regret it at all.

“My goal is to be the top rookie – that’s the dream. I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t in the top three, but the fleet is so strong.”

Dolan made his name in solo sailing in the Mini 6.50 class before moving into the larger and more competitive Beneteau Figaro class in early 2018, backed by eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.

After winning the top rookie in the double-handed Transat AG2R La Mondiale in May, Dolan has notched up a string of impressive solo results which will see him begin the Solitaire du Figaro as the highest-ranked rookie – a first for an Irish sailor.

But he will face stiff competition from a host of rivals including rising French stars Lois Berrehar and Thomas Cardrin, not to mention fellow Irish sailor Joan Mulloy.

The first leg, a 570-mile epic from Le Havre in Normandy to St-Brieuc in Brittany, will kick off at 1pm local time (12pm UK) on Sunday in favourable conditions.

“It’s looking like there will be wind,” Dolan added. “My worry was that there would be light winds, which could spell the end of a campaign just by missing one tidal gate. Thankfully it’s not looking like that will happen, and I relish better winds.”

The race timings will be as follows:

Leg 1 – 26 August

Le Havre to Saint-Brieuc – 570 miles

Leg 2 – September 2

Saint-Brieuc – Ria de Muros-Noia – 520 miles

Leg 3 – September 8

Ria de Muros-Noia – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

Leg 4 – September 13

Saint Gilles Croix de Vie – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

Published in Figaro
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First unveiled in 2003 as the new boat for the 1970-founded Figaro Solo Series, the Marc Lombard-designed 34ft Figaro 2 is a class act writes W M Nixon. But with the last one built in 2015, and replacement by the foil-sporting Figaro 3 well underway for next year, the versatile Figaro 2’s days at the sharpest edge of offshore racing are numbered.

figaro three2The Figaro 3’s foiling configuration will become a full part of the Figaro Solo story in 2019

Or are they? Though she carries a tough IRC rating, the Figaro 2 can sail up to it, as has been revealed in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race. The tail-enders in that boat-breaking marathon are still struggling in light winds towards the finish in the Solent. But in the two-handed division, Volvo Ocean race veterans Benjamin Schwartz and Chen Jin Hao with their Figaro 2 El Velosolex SL Energies Group are long since finished, and they’ve made quite a clean sweep of it – first in 2-handed, first in IRC 2, and 2nd in IRC Overall.

schwartz and hao3Chen Jin Hao and Benjamin Schwartz after winning the Two-Handed Division and placing second overall in the RORC Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland race.

This made it an event to remember for Marc Lombard, as he also designed Guy Redpath’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra which won IRC overall and is also rated as the line honours winner. For although Class 40 sailed the same course with Phil Sharp’s Imerys Energy first to finish of the entire fleet, as far as the RORC were concerned it was the IRC Divisions which were the real race, and they made Pata Negra (third in fleet) the recognised line honours victor.

That in turn made El Velosolex second in line honours, But even in the complete fleet with Class 40 included, she was fifth on the water across the finishing line, a brilliant performance by two hyper-tough guys with a now classic boat which happened to be the smallest in the fleet.

This very special boat comes centre stage again on Sunday, with her final time as the boat-of-choice for the staging of the four part URGO Figaro Solitaire from Le Havre, and we’ll be looking at the prospects for Irish skippers Joan Mulloy and Tom Dolan here very shortly. But for now, after the series is over, what then for the Figaro 2 after she has completed these impressive Farewell Tours??

Doubtless most of the boats have already been earmarked for new owners who will know they’re getting a bargain. Trouble is, in future seasons this will be a “No Excuses Sailing Machine”. In an open fleet against more ordinary craft, there’ll be no excuse for not doing well.

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan found he was in a different world entirely when he moved up from racing a Minitransat to competing in the legendary Figaro Class. Here, the competition is so hot that being first rookie in any race is regarded as a huge achievement. Yet Tom has done that on his first Figaro Transatlantic, and by being the top rookie ahead of - among many others - Minitransat winner Erwan le Draoulec, makes Tom Dolan the “Sailor of the Month (International)” for May.

