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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Gildas Mahé have been coming to terms with a slightly disappointing outcome following a very close finish to the Transat en Double Concarneau to Saint Barthélemy race.

The Franco-Irish duo finished very early on Monday morning, crossing the line in eighth place in the 18 boat fleet. After more than 3,890 nautical miles or 18 days and 8 hours of racing, during which they spent the majority of the time in the top three or top five, when they crossed the finish they were less than 15 minutes shy of a top five position which was their pre-start target and less than one hour short of the elapsed time of the third placed boat.

At three days before the finish into the Caribbean island the Smurfit Kappa supported Dolan and his French counterpart seemed to be well set for a placing on the podium, tussling within a handful of miles of the leaders. But their strategic choice to stay south, along with many of the leading players in the class, found them suffering with less breeze – and although they bit the bullet and went north to try and consolidate with the fleet – the duo on Breizh Cola ­lost places and had to settle for eighth.
“That is the way it goes sometimes in this sport. It is a tough one to swallow because with Gildas I feel we had sailed a good race. We made the right choices all the way and we were quick downwind, clearly, eighth is a bit lower than we had hoped for.

But even until the day before the finish we could still have got on the podium. At the end of Sunday we crossed with the northerly group and we considered they had gybed too early so we went on so we thought we would get a better angle to th line at Saint Barths but that was our mistake. We held on too long and let a few of our rivals get away from us at the last minute. We lost big time and that is hard to take.” Said Dolan on the dock in Gustavia, Saint Barthélemy.

“After 4,000 miles of racing where we were constantly in contact and even racing in sight with some boats, it was finally a gybe that cost us something like ten miles and our podium chances. But that is the way it goes in the Figaro.” Acknowledged Dolan.

He adds wryly, “All that being said, in my head I am happy that we had a good race and got stung near the end which I would actually much rather than have a mediocre race and then jag it, getting lucky near the end. And being honest this is actually the first time that I’m disappointed like this because we didn’t win or end up on the podium when we had the potential, the game and the boat to do so. With Gildas, we did things well and we have don’t have anything to be ashamed of. We fought well and gave it all we could. The Figaro Bénéteau3 is tough, demanding and you have to work hard. We finished pretty much completely burnt out, especially since we had to fight with the weed and some rudder issues. On starboard tack, the boat was bad. We were always on edge and you had to steer with both hands to keep it under control.”

Dolan concluded, “We had a lot of trouble but with Gildas we formed a great duo. We hit it off and I learned a lot of things that will help me a lot in the rest of the season and especially on La Solitaire."

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The last 450 miles of the Transat en Double Concarneau to Saint Barthélemy sees the leaders of the 18 boat fleet finely balanced with a group to the north which has been gaining and the long-established leading pack which have been slowed slightly in lighter airs.

In the southern pack are Ireland’s Tom Dolan racing with Gildas Mahé on Breizh Cola were lying in fourth place, less than one mile behind third-placed Guyot Environnement sailed by Pierre Leboucher and Thomas Rouxel. The leaders are TeamWork, Nils Palmieri and Julien Villion who are only seven miles ahead of Dolan and Mahé after 17 days of racing.

Weed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and Mahe, as the Irish skipper reported, There is seaweed everywhere wrecking all our fun. That and Teamwork up in the north who are screaming towards the finish stealing away hope of a podium at every pointage. They have a very light ridge of high pressure to get through though, so that is our hope, the same ridge we have dived south to avoid. They should be able to sail straight at the finish, but in very light winds, whereas we have to zig zag along the south of it, in winds that are not exactly strong. Up until now it has been all about wind pressure rather than the angle of heading, let’s just hope that it stays that way.”

seaweed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and MaheSeaweed has continued to be a problem for Dolan and Mahe

They were six duos on the north route eight on the south route. If the southerners had an advantage in recent days, the balance seemed to have turned. Since Thursday the routing had swung to favour northerners including the current leader who are also positioned in the north: TeamWork.

“The southerners were faced with sluggish winds today, Friday,” confirms Yann Château of the Race Direction, race director. “The southern group has regained speeds in line with the weather forecast while a soft zone is forecast for the next few hours in the north.”

