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Tom Dolan (With Onboard Reporter) Prepare for Second Round Ireland Speed Record Bid

17th October 2023
Irish Figaro star Tom Dolan is back in Ireland for a second-speed sailing record attempt
Irish Figaro star Tom Dolan is back in Ireland for a second-speed sailing record attempt Credit: Afloat

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is back in Ireland with his Figaro Beneteau 3 Smurfit Kappa Kingspan, aiming to set a Round Ireland speed sailing record, a bid sparking debate about the status of solo sailing in Irish waters and the records themselves, which Afloat concluded in May, was all a bit of a mess.

The National Yacht Club sailor wants to break the long-standing record of 4 days, 1 hour and 53 minutes and 29 seconds established by Michel Kleinjans aboard a Class40 in 2005, but, he says, the World Speed Sailing Record Council (WSSRC) do not accept singlehanded record attempts, so Dolan has lodged a double-handed speed record bid.

"I will be sailing around Ireland single-handed with an onboard reporter (OBR)", he explained to Afloat. 

Dolan says the OBR has been quite common in offshore racing since the role was introduced in the Ocean Race 2012. (The first single-handed race with an OBR was transatlantic from New York to Vendee in 2016). "So I do all the sailing, he does all the filming!" he told Afloat. 

Nevertheless, some say it asks what record the Irish Figaro star attempts to break; the solo or double-handed record? Or will it set a new time as the first circumnavigation with an onboard reporter?

"Pointing at Michel’s record as a reference time makes no sense. Respect the current record and call this attempt what it is: a double-handed round Ireland record attempt as defined by the WSSRC", former Round Ireland record holder Mick Liddy told Afloat.

Female duo Pam Lee and Catherine Hunt set a double-handed record time in 2020 of 3 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds.

As regular Afloat readers know, Dolan similarly completed a circumnavigation in May but finished some hours outside Kleinjans reference time, as time and tide ran out.

He completed the course in 4 days, 11 hours, 54 minutes and 31 seconds but maintains that it is possible for him (with his OBR) to complete the 688-mile course in three and a half days if the weather window is good.

Now, in October, he says is under no time pressure on his second quest and can wait for an ideal weather sequence that will give him the best chance.

It would be a fitting conclusion to a hectic solo season, where he scored a spectacular leg one win into Kinsale in the Figaro race in September before ultimately ending up 18th overall

He will wait for an ideal weather sequence. While the weather seems very unsettled this week, Dolan is confident that he has much less time pressure now and can afford to wait. The weather at this time of year is much more dynamic than in the summer, with more lows coming sweeping in from the Atlantic. 

Dolan is still unsure whether the best way is to go anticlockwise or clockwise. He needs a system that will give him a sequence of shifts in wind direction. "The key is always that northeast corner where the strong tides are. Normally, I'd say you want to get through and deal with them first, and then you are not worried about getting stuck at the end, but you need the wind to work for you," says Dolan. 

The long hours of darkness and cold will be much more unpleasant than his summer attempt, but he is accustomed to the ocean's late autumn and early winter conditions. Dolan notes that weight is not super critical, as it is in La Solitaire du Figaro, so he can ensure he has a good supply of hot food and drinks and can carry more sails. 

Like the last attempt, Dolan's boat is in Greystones Harbour in County Wicklow, less than seven miles from the record starting line between Dun Laoghaire and the Kish Bank lighthouse, and is all set and ready to go. Team

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