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan of the National Yacht Club has finished the Transat AG2R La Mondiale in 11th place overall, coming home as first rookie in the process.

Dolan and co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec crossed the finish line of the iconic transatlantic yacht race on their boat Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance after 19 days, nine hours, five minutes and 10 seconds.

The duo, who had only sailed together once before teaming up for the 4,000-mile dash from Concarneau, France, to St Barts in the Caribbean, took the top spot in the hotly contested ‘rookie’ category for first-timers 

They finished ahead of arch rivals Erwan Le Draoulec and Lois Berrehar by just 45 minutes.

It’s an impressive start to the Figaro Beneteau season for Dolan, who moved into the class from the Mini 6.50 – and joined forces with eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance – at the start of 2018.

The 20-strong fleet of two-person teams included 2016 Figaro La Solitaire winner Yann Richomme as well as Vendee Globe racers Morgan Lagraviere and Thomas Ruyant.

Dolan’s Transat AG2R rookie victory is all the sweeter as Le Draoulec was one of his and Bouroullec’s closest competitors in the Mini 6.50, and the winner of the 2017 Mini Transat.

“We are super happy with the race, and especially as we were the first rookies,” Dolan said. “It’s a big thing in the Figaro class so we’re delighted to take the title for the Transat.

“Tanguy and I both know Erwan really well through the Mini 6.50 but neither of us had beaten him in a while! It’s good for the moral to beat the guy who won the Mini Transat.

“The objective for this race was always to be on the rookie podium and we won it, so it’s great.” 

Dolan and Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance now turn their attention to training for the season highlight, the singlehanded Solitaire du Figaro in August.

“This result sets me up nicely for the rest of the season,” added Dolan, 30, from Kells in Meath. “The boat has been demystified and now I can concentrate on preparing for the big one – the Figaro du Solitaire.”

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Irish ocean racer Tom Dolan was inside the last 100 miles of the 4,000-mile AG2R La Mondiale Transat race on Friday, battling tropical squalls en route to the finish.

Dolan and French co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec, sailing Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance, were placed 11th in the 20-strong fleet of identical Figaro Beneteaus at the midday position update. 

With just over 70 miles to the finish line in the Caribbean island of St Barts, Dolan and Bouroullec had a narrow jump of less than 10 miles on arch rivals and fellow first-timers Erwan Le Draoulec and Lois Berrehar in 12th on Concarneau Entreprendre.

They trailed race rookies Justine Mettraux and Isabelle Joschke on Teamwork by 13 miles.

Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance is expected to cross the line at around 1900 UTC this evening, bringing to an end an epic race that has taken almost three weeks. 

But before then, Dolan and Bouroullec must defend their position from Le Draoulec and Berrehar while dealing with typically tricky Caribbean weather.

“That's it, last day of the AG2R La Mondiale Transat race,” Dolan said today.

“Since yesterday we’ve find ourselves in what is called the ‘sailor’s dilemma’: light winds, wind squalls of 30 knots, constant wind direction changes, non-stop gybing, constant need to change course, non-stop sail trimming, tactics…

“Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance is doing a ‘slalom’ between the clouds to gain an advantage with the wind and trying to be well placed.

“The 30 miles of lateral separation we had with Teamwork did not help us in this dilemma. The girls are now 10 miles ahead of us and it will be difficult to catch them before the finish line.

“The other big fear is to be caught by the young guys on Concarneau Entreprendre who are just behind and closely followed by Bretagne CMB Espoir.

“Our dilemma: either attack to try to get into the top ten, or defend our lead to win the battle of the rookies. It is still a difficult decision, and it is without doubt that the sailors dilemma" is going to play out to the finish line.”