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With just over 1200 nautical miles to the finish line and more than ten days since leaving Brittany, Ireland’s Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Gildas Mahé are fighting hard in third place on the Transat en Double Concarneau – Saint Barthélemy. Racing Mahé’s boat Breizh Cola the duo have been between five and eight miles behind the leaders Pierre Leboucher and Thomas Rouxel and have a decent four miles in hand ahead of the fourth-placed duo.

Over the weekend, especially, there were two activities occupying the thoughts of the leading teams, if and when to gybe south to find stronger, more settled trade winds, and how best to deal with the massive quantities of weed in the water which becomes hooked on the appendages of the Beneteau Figaro 3 yachts.

Dolan, who is supported by Smurfit Kappa, reported: “ For the last day we have been under full seaweed, there is so much of it everywhere across the sea that we have no choice but to get on with it. All the sophisticated systems that we have concocted up are useless as. As soon as you remove some, three minutes later it has been replaced! So you have two choices; sail slowly, stopping every half an hour to remove seaweed or just simply sail slowly! We have opted for the latter and have even noticed a few things, while sailing under full seaweed! Changing a few sail twist settings and playing about with the foil settings. The thing I suppose is at least we all have the same problems. identical boats and identical amounts of seaweed!”

Explaining their choice to be among the first to gybe south Dolan says, “Since the Canaries we had it our heads that we wanted to get south as there has always been more wind in the south and a better angle. But at the same time we wanted to make sure the port gybe was clean and so we waited for the afternoon and evening as the wind shifts to the right overnight, but Pierre and Lois and Tom seem to have done well going earlier and getting to the gain earlier, they won a lot. Our idea was a bit conservative and it did work quite well but it really, really worked well for the others and we have a bit to pull back on them. We are both feeling great where we are. I would not mind having a bit of porridge now though, it is 25 degrees but I really fancy some porridge so I do.

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan, racing with the French co-skipper Gildas Mahé on Breizh Cola, lies in fourth place on the Transat en Double Concarneau Saint Barthélemy as the fleet heads west across the Atlantic after passing the Canary Islands rounding mark in fifth early on Monday morning. Mahe and Dolan are less than two miles behind the leaders Alexis Loison and Guillaume Pirouelle.

Racing at around 11 knots of boatspeed in a moderated NE’ly tradewinds there is nothing between the top group of boats.

Dolan reported today, “It feels great to be at the top of the fleet, there is a great match going on and it's really stimulating. Even though we're crossing the Atlantic it's still a Figaro race in terms of sheer intensity, and so constant contact with other boats makes it all the better.  Our team work together is great, we got a right kicking at La Palma this morning, we sailed into the headland to exploit the acceleration zone and shift and ended up in 40+ knots of winds. We didn't break anything though and it did allow us to get a bit of a boost to get south. There are a lot of keys to achieving high average downwind speeds, it’s a never-ending compromise between sailing deep and high for speed, and now we have these foils that make it so much easier to accelerate. You can quickly lose the run of things and end up sailing a lot of distance over the water.”

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Racing on Breizh Cola with French ace Gildas Mahé, Ireland’s Tom Dolan reported today that he is happy with their positioning on the Transat en Double Concarneau – Saint Barthélemy fleet.

Racing downwind in 18-20kts of NE’ly tradewinds 175 nautical miles WNW of Casablanca this Monday afternoon Dolan and Mahé are computed to be lying ninth in the 18 boat fleet but in terms of latitude, they were the furthest south of the leaders and were the quickest boat over the previous 24 hours making 226 nautical miles.

They still have over 420 miles to go the Canary Island where there is a passing virtual mark before the fleet turn west to cross the Atlantic.

The Smurfit Kappa backed Dolan reported this afternoon, “Tonight might yet be a key stage of the race as some weather files are looking at 27 to 30kts of wind, downwind, full on, should be tiringly good craic! But it’s an important part of the race I’d say. We struggled a bit for speed with all of the reaching at the start over the first few days, it wasn’t much fun, it was hard work, always heeling and trying to scrape back every little 0.1 of a mile. But since it has become downwind we're really in the groove! ! am happy with our trajectories and in the right place so all is good on board.”

