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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

Irish offshore solo racer Tom Dolan is taking advantage of a break in the Figaro circuit to participate in a new crewed Class40 race - the Niji 40. Dolan is a key member of a three-strong international crew, skippered by top Figaro racer Gildas Mahé. The team, which also includes young Spanish racer Pep Costa, will compete in a 3,430 nautical mile Transatlantic course from the French Atlantic coast to reach Marie-Galante off the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Starting on April 7th, Dolan and his team expect the passage to take around 13 to 14 days. They will race the Class 40 Amarris at the request of its usual skipper, who has to remain on land on paternity leave. Dolan's objective is to win, and he believes that the team and boat are capable of delivering, even though a transatlantic race always has surprises in store.

According to Dolan, the boat is good reaching, especially tight reaching. The three sailors have experience in the class, and Dolan and Mahé, in particular, have experience with the boat, Amarris, a Lift V2 which Mahé raced across the Atlantic on the Transat Jacques Vabre and Dolan sailed back from Martinique to France. 

Dolan is excited about the opportunity to expand his racing horizons and improve his skills in a different class. He believes that racing outside of the Figaro class gives him a new perspective and experience, a different way of looking at things, and different strategies and ways to set up a boat.

With three days before the start, the exact weather pattern for the first few days on the Bay of Biscay is not completely clear, but Dolan is expecting big winds and seas. He anticipates that there will be a bit of low pressure coming in, which will bring quite a lot of wind. They will be upwind for a bit, which is good for their boat, which is good on tight angles. The course will be quite open, as the only waypoint is the Azores, so it opens up the northern route more than some courses, where the waypoint you have to leave to starboard is down at the Canaries or Madeira, for example, and that makes the course shorter.

Dolan is confident about the upcoming race and is looking forward to the challenge. The team is hoping for a successful and safe journey across the Atlantic.

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Irish sailor Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Paul Morvan secured a commendable fourth-place finish in the Laura Vergne Trophy following a 270-mile offshore race that ended on Monday.

Dolan and Morvan, who sailed Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, held their own in the early and middle stages of the race, which took place off the Breton coast between the Isle de Yeu and the Glénan islands. Despite a strong offshore route option, the duo played it safe and opted to control their position, finishing the race in sixth place.

Dolan was quick to praise his young co-skipper, who has an Olympic classes background, for his contributions during the race. The next challenge for Dolan will be the new Niji40 race across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe, which is set to start on April 7.

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Irish offshore sailor Tom Dolan is all set to take part in the Laura Vergne Trophy offshore race, which is a part of the 2024 French Elite Offshore Racing Championship. The event is named in memory of Laura Vergne, who was a prominent figure in the administration of the Figaro class of boats used in the championship.

Dolan, who recently suffered a ripped spinnaker in the Solo Guy Cotten Trophy season opener, will be sailing the Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan boat with French sailor Paul Morvan. The duo finished fourth in the championship's coastal race, showing great promise for the 270-mile offshore race scheduled for Monday.

Dolan had a week of solid training ahead of the championship, which included sailing the Class40 Amarris with Gildas Mahé and Spain’s Pep Costa. Though the weather forecast for the offshore race looks complex, Dolan seems optimistic about the race.

"The positive is that we can expect to do a lot of downwind racing, both on the way out and on the way back. If this does happen, it promises to be quite fast, and that's ideal because there is a gale coming in with between 35 and 40 knots on Wednesday, and it would be good to miss that!" said Dolan.

The Irishman and his team are ready to give their best shot at the championship and are hoping to make their mark.

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Tom Dolan overcame a torn spinnaker to finish in 11th place on the 370-mile offshore race of the Solo Guy Cotten-Concarneau, the Irish solo skipper’s first offshore race of the 2024 season.

The spinnaker tear happened within the first couple of hours of the race. With a small initial cut threatening to open up the sail completely, Dolan hung on adeptly until the big gennaker finally tore its full length.

Required then to use a smaller sail on the longest downwind leg of the course he lost a few places, but ultimately this morning he was moderately happy with the way he had sailed and, especially the strategic choices he had made.

Mea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet - Tom Dolan on his ripped spinnakerMea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet - Tom Dolan on his ripped spinnaker Photo: Gilles Dedeurwaerder

Skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was objective “Mea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet. I was lucky it held on as long as it did. I had hoped to repair it on the long leg to Rochebonne but it was too far gone. But, otherwise I sailed well and made some good calls.”

Around the midpoint of the course, Dolan was between fifth and sixth, having called a windshift correctly on the long leg south, which allowed him to make his expected gains. But, lacking sailpower, he had no way of holding off his rivals who could still fly their big sails.

“It was a typical Figaro race in March. It was wet, intense, short, sweet and great to be back in it. I was happy to have got up to where I wanted to be, in the top group, but a little disappointed with how it worked out in the end. Under the small kite, I really struggled a bit when the wind was right down to 12-13kts, and it felt like there were boats passing me all the time.” Dolan concluded.

“I tore the kite when I was launching it at Penmarch. Initially, there was a little hole. I thought I would repair it on the long-reaching leg between Occidentale de Sein and Rochebonne, but shortly after Pierre Vertes, it broke. It’s a shame because I really liked that sail.”