Published in Figaro
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With 240–miles to the finish line at St Barth, Tom Dolan's “Smurfit Kappa Cerfrance” from the National Yacht Club is now in 11th place overall and in second place in the rookie class, only nine miles behind Teamwork, who is leading the rookies.

“Smurfit Kappa Cerfrance” is the fastest boat amongst the first eleven boats doing 8.8 knots and steering 248 degrees. It’s going to be a close call and first place in the rookies is between “Smurfit Kappa – Cerfrance” & Teamwork.

The weather forecast is for the well-established trade winds on the route of the first 7 boats to the finish line. Between 16 and 18 knots, these trade winds are from the east in recent days, but they keep a small northeast orientation.

The boats will all arrive from the northeast of the island. They will be forced to go around the west, to respect a virtual buoy placed on the side of Anse in Colombier, located at the north-west point, before arriving in Gustavia.

The first boat is expected to finish today around 2300 IST.

This AG2R La Mondiale will be the fastest ever breaking the previous 19 day record.

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Irish ocean racer Tom Dolan from the National Yacht Club and his co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec had moved inside the top ten in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale on Tuesday as the finish line draws close.

The pair have less than 700 miles to sail to the finish in the Caribbean island of St Barts having set sail from Concarneau in France on April 22, and currently lie tenth.

Their battle with 12th-placed Erwan La Draoulec and Loïs Berrehar, fellow newcomers – or ‘bizuths’ in French, continues with less than 20 miles separating the two teams in terms of distance to finish.

"The pair have less than 700 miles to sail to the finish in the Caribbean island of St Barts"

“A little over four days to go before arriving and the Battle of the Bizuths is in full swing,” Dolan said from his boat Smufit Kappa - Cerfrance.

“Yesterday morning as the sun rose it was panic stations on board Smurfit Kappa - Cerfrance as the first position report of the day revealed that the other young guns on board Concarneau Entreprendre had gained six miles on us in the night! 

“A cloud line from the north had given them a turbo boost that we were yet to receive. Luckily the same cloud line passed us over later in the day and the gap widened.”

With only a handful of days remaining, Dolan and Bouroullec also have to deal with the threat of Justine Mettraux and Isabelle Joschke on Teamwork, in 11th place.

“This morning we were just a half a mile behind Justine and Isabelle on board Teamwork and our objective of a top ten finish,” added Dolan, from Kells in County Meath.

“Even though they both have a number of seasons of Figaro behind them, it is their first Transat AG2R La Mondiale so they qualify for our Battle of the Bizuths on a technicality.

“A windy night last night helped us scream along the rhumb line. Less than 700 miles to go to Saint Barts and there is a big lateral split in the fleet, hard to know who will come out on top!”

Published in Figaro
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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and French co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec have locked horns with fellow newcomers Erwan La Draoulec and Loïs Berrehar as they battle it out for the title of first rookie in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale.

Dolan and Bouroullec’s Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance was less than ten miles ahead of La Droulec and Berrehar’s Concarneau Entreprendre in the rankings on Friday.

But in reality the two boats were practically neck and neck, with Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance positioned around 15 miles north of Concarneau Entreprendre.

"With less than 1,500 miles remaining of the 4,000-mile race from Concarneau in France to St Barts in the Caribbean, Dolan said the fight for the first rookie spot was spurring them on"

It is fitting that Dolan is up against La Draoulec – the pair were close rivals in the Mini 6.5 class before both graduating to the larger Figaro for the 2018 season.

With less than 1,500 miles remaining of the 4,000-mile race from Concarneau in France to St Barts in the Caribbean, Dolan said the fight for the first rookie spot was spurring them on.

“We have declared ‘the battle of the rookies’, as on the horizon we can make out the blue mainsail of Concarneau Entreprendre , our fellow rookies in the Figaro class,” the 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, said.

“Erwan Le Draoulec, with whom we crossed paths on the same ground not so long ago during the Mini Transat, and his captain Lois Berrehar are not going to sit back and let us pass.