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Tom Dolan and Glldas Mahé are lying seventh in the 18-boat Transat en Double Concarneau-Saint Barthélemy after last night's start of the postponed fixture.

Dolan's prediction that the first stage of the race will be key has proved correct as the fleet moves towards Cape Finisterre this morning.

Following a postponed start, moved to this Wednesday evening at 1900hrs local time from last Sunday because of stormy conditions on the Bay of Biscay, the Irish Sailor of the Year and his ace French co-skipper Glldas Mahé were in a buoyant mood as they made their final preparations for the Transatlantic race from Brittany to the Caribbean.

“I can’t wait to be going, I really can’t. It was great to have been actually at my own home in Concarneau these last few days waiting for the weather to change, it makes a real difference, but now we are ready to go and get on with it.” Says Dolan. “Let’s be clear though I am not taking this race lightly. I never forget how lucky I am to be here. I am lucky to be here with this boat and to be racing with someone like Gildas so you can be sure I will be making the absolute most of it.”

With the passage of the past days, the weather picture on the Bay of Biscay has changed considerably since Sunday’s feisty outlook. The conditions will still be brisk for the first few hours on Biscay but there are now fewer strategic options when it comes to the passage of a new low pressure moving west to east across the path of the 18 boat fleet at Cape Finisterre.

Dolan summarises, “The first key stage will be the Bay of Biscay, negotiating the low pressure which will complicate the course towards Cape Finisterre. Now we are going round the west of it but there will be fewer options here and so I can’t see the fleet spreading out here. We arrive at Cape Finisterre with a new low pressure coming in. The negotiation of that, a shift in the wind to the left and then the big shift to the right in wind direction will be key, inside or outside the Traffic Separation Scheme – an exclusion zone at Cape Finisterre – and after that there is a dying undulating front which comes across the zone and so you have to be careful not to be caught there. At Cape Finisterre, the timing of the wind shifts is key and not getting eaten by the light winds at the second front. And tonight can be interesting.”

Tom Dolan estimates it will take six and a half days of sailing to the waypoint at the Canary Islands for an overall passage of 17-18 days duration.

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As Sunday’s start of the Transat en Double race to Saint Barthélemy was postponed because of severe weather forecasted for the Bay of Biscay, Tom Dolan and Dubarry are pleased to make use of the delay to announce an extension of their partnership.

Ireland’s leading solo offshore sailor, Tom Dolan, has extended his long-standing partnership with marine footwear and clothing brand Dubarry for a further three years.

The skipper of Smurfit Kappa has just taken a timely delivery of a full collection of pieces from their New Aquatech range as he prepares to take on the Atlantic for the imminent "Transat en Double", Concarneau- Saint Barthélemy race.

Transat en Double competitors Gildas Mahé (left) and Tom DolanTransat en Double competitors Gildas Mahé (left) and Tom Dolan Photo: Alexis Courcoux

“Dubarry were the first on board back in 2016 when they really showed some early interest and faith in me. Michael Walsh sent me over a pair of boots for my first serious mini-campaign and after five full racing seasons, including three Atlantic crossings, I still use them today! Since then we've had a great relationship and stay in close touch, they have always taken an interest in what I am doing and clearly, they feel I do a reasonable job for them. I am really delighted they have chosen to extend our partnership.” smiled Dolan, “They are an Irish company achieving global success in their markets and I am proud to fly their colours.”

Tom will be fully kitted out with pieces from the new Dubarry Aquatech clothing range, with footwear as well as some financial support. “We are proud to support Tom and to share in his story seeing him progress from leaving his native rural County Meath to pursue his dream in France” commented Michael Walsh Marketing Director of Dubarry. “We like Toms professional yet friendly approach both on and off the water and value the feedback he can provide us on the performance of our footwear and clothing, which our Design team can then incorporate into the product development process” added Walsh.

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Irish sailor Tom Dolan is among the 18 duos breathing a collective sigh of relief today in Concarneau, France after Sunday’s start of the Transat en Double race to Saint Barthélemy has been postponed because of severe weather forecasted for the Bay of Biscay during the first part of the coming week.