He explained, “After that, I anticipated the big right shift. It is something I had worked on a few days ago. It worked well. I had fun and made sure to sail as fast as possible because I knew that then I was going to lose out when they were back under the big spinnaker and me the wee one. After Yeu, I limited the damage, but without the right sail, the loss was two knots of boat speed and 5° of VMG.”

“Overall, I felt very good in terms of speed. It’s a real shame about that big spinnaker.”

Looking ahead Dolan says, “Next thing is the Laura Vergne Trophy. I have Class40 training this week before that.

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Irish solo offshore sailor, Tom Dolan, is starting his 2024 racing season with a new approach. Rather than spending most of his time on the water, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan has prioritised his physical and mental preparation. Dolan is seeking to maintain his energy and focus at a higher level over the entire racing year, which he believes will lead to better results.

Dolan has been in the class for six years and feels like he knows the Figaro Bénéteau 3 by heart. Instead of being out sailing in search of tiny percentages in speed, he is trying to have and retain more energy and focus through each race of each event. Dolan says, “In turn, that should allow me to sail faster for longer and to have better energy to make better decisions and maintain a higher level of concentration.”

The Solo Guy Cotten races out of Dolan’s adopted home port of Concarneau from Monday until Thursday. Courses on the Bay of Concarneau are followed by a major 300-mile race between Pointe de Bretagne and Ile d’Yeu.

“I have trained a bit less on the water to make sure I am always hungry to go sailing and to do well, I have improved my strength and fitness and have worked hard on my mental game..” He says.

He has made some small tweaks to his sail program and is very happy with his boat speed. Dolan recently did some training with French skipper Jules Delpech under the watchful eye of Gildas Mahé.

“That has allowed me to look more closely at the sails again and to just validate my different trim settings. This Solo Guy Cotten will allow me to find my marks in the fleet. My goal will be to complete all the races in good shape, avoiding the pitfalls over a period of very high tides and doing the best I can against the competition, which is higher than ever with a few new faces coming in. I want to be practicing my starts and just rediscover the feel for solo racing under pressure. I don’t have a specific performance objective. My goal is to concentrate on what I can control,” says Dolan.

Dolan will race the Class 40 Amarris to Guadeloupe in April along with two other "Figaristes," good friends of his, Mahé, and Catalan Pep Costa. “Actually, that will be the first-ever crewed racing across an ocean I have done. I raced a Transatlantic before with Gildas, but this will be very different. The Class 40 is bigger and heavier and needs more physical work. Right now, I am about learning all I can on other boats too and learning from sailing with other people.”

Overall, Dolan had good results last year, and he is quite happy with his speed and experience. However, he believes that his biggest enemy is himself. He will do the best he can, just looking to chain together little wins and small victories along the way, rather than looking to achieve a ranking. The important thing for him is to have the feeling of having managed all the processes well and to feel he has sailed a good race.

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Renowned Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is set to showcase his upcoming documentary "Around my Island" this St. Patrick's weekend at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. The documentary focuses on Dolan's record-breaking attempts to sail solo around Ireland's coastline. The screening of the documentary will be part of the Irish national holiday celebration and will provide a unique insight into Ireland's stunning coastline.

See the YouTube trailer below.

The documentary follows Dolan as he sails around the 700-nautical mile stretch of Ireland's coastline, passing through historical landmarks that serve as milestones of his journey. The film also delves into Dolan's personal journey, from his unlikely rise to the pinnacle of sailing to the people who know him best and understand what drives him to undertake one of the most challenging feats in the sport.

The film includes interviews with leading commentators, including W M Nixon, who documented Dolan's round Ireland speed record attempts on Afloat. As regular Afloat readers will recall, Dolan's second attempt was dashed by Storm Ciaran last November.

The screening of "Around My Island" will be followed by a discussion session with Tom, where he will share his experiences and insights on the journey. The session will be conducted in both English and French, and early booking is essential due to limited availability. 

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Tom Dolan halted his latest Round Ireland speed challenge on October 31st  due to worsening weather  forecasts off the South and Southwest coast. It was a disappointing decision for him and his team and a great many readers who had been avidly following his record attempt.  Afloat's coverage of that decision included commentary based on a Tom Dolan Racing Team press release that caused Tom and his team upset, which was never  Afloat's intention. We are, therefore, very grateful to Tom for bringing clarity to a number of our assumptions while touching on some of  the many factors that led him to conclude he needed to retire to Dingle Harbour. 

In light of the recent article on Afloat, I want to respond to comments that were incorrect or based on incorrect assumptions. As the sailor concerned, who had the best available weather and forecasted sea state information at the time, who has known that coast since I first went offshore and who ultimately made the decision to stop with no external influences, I feel it important to clarify a number of assumptions in the original article.  

Safe Havens 

The phrase that  was included in the Tom Dolan Racing Team press release - "Dolan was not prepared to take the risk on his 36 foot Figaro Beneteau 3, particularly with no safe havens to shelter in on the SW and S of Ireland - I think was misunderstood or taken out of context. 

The intention was not to suggest that the South and Southwest coast of Ireland doesn’t normally have safe places to shelter. What we wanted to convey was that the tidal and weather conditions on the night in question had rendered it unsafe for me in the given circumstances, as can happen in many regions (Northern Brittany is a good example). 

I have included an example for one of the ports mentioned in the Afloat article, Cahersiveen, below, which is dredged at 1.9 metres. 