“Not so far behind either, Clarisse Cremer and Tanguy le Turquais are not going to let themselves be beaten either. The return to a bit of a match has revitalised us a bit after three fairly monotonous days. 

Twelve days into the race, the fleet has converged close to the midway point of the North Atlantic.

With stable north easterly trade winds blowing, Dolan said any tactics had been temporarily put aside in favour of speed.

“Weather-wise in the coming days it is hard to see any tricks to be laid - it is once again a time not to try and win this "batttle of the rookies", just be sure not to lose it,” he added. 

“In a little less than a week we will be VMG running and gybing in and around squalls on our approach to the West Indies and the game will be on, so for now our strategy can be called the ‘direct route’.”

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The National Yacht Club's Tom Dolan has gambled on a southerly route being the fasted as he attempts to climb up the leaderboard in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale.

The 30-year-old from Kells, Meath, is currently in 12th position with co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec on their yacht Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance as the 4,000-mile sprint across the Atlantic enters its tenth day.

The iconic race, in which 20 of the world’s best sailors do battle in identical 32ft Figaro Beneteau boats between Concarneau in France and St Barts in the Caribbean, is only Dolan’s second outing since joining forces with eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa earlier this year.

"Dolan and Bouroullec are among a group of eleven teams that have pursued a route south towards the Cape Verde archipelago"

Having crossed the Tropic of Cancer two days ago, Dolan and Bouroullec are among a group of eleven teams that have pursued a route south towards the Cape Verde archipelago off the west African coast in the hope of locking into better breeze.

Meanwhile, some 200 miles north-west, the leading pack are closer in distance to the finish line but are in less wind.

With around 2,200 miles still remaining of the leg, Dolan said it would be some time before they knew if their gamble had paid off.

“The cards are down, all bets are in,” Dolan wrote in his latest dispatch from Smurfit Kappa-Cerfrance.

“Two days ago we came screaming through the Canaries and since then have invested our max to the south. In ten days’ time we'll see if it has paid off.

“All of this south that we have laid on the table will mean one thing for sure: that we have and will travel a greater distance. The key will be that we will do it faster!

“The forecasts say that we should have 10 days’ worth of stronger wind and current ahead of us. Now it’s up to us to make the most of it.”

Despite both Dolan and Bouroullec being newcomers to the Figaro Beneteau class, they are already proving themselves a force to be reckoned with in a fleet that contains Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race sailors.

The pair have been buoyed by their performance in the race so far – and remain cautiously optimistic about their chances.

“On board things are good, morale is up and stable and the boat is in good condition,” Dolan added.

“For the last 48 hours we have had a sparring partner in Credit Mutuel – they are about half a mile to our right and it's good to have them to be able to compare speed, with which we are happy.

“We are still discovering the boat and to be able to match them for speed is encouraging.

“There is one hell of a big high pressure floating around up north, and if we manage to scrape past it would mean we have a good chance of a top ten finish, but time will tell.”

Published in Figaro
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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and France’s Tanguy Bouroullec have seen their fortunes rise and fall and rise again as the fleet in the Figaro two-handed AG2R Mondiale from Concarneau in Brittany to St Barths in the Caribbean puts the obligatory Canary Islands waypoint astern.

They’ve been shaping up to the tactical decision on which side to favour in the long Transatlantic haul, with the Irish-French duo tracking to the left.

The lack of a stopover in the Canaries has meant that sail damage sustained earlier in the race has to be put right on board, and the vid shows Tom taking on the task of sorting the big spinnaker, while Tanguy looks after Smurfit Kappa/Cerfrance’s excellent progress.

We mentioned before the race started that Tom was now so immersed in the French offshore scene that at times he seemed to think in French – now you can see it for yourself. Meanwhile, the word is that on the leaderboard they’ve gone as high as 5th, but have slipped back at times to 11th, though we’re told to expect welcome developments in the next 36 hours.

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Page 7 of 14

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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