Winds were expected to be over 50 knots off the notorious Cape Finisterre on the northwest corner of Spain, accompanied by big, five-metre confused seas.

Race director Francis Le Goff has chosen to be extra prudent as this is the first Transatlantic race yet for the 10.85m semi foiling Beneteau Figaro 3. On top of that there are three low pressure systems rolling in one after the other.

“The saying in this part of France is L’orage sur mer, trente jours à terre which literally means ‘storms at sea 30 days on land’ but it is really when there are this type of storms at sea, with the lows coming up from the south and the Iberian peninsula, they tend to follow one after the other.” the Smurfit Kappa backed sailor explains.

“Right now we just have to chill out, keep following the evolution of the weather and keep super rested. I don’t think we will be going anywhere before the middle of the week as it looks at the moment.” Dolan adds, “And I am in the very lucky position of having this race starting from my home port and so I can wait things out in the comfort of my own home.”

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Next weekend Irish racer Tom Dolan and current Irish Sailor of the Year will line up at the start of the 3,890 nautical miles Transat En Double Concarneau - Saint-Barthelemy harbouring realistic hopes of finishing on the podium, possibly even winning the two-handed race across the Atlantic which has attracted 21 starters. Dolan sails the Atlantic representing sponsors Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan partnering with his very experienced French co-skipper Gildas Mahé who has twice finished on the podium on this race.

A long time friend and the training partner with whom he put in many hours on the water last Autumn and early Winter, Dolan and Mahé prepped and tuned in search of the small speed gains which the duo hope will make a key difference on this year’s two pinnacle events, this imminent Transat en Double and September’s La Solitaire du Figaro.

"Dolan is quietly pleased that he was asked by 45-year-old Mahé to join him"

While the pair share the same approach and have complementary skills, Dolan is quietly pleased that he was asked by 45-year-old Mahé to join him, in itself a very strong validation of the Irish sailor’s established status among the top Figaro sailors.

The race is in effect the 15th edition of an event previously known as the AG2R Transat and follows a course from Brittany to Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean. Cancelled last year because of the pandemic this will be the first Transatlantic race for the new Figaro Beneteau 3. Mahé has two podium finishes to his credit, second in 2016 with Nicolas Lunven and third in 2018 with Nico Troussel and he was runner-up on the 2019 La Solitaire du Figaro.

“It is an honour to be asked by Gildas but we have been good friends for a few years now. Last season, we worked a lot together and shared logistics, accommodation at races, a preparateur and pooled transport resources. So we then worked together last year after the season and so it is logical we sail together and we get on well, but it is still nice to be asked!” explains the usual skipper of Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan who joins Mahé on Breizh Cola for the occasion.

"I have certainly come up in the world after La Solitaire.” Jokes Dolan who finished fifth overall on the 2020 La Solitaire, “And now we have put an Irishman in charge of food, we have loads of crisps and cola, we will be just fine!” “Seriously it is great to learn from Gildas, he is a natural long time competitor who came up through the ranks of the Optimist, 420 and 470 and so he is great at starting and the boat on boat stuff which has been my weakness because I did not do that as a youngster. But I know I can sail the boat fast, we both can, but I am better in the ‘geekery’, the technical performance data collection and analysis, knowing the boat. He was good in the Figaro 2 but this boat is a little more like a Mini 650 when it comes to crossing the Atlantic and I went across twice in the Mini. So we have a good mix of experience.” Dolan outlines.

The 35-year-old who grew up on a farm in County Meath, Ireland and moved to France in 2009 is cautiously optimistic about their prospects on this race. Physically and mentally he has put the early-season ankle injury behind him, despite missing a few weeks sailing rehabbing the injury.

“It is all good, I missed out a little but I am glad we did so much last Autumn because we have done the miles and are fresh now which is important going into a Transat like this.”

“We could do OK. What is nice is that I can finally look around the top of the fleet and know I have beaten everyone at least once and I think with Gildas we are a good team. I’ve known him as a friend for six or seven years so we are buddies, we are pretty solid.”