Cahersiveen

Below is a tidal graph for low tide on that night. 0.33. (Let’s call it 0.4)

a tidal graph for low tideTidal graph for low tide

1.9 + 0.4 = 2.3  Metres 

Draft of Beneteau Figaro 3 = 2.5. Metres 

This example shows that using this port was simply not possible. The same was the case for many of the ports mentioned, apart from Knightstown.  

There was an amazing full moon during the entire trip, and there were exceptionally big spring tides, with a tidal coefficient of 96, meaning a larger-than-normal range. 
  
The forecast for the night at the Fastnet was 35 to 45 knots GRIB, meaning possible gusts of over 50, especially during the passing of the cold front, with a swell of 4.5 increasing to 4.9 metres and higher with a 7-second period.  The period is a very important factor here. 

A gale warning for strong gale force 9, as well as a heavy swell warning, had been issued by Met Eireann. 

The north harbour of Cape Clear was mentioned in the Afloat article. By the time I would have arrived there, there would have been 35 possibly gusting 45+ knots of wind from the West-Northwest. 

Dropping the sails and then tying up any boat safely in the north harbour of Cape Clear in these conditions, at night, at low tide, is extremely dangerous, and I would argue almost not possible. It is important to call attention to the dangers of a lee shore. 

In addition, I needed somewhere to shelter the boat not only for the night in question but also for the following week or more as there was a storm that was arriving with its associated heavy swell.  

There were many factors to consider: Firstly, and most importantly, the height of tide. Secondly the wind and sea forecast for that night. Thirdly, the forecast for the following week or more. 

So I reiterate, and stand completely by our statement, that there were no safe ports for me to shelter in. This is a statement of fact, given my evaluation of the conditions forecast for that night. I have the competence and experience to make that evaluation. 

I accept that we could perhaps have added "for the night in question", or "with the current forecast" or even simply "tonight" in our press release but I hope you will understand the fatigue and disappointment I was feeling at the time. 

The main objective of this record was to showcase the beauty of the Irish coast while creating an event that would appeal to the general Irish public who are not sailors. Everybody loves a record! 

I would never criticise any part of the coast and to suggest so was quite hurtful to both me and my team. Imagine my disappointment at having to pull out, especially added to the fatigue of a long and difficult racing season during which I have spent the equivalent of almost 150 days at sea. 

Shore team 

The Afloat article also suggested that decisions about safe havens and weather forecasts were made by my “shore team – particularly in France”, and described my team as “Franco-centric in their outlook, opinions and decisions”.

There were no French people working with me on the weather. There was one Irish, one Spanish and one Dutch person advising me. One of whom is the best of the business and has won multiple Jules Verne trophies and Volvo Ocean Races. None of them advised me to stop or to go on - this is not how on-land routing functions. 

The only person of French nationality in our team for this project was managing social media, and he does not sail. 

So I disagree with your suggestion that we are "franco-centric" in our decision-making process. We are professionals, and the decisions we make are based on years of experience. I consider myself lucky to work with a great diversity of nationalities (7 different) , and I see this as a huge strength, as in any high-performance sport or business. In fact, strategy building and decision making at sea is a methodology based around a hierarchy of factors that are always changing and which are the same in whatever country you are sailing (sea state, synoptic wind, tide, local effects, racecourse geometry etc.....)
  
I and I alone made the decision to halt the record attempt due to the dangerous sea state forecast along the Southwest and South coast of Ireland. It’s a decision which I stand by. 

There were absolutely no outside influences or pressures from anyone, including my sponsors.  

Tom Dolan on his record run Photo: AfloatTom Dolan during his Round Ireland record run Photo: Afloat

The dangerous sea conditions, which were pushed from the Atlantic by the approaching Storm Ciaran, had been a concern since before we left Greystones , so this was NOT a sudden or "abrupt" decision. I was ahead of the record, but actually 5 or 6 hours behind the routings and thus slightly too late for the safe window that I had targeted to get around the SW corner of Ireland before the sea state and wind forecast deteriorated. The forecast for wind and sea state along the SW and S coast had been worsening at each update since I started and on all GRIB files. In meteorology, it is important to follow tendencies as they are often a sign of the evolution of what is to come.  

Strong wind by itself is not really a problem, and the boat is designed and maintained to a standard that allows for it. I always set the limit at conditions less than might cause a capsize by a breaking wave.

This significant wave height and the reduced wave period (I must reiterate the wave period being the key point here) combined with the direction of the swell from the SW and wind from the WNW causing a crossed sea are definitely very relevant to the decision. It was not safe to sail into these conditions, so I took shelter in what I felt was the only suitable port.

There were absolutely no communications coming to me from anyone to suggest that I was putting myself or the project in danger. I have the experience and competence to decide this on my own. 

The conditions encountered at the start of this year's Fastnet race and those forecast for the night in question are simply not the same. Comparing courses that are held during the summer months, like the Round Ireland and Fastnet Races, to ones done in November is unbalanced as weather systems do not evolve or displace at the same rate.

Attended marinas 

Your Afloat article also claimed that “The setup of a solo sailor in a voluminous 36ft Figaro 3 with foils to be protected means that the only reasonable berthing option is a proper marina, with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night”. 

I don’t know of any marinas in Brittany, or western France, that are open 24/7," with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night". They are not private companies in France, but public bodies run by local town councils so the attendants go home at 6 o'clock and they have great holidays. 

The marinas can also be quite cheaper, but even during the day, you will struggle to find an attendant to take your lines. 

The foils are actually the toughest part of the boat, numerous start line tests have been done. They are designed to generate 300 kilograms of maximum vertical lift.  

Please see a photo of a Figaro 3 on a mooring buoy for your records. It is easily possible, actually quite easier than larger cruising boats with a higher gunwale and a heavier displacement. We even have two anchors on board. 

A Figaro 3 on a mooring buoyA Figaro 3 on a mooring buoy

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a fridge, and the toilet arrangements are far from ideal so extended stays can lack certain comforts. 

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A statement from Tom Dolan Racing, issued at 07:54 on the morning of Wednesday, November 1st after his anti-clockwise Round Ireland Campaign from Dublin in his Figaro 3 had been abruptly brought to a halt at Dingle on Tuesday evening (October 31st), when it had seemed to be very successfully on track, has since been causing controversy with a comment about the availability or otherwise of safe havens on the coast of southwest Ireland between Dingle and Kinsale.

Tom Dolan’s anti-clockwise Round Ireland challenge this week had been going so well. After starting on Sunday afternoon, he’d hurtled along in a cleverly-chosen weather window to such good effect that he was on course on Tuesday afternoon to be furthest west, at the Blaskets, just 48 hours out from Dublin Bay. At that stage, the winds he was experiencing were being fed by a new low developing immediately west of Ireland, which would move slowly northwest away from Ireland, briefly clarifying its identity before eventually absorbing with other systems.

The complexities of sailing non-stop round Ireland are well illustrated in this recording of tracks sailed during the 2018 Round Ireland Race from WicklowThe complexities of sailing non-stop round Ireland are well illustrated in this recording of tracks sailed during the 2018 Round Ireland Race from Wicklow 

FAVOURABLE CONDITIONS APPEARED TO BE DEVELOPING

Yet although the winds being provided by this un-named low would involve a windward slog from the Blaskets to Dursey Head, at the time the immediate predicted winds in his sailing area were not shown as getting above 30 knots, and some areas were much less. As well, once the Blaskets were put astern, he could have found periods of smoother water by tacking into the mouths of the rias of the southwestern seaboard while the southeaster continued.

Then the later further freshening forecast for the latter end of Tuesday evening would come with a frontal system associated with that new western low, bringing a period of possibly strong but favourable southwest to west winds – an extremely helpful direction for the Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan Dolan Round Ireland Project at that stage.

Admittedly all these winds were giving greater pressure than their speeds indicated, thanks to the exceptional denseness of the current air quality. But having been sustained for weeks and months by the marvellous images of the French J/133 Pintia and her 77-year-old skipper Gilles Fournier thundering to windward to the Class 1 victory in 40 knots of wind in July’s Fastnet Race, we never doubted for a moment that a Figaro 3 could take it and more off the coast of Kerry this week as the wind direction looked to become more helpful

Vive la France! The spirit of French offshore racing at its best in July 2023’s Fastnet Race: the Fournier family’s J/133 Pintia slogging to windward in strong winds in open water, with 77-year-old Gilles Fournier helming on the way to the Class 1 win. Photo: RORC/Paul WyethVive la France! The spirit of French offshore racing at its best in July 2023’s Fastnet Race: the Fournier family’s J/133 Pintia slogging to windward in strong winds in open water, with 77-year-old Gilles Fournier helming on the way to the Class 1 win. Photo: RORC/Paul Wyeth

THREE DAY CIRCUIT?

And it would have brought the Dolan boat back to Dublin Bay by early Wednesday evening in conditions admittedly windy and squally, but in such a favourable direction by then that some of us were even musing on the possibility of Tom breaking the three day barrier.

But in France, where Tom’s previously very accurate routing adviser appears to have been based, emphasising the more distant Storm Ciaran was in the national sailing establishment’s best PR interests. It needed to put the most favourable spin on the fact that only one class in the supposedly all-oceans-challenging fleet of boats racing the Transat Jacques Vabre, the Ultim mega-trimarans, had managed to get completely away from Le Havre on time and on track at noon on Sunday, while two others – the Ocean 50 multihulls and Class 40 mono-hulls - had simply nipped round the corner inside Ouessant, and gone into Lorient as a handy hurricane hole.

Things were very different from Ireland off France’s north coast on Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in that mass of spray and more solid water is Pamela Lee off Greystones at the helm of the Class 40 Engie-DFDS-BrittanyFerries in the early stages of the special Le Havre to Lorient leg in the Transat Jacques Vabre Race 2023. Photo: Thomas DeregnieauxThings were very different from Ireland off France’s north coast on Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in that mass of spray and more solid water is Pamela Lee of Greystones at the helm of the Class 40 Engie-DFDS-BrittanyFerries in the early stages of the special Le Havre to Lorient leg in the Transat Jacques Vabre Race 2023. Photo: Thomas Deregnieaux

IMOCA CLASS REFUSAL

As for the mighty world-girdling IMOCAs, they had flatly refused to go to sea at all, with the few who said anything remarking that they hadn’t built extremely expensive specialist 60-footers to race in the Great Southern Ocean for the silly purpose of being seriously damaged in freak conditions in the Bay of Biscay. Thus it looked as though they’d make their start a week late tomorrow (Sunday), on which the PR men can of course put a favourable spin by claiming that Le Havre is getting two TJV starting festivals for the price of one, but now it seems the 40 IMOCAs won’t be sent on their way until Monday

STORM CIARAN APPROACHES

That’s for consideration later this weekend. Meanwhile, back on Tuesday, the steady and accurately forecast journey of Storm Ciaran towards the western end of the English Channel was dominating all meteorological and public thinking and the international news media. But already it was being made clear – and was subsequently borne out as the weather pattern unfolded - that only the extreme south and southeast coasts of Ireland would be affected, and not until early Thursday morning. This would eventually bring adverse easterlies and possibly nor’easterlies to those areas, but had Tom gone on, he would already have been past the Kish and into port when those headwinds arrived.