Dolan concludes, “ We share similar values, concerns about the health of the oceans and the climate. We are both comfortable downwind and the boat really is super well prepared. We have worked hard to have the sail shapes and designs, evaluating and choosing our best options. Between us, we count many Transatlantics, we know the game is going to be wide open and we have to make sure we finish before we can think about winning.”

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County Meath solo sailor Tom Dolan is confident he will be fighting fit for the double-handed Transat en Doible Concarneau to Saint Barthelem which starts May 9th. This is despite an ankle injury sustained by Dolan in the Season Opening Solo Maître Coq at the weekend.

As Afloat reported earlier, the Irish Sailor of the Year sustained the ankle injury midway through the 340 nautical miles long offshore race curtailed Dolan’s chances of a top 10 overall finish in the first solo race of the French Figaro season.

At the Ile de Ré, the southernmost turning point of the course, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa was comfortably racing among a strong breakaway group of ten leading the 29 strong fleet, when he overbalanced while stepping back into the cockpit of his Figaro Beneteau 3 and landed heavily, hurting his ankle and injuring his hand.

At first, in the light airs he tried to carry on but as the wind and seas built with the arrival of a front, the pain was scarcely bearable and it became obvious to Dolan that he had no alternative but to retire into Lorient. A medical examination has subsequently confirmed his ankle is badly sprained with some nerve damage. He has been told to rest his leg for three weeks to one month.

“It is just one of these things. I had had a problem with the tack line and had been up to the bow to fix it and I just stepped awkwardly back into the cockpit. I hurt my left hand and right foot. It is a lesson to be more careful in the future. I’ll lose a little bit of training time before the Transatlantic Concarneau Saint Barths but I am staying positive. I had sailed well in the opening races and was up with the top group when it happened so I am not despondent.” Dolan reported today (Monday) after finally being reunited with his phone which was left (according to the race rules) in Les Sables d’Olonne, the start and finish port.

“Initially I was determined to go on and finish but as the wind and seas built up it was apparent how immobile I was and it was clearly dangerous to go on.” He recalled, “I will be so much more careful in the future.”

Having finished seventh and 13th in the two inshore races last Monday and Tuesday, Dolan had started the offshore race in ninth place. Even counting the ‘RTD’ (retired) from the offshore race he still finished 18th, still his best result in the season opener yet.

“Look I am pretty happy nonetheless. I was good all round and was with the breakaway group and was going well. Overall I have good speed. I am still not very quick under gennaker and so that is a work in progress, I am not slow but neither am I the fastest. Meantime I have two or three weeks of physiotherapy to get on with and will be taking it carefully.” Tom Dolan concluded today.

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The Irish National Sailing and Powerboat School is based on Dun Laoghaire's West Pier on Dublin Bay and in the heart of Ireland's marine leisure capital.

Whether you are looking at beginners start sailing course, a junior course or something more advanced in yacht racing, the INSS prides itself in being able to provide it as Ireland's largest sailing school.

Since its establishment in 1978, INSS says it has provided sailing and powerboat training to approximately 170,000 trainees. The school has a team of full-time instructors and they operate all year round. Lead by the father and son team of Alistair and Kenneth Rumball, the school has a great passion for the sport of sailing and boating and it enjoys nothing more than introducing it to beginners for the first time. 

Programmes include:

  • Shorebased Courses, including VHF, First Aid, Navigation
  • Powerboat Courses
  • Junior Sailing
  • Schools and College Sailing
  • Adult Dinghy and Yacht Training
  • Corporate Sailing & Events

History of the INSS

Set up by Alistair Rumball in 1978, the sailing school had very humble beginnings, with the original clubhouse situated on the first floor of what is now a charity shop on Dun Laoghaire's main street. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, the business began to establish a foothold, and Alistair's late brother Arthur set up the chandler Viking Marine during this period, which he ran until selling on to its present owners in 1999.

In 1991, the Irish National Sailing School relocated to its current premises at the foot of the West Pier. Throughout the 1990s the business continued to build on its reputation and became the training institution of choice for budding sailors. The 2000s saw the business break barriers - firstly by introducing more people to the water than any other organisation, and secondly pioneering low-cost course fees, thereby rubbishing the assertion that sailing is an expensive sport.