When the going is good, the heavily-sponsored lone skipper presses cheerfully on. But when conditions begin to become extreme, he may come under added pressure for caution from his shore team, and possibly even from his sponsors too. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienWhen the going is good, the heavily-sponsored lone skipper presses cheerfully on. But when conditions begin to become extreme, he may come under added pressure for caution from his shore team, and possibly even from his sponsors too. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

IRELAND’S METEOROLOGICAL ISOLATION

For in these particular weather circumstances, Ireland was a long way from France and even southwest England. We were experiencing our own weather stream of average early November weather, whereas southwest and southern England and northwest France were to bear the full brunt of Storm Ciaran on Thursday. But as he has been based in Brittany since 2011, Tom and his team tend to be Franco-centric in their outlook, opinions and decisions.

Thus although those of us who have sailed round Ireland many times were looking at the local conditions with hope on Tuesday afternoon, in France everyone was pumping up the big glooms. In that atmosphere, the French mindset saw the coast of southwest Ireland as the toughest frontier of all against on oncoming super-storm. And it was their meteorological service that named it Ciaran as though to emphasise the Irish involvement, such that Tom began getting communications to the effect that he was putting his project and team at seriously dangerous risk if he continued.

The frequently spooky appearance of the Blasket Islands can have an adverse effect on the thinking of a lone skipper already under pressure from his shoreside team.The frequently spooky appearance of the Blasket Islands can have an adverse effect on the thinking of a lone skipper already under pressure from his shoreside team

SPOOKED BY THE BLASKETS?

It cannot have helped that he and his accredited media man were approaching the Blaskets at the time. Most people have a vision of the Blaskets as a sunny and exotic kind of place, for those are the photos that are usually circulated. But having frolicked in a notably able boat in and out through the Blasket Islands in an extremely grey and freshening easterly, I can assure you that this can be one very spooky place indeed, and we were extremely glad to get safely into Port Magee and snug in front of the stove in The Moorings Inn that evening.

DEFEAT SNATCHED FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY

Thus in trying to understand why a hitherto successful project saw defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory at the north end of Blasket Sound with the seemingly sudden decision to divert into Dingle and call off the challenge for now, we have to realise there were many factors involved that do not apply to independent skippers making their own decisions.

With high-powered Irish-based international sponsors, Tom Dolan is always under pressure to produce successful results, but a disaster is something to be totally avoided Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienWith high-powered Irish-based international sponsors, Tom Dolan is always under pressure to produce successful results, but a disaster is something to be totally avoided Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

We have to accept that in the world’s current ultra-febrile state, big time international corporate sponsors do not want to be associated with what will be seen as unnecessary risk and possible tragedy linked to what most of the general public will see as a very arcane challenge of only specialist interest. For if things went wrong, the tunnel vision of popular media would immediately raise associations to the 1979 Fastnet Tragedy happening in broadly the same area, thereby further stretching the Dolan support team’s crisis management resources.

CALL-OFF CAME FROM EXTERNAL PRESSURE

Under such pressure, Tom’s decision to call it off with the faint hope of having another go before Christmas – despite the harsh nights becoming grimly longer with every passing day – sustained those of us who had been rooting for what had seemed an exceptional performance, even though we couldn’t understand why he hadn’t at least gone on past the Blaskets and continued to give it a try until conditions really did oblige him to put into a handy port.

The sudden alteration of course into Blasket Sound on Tuesday afternoon, and then on into Dingle, was confusing for those followers who reckoned that Tom Dolan was well on track for a record despite the prospect of some windward work off the Kerry coast. Their confusion was heightened by the official statement about withdrawal not being issued until Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to note that at the time of withdrawal, the wind arrows were indicating a fresh southeasterly wind, which would have offered the option of occasional smoother sailing in the mouths of the Kerry and West Cork rias while beating towards the first easing of direction at Dursey Island, and beyond that the wind was expected to veer to the southwest and then west.The sudden alteration of course into Blasket Sound on Tuesday afternoon, and then on into Dingle, was confusing for those followers who reckoned that Tom Dolan was well on track for a record despite the prospect of some windward work off the Kerry coast. Their confusion was heightened by the official statement about withdrawal not being issued until Wednesday morning. It’s interesting to note that at the time of withdrawal, the wind arrows were indicating a fresh southeasterly wind, which would have offered the option of occasional smoother sailing in the mouths of the Kerry and West Cork rias while beating towards the first easing of direction at Dursey Island, and beyond that the wind was expected to veer to the southwest and then west.

Thus we were all on his side and very understanding until he issued his official report, and one statement in it was so out of court that the Dolan Support Movement in Ireland was, for a day or so at least, holed below the waterline. Here is the update in its entirety:

“Dolan halts Round Ireland record challenge in Dingle

Because of a rapidly worsening forecast, Irish sailor Tom Dolan has had to stop his solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Dingle, despite being more than 80 miles – or about 10 hours - ahead of the existing record pace after having sailed more than half the 688 miles course on his boat Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan.

Winds to storm force 9 and 5 metre seas with a very short, confused wave period are about to hit the SW of Ireland and Dolan was not prepared to take the risk on his 36 foot Figaro Beneteau 3, particularly with no safe havens to shelter in on the SW and S of Ireland.

"I am gutted, I really am because it was going so well and I was quick with some really high sustained speeds around the NE corner where there was flat water." Said Dolan when he was safely tied up in Dingle. "I was getting gale force 9 warnings on the VHF radio and it was getting worse. 24 hours ago it was looking difficult but doable but not now."

"I will take stock in a while but immediately I need to look after the boat. But there are worse things going on in the world and for sure there are worse places to be than Dingle."

THE HAVENS OF SOUTHWEST AND SOUTH IRELAND

We cannot allow the slur on the havens of southwest Ireland to pass un-challenged, particularly as it is not a direct quote from Tom himself. For Tom Dolan, having first sprung to prominence through his outstanding showing as a sailing beginner and then an instructor with Glenans in Baltimore, is surely well aware of the string of wonderful natural harbours – safe havens every one – that are there to be found between Dingle and Kinsale.

 (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available (Above and below) Southwest Ireland has an abundance of inlets, natural harbours and safe havens, but some of them (as above) are lacking in shoreside amenities, whole others (as below) may have villages with facilities, but specialist 24-hour-staffed marinas to accommodate a Figaro 3’s unique requirements are not readily available

Consequently we feel that some of the statement’s assertions result from communications misunderstandings between Tom in Dingle and his shore teams in France and Dublin.

INDEPENDENT ANCHORING ABILITY VERY USEFUL IN POPULAR SOUTHWEST CRUISING AREA

The fact is that, for any well-found cruising boat in the southwest area, it’s simply a matter of having proper and more-than-adequate ground tackle, and efficient means for its convenient deployment, retrieval and stowage, for which chain is still the best of all, as it’s self-stowing when given a proper vertical locker directly under the windlass.

But this emphatically doesn’t apply to a Figaro 3. Have you ever seen a photo of a Figaro 3 lying to a mooring, let alone swinging gently to her own anchor? Me neither. They are One-Trick Ponies, built exclusively to be raced short-handed from one fully-furnished and 24/7 staffed marina to another, with all shoreside facilities – preferably in a town or village – available in every case. They are not built to lie to their own anchor or a mooring, though if you were trying to avail of the latter, you’d find it easier to come to it stern first.

Tom Dolan making fast in the marina at Dingle in the gathering dusk on Tuesday evening. Note the special fender required to protect the vulnerable foil. Photo: Gary DelaneyTom Dolan making fast in the marina at Dingle in the gathering dusk on Tuesday evening. Note the special fender required to protect the vulnerable foil. Photo: Gary Delaney

SEVERAL MARINA FACILITIES

As it happens, there are several sheltered marina facilities of various sizes between Dingle and Kinsale - they’re at Knightstown, Cahirsiveen, Lawrence Cove on Bere Island, Dromquinna at Dunkerron on the Kenmare River, and North Harbour at Cape Clear. Elsewhere, such as at Courtmacsherry, there are small pontoons, while alternatively there are visitors moorings, though you need to be sure they really are annually serviced. And there’s an abundance of naturally sheltered anchorages that usually offer the option of an ultra-sheltered corner to hole up in if you feel the weather is really going to go crazy.

But the setup of a solo sailor in a voluminous 36ft Figaro 3 with foils to be protected means that the only reasonable berthing option is a proper marina, with attendants available to take mooring lines at all hours, day and night.

The Fastnet Rock in a winter storm. The ready availability of images like this, and the worldwide awareness of the Fastnet Race Storm of 1979, tends to affect overseas assessments of what the weather in Ireland is like at any one time, and what it is likely to become in the days ahead.The Fastnet Rock in a winter storm. The ready availability of images like this, and the worldwide awareness of the Fastnet Race Storm of 1979, tends to affect overseas assessments of what the weather in Ireland is like at any one time, and what it is likely to become in the days ahead.

That latter requirement is a big ask in a place like southwest Ireland. But it’s a scurrilous libel on an entire region to suggest that the area lacks safe havens. And it’s an assertion that, if allowed to go unchallenged, will have an adverse international effect on the number of overseas visiting cruising yachts, whose presence adds so much to the waterfront scene at many small visitor-reliant ports in what is, after all, Ireland’s most popular cruising area.

Thus our assumption is that the false assertion about the lack of safe havens is not Tom’s own, but is an attempt by his shore team – particularly in France – to put his challenge termination in a favourable a context as possible. But as a result, a sweeping and completely inaccurate generalisation has been made about Southwest Ireland by someone unfamiliar with the inshore coastal details of the area, and as a result false and damaging misinformation is being conveyed to an international readership.

Published in W M Nixon

Tom Dolan's second attempt at a Round Ireland speed record has ended off County Kerry, at the end of his second day at sea (Tuesday) because of the imminent arrival of Storm Ciaran off the southwest coast. 

Tonight, Dolan is tied up in Dingle Marina, citing safety at sea as the first and only consideration for him and his team.

“I am gutted, I really am because it was going so well and I was quick with some really high sustained speeds around the NE corner where there was flat water,” said Dolan in Dingle. “I was getting gale Force 9 warnings on the VHF radio, and it was getting worse. 24 hours ago, it was looking difficult but doable but not now.”

Tom Dolan ties up in Dingle Marina. He has had to stop his solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Kerry, despite being more than 80 miles – or about 10 hours - ahead of the existing record pace after having sailed more than half the 688 miles course on his boat Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Photo: Gary DelaneyTom Dolan ties up in Dingle Marina. He has had to stop his 'faux' solo Round Ireland sailing record attempt in Kerry, despite being more than 80 miles – or about 10 hours - ahead of the existing record pace after having sailed more than half the 688 miles course on his boat Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Photo: Gary Delaney

The difficult decision was made to abandon the attempt after some record speeds down the west coast had been achieved and head for Europe's most westerly marina in County Kerry on Tuesday (October 31st) afternoon.

“I will take stock in a while but immediately, I need to look after the boat. But there are worse things going on in the world and for sure there are worse places to be than Dingle”, he added.

Dolan said he was not prepared to take the risk on his 36-foot Figaro Beneteau 3, particularly 'with no safe havens to shelter in on the SW and S of Ireland'.

Eagle-eyed observers had already twigged the development when Dolan's track was spotted inside the Blasket Islands on Kerry's coast, contrary to the record course rules.

After making the Blasket Islands in 48 hours, the tracker shows Tom Dolan heading for shelter at Dingle Harbour ahead of Storm CiaranTwo days into the challenge, the tracker shows Tom Dolan heading for shelter at Dingle Harbour ahead of Storm Ciaran on Tuesday, October 31st

Dolan had made impressive times over the past 48 hours since setting off from Dublin Bay on Sunday afternoon and was running well ahead of the existing double-handed and solo times. 

He had made the County Mayo coast in 24 hours and was averaging 7 knots, and only needed to average 4 to beat the record, but weather forecasts indicated he would be challenged by 30-knot headwinds up to the Fastnet Rock tonight.

 Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat  (Above and below) Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat  Tom Dolan as he embarked on the Round Ireland record challenge on Sunday afternoon at the Kish Lighthouse on Dublin Bay. He made the Blasket Islands off County Kerry 48 hours later to be on course for a sub three day record time Photo: Afloat 

Dolan's reference times to beat were the 2005 solo record by Kleinjans aboard a Class40: 4 days, 1 hour and 53 minutes and 29 seconds and the doublehanded record set in 2020 by Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt on a Figaro3 of 3 days, 19 hours, 41 minutes and 39 seconds, meaning he had until Thursday, 2 November at 11:32:12 to beat both. Instead, Dolan and his onboard media man, Andrew Smith, arrived in Dingle Harbour at 5.30 pm today.

As regular Afloat readers know, Dolan's southbound attempt in May fell short when he encountered a foul tide and light winds on the Irish Sea. 

It remains to be seen whether it will be third time lucky for the County Meath man and if he can make another Round Ireland attempt before the end of the year.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tuesday morning 0815 hrs -  As he expected, Tom Dolan, with his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan, is finding the challenge of getting past the majestic southwestern seaboard of Kerry and West Cork the most demanding part of his current Round Ireland Record bid.

The local low-pressure area off Shannon Mouth and the Clare coast is losing its identity as its centre moves slowly across Ireland in an easterly direction, and any northwest winds to the west of it have faded in the face of more vigorous north-moving systems taking over the weather picture, with increasingly strong southerlies the pattern for later today.

Tom Dolan, sailing fast on his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan during his Round Ireland Speed Record Challenge Photo: AfloatTom Dolan, sailing fast on his Figaro 3 Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan during his Round Ireland Speed Record Challenge Photo: Afloat

However, while he has still been in the wind with it increasingly from ahead, he has sailed on to windward towards the Clare coast, and is now well southwest of the Aran Islands, making about six knots on a track which at 0800hrs was headed towards Kilkee.

After he has closed the land to find the smoothest water available, he then has the option of keeping it close aboard as the southerlies settle in properly. Although getting past the Blaskets may be a rugged business, once achieved he then has the choice of finding smoother windward sailing in the mouth of both Dingle Bay and the Kenmare River.

Tom Dolan is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary on his 'faux' solo Round Ireland Challenge by onboard media man Andrew Smith (on stern) Photo: AfloatTom Dolan is being filmed for a forthcoming documentary on his 'faux' solo Round Ireland Challenge by onboard media man Andrew Smith (on stern) Photo: Afloat

But with Dursey Island put astern, the coast is trending on a northwest-to-southeast axis, and he’s likely to have a real slugging match before reaching the Fastnet Rock. There, a significant course alteration to port may provide the opportunity for a close reach on track along Ireland’s south coast if the wind hasn’t backed too much to the southeast or even east as the signs of the approaching Storm Ciaran start to become more evident.

Thus, any small advantage fully utilised today will be all to the good, as Tom and his boat will be racing against the remorseless advance of the outliers of Storm Ciaran.

Published in Tom Dolan
Page 1 of 31

How to sail, sailing clubs and sailing boats plus news on the wide range of sailing events on Irish waters forms the backbone of Afloat's sailing coverage.

We aim to encompass the widest range of activities undertaken on Irish lakes, rivers and coastal waters. This page describes those sailing activites in more detail and provides links and breakdowns of what you can expect from our sailing pages. We aim to bring jargon free reports separated in to popular categories to promote the sport of sailing in Ireland.

The packed 2013 sailing season sees the usual regular summer leagues and there are regular weekly race reports from Dublin Bay Sailing Club, Howth and Cork Harbour on Afloat.ie. This season and last also featured an array of top class events coming to these shores. Each year there is ICRA's Cruiser Nationals starts and every other year the Round Ireland Yacht Race starts and ends in Wicklow and all this action before July. Crosshaven's Cork Week kicks off on in early July every other year. in 2012 Ireland hosted some big international events too,  the ISAF Youth Worlds in Dun Laoghaire and in August the Tall Ships Race sailed into Dublin on its final leg. In that year the Dragon Gold Cup set sail in Kinsale in too.

2013 is also packed with Kinsale hosting the IFDS diabled world sailing championships in Kinsale and the same port is also hosting the Sovereign's Cup. The action moves to the east coast in July with the staging of the country's biggest regatta, the Volvo Dun Laoghaire regatta from July 11.

Our coverage though is not restricted to the Republic of Ireland but encompasses Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Irish Sea area too. In this section you'll find information on the Irish Sailing Association and Irish sailors. There's sailing reports on regattas, racing, training, cruising, dinghies and keelboat classes, windsurfers, disabled sailing, sailing cruisers, Olympic sailing and Tall Ships sections plus youth sailing, match racing and team racing coverage too.

Sailing Club News

There is a network of over 70 sailing clubs in Ireland and we invite all clubs to submit details of their activities for inclusion in our daily website updates. There are dedicated sections given over to the big Irish clubs such as  the waterfront clubs in Dun Laoghaire; Dublin Bay Sailing Club, the Royal Saint George Yacht Club,  the Royal Irish Yacht Club and the National Yacht Club. In Munster we regularly feature the work of Kinsale Yacht Club and Royal Cork Yacht Club in Crosshaven.  Abroad Irish sailors compete in Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) racing in the UK and this club is covered too. Click here for Afloat's full list of sailing club information. We are keen to increase our coverage on the network of clubs from around the coast so if you would like to send us news and views of a local interest please let us have it by sending an email to [email protected]

Sailing Boats and Classes

Over 20 active dinghy and one design classes race in Irish waters and fleet sizes range from just a dozen or so right up to over 100 boats in the case of some of the biggest classes such as the Laser or Optimist dinghies for national and regional championships. Afloat has dedicated pages for each class: Dragons, Etchells, Fireball, Flying Fifteen, GP14, J24's, J80's, Laser, Sigma 33, RS Sailing, Star, Squibs, TopperMirror, Mermaids, National 18, Optimist, Puppeteers, SB3's, and Wayfarers. For more resources on Irish classes go to our dedicated sailing classes page.

The big boat scene represents up to 60% of the sail boat racing in these waters and Afloat carries updates from the Irish Cruiser Racer Association (ICRA), the body responsible for administering cruiser racing in Ireland and the popular annual ICRA National Championships. In 2010 an Irish team won the RORC Commodore's Cup putting Irish cruiser racing at an all time high. Popular cruiser fleets in Ireland are raced right around the coast but naturally the biggest fleets are in the biggest sailing centres in Cork Harbour and Dublin Bay. Cruisers race from a modest 20 feet or so right up to 50'. Racing is typically divided in to Cruisers Zero, Cruisers One, Cruisers Two, Cruisers Three and Cruisers Four. A current trend over the past few seasons has been the introduction of a White Sail division that is attracting big fleets.

Traditionally sailing in northern Europe and Ireland used to occur only in some months but now thanks to the advent of a network of marinas around the coast (and some would say milder winters) there are a number of popular winter leagues running right over the Christmas and winter periods.

Sailing Events

Punching well above its weight Irish sailing has staged some of the world's top events including the Volvo Ocean Race Galway Stopover, Tall Ships visits as well as dozens of class world and European Championships including the Laser Worlds, the Fireball Worlds in both Dun Laoghaire and Sligo.

Some of these events are no longer pure sailing regattas and have become major public maritime festivals some are the biggest of all public staged events. In the past few seasons Ireland has hosted events such as La Solitaire du Figaro and the ISAF Dublin Bay 2012 Youth Worlds.

There is a lively domestic racing scene for both inshore and offshore sailing. A national sailing calendar of summer fixtures is published annually and it includes old favorites such as Sovereign's Cup, Calves Week, Dun Laoghaire to Dingle, All Ireland Sailing Championships as well as new events with international appeal such as the Round Britain and Ireland Race and the Clipper Round the World Race, both of which have visited Ireland.

The bulk of the work on running events though is carried out by the network of sailing clubs around the coast and this is mostly a voluntary effort by people committed to the sport of sailing. For example Wicklow Sailing Club's Round Ireland yacht race run in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club has been operating for over 30 years. Similarly the international Cork Week regatta has attracted over 500 boats in past editions and has also been running for over 30 years.  In recent years Dublin Bay has revived its own regatta called Volvo Dun Laoghaire Regatta and can claim to be the country's biggest event with over 550 boats entered in 2009.

On the international stage Afloat carries news of Irish and UK interest on Olympics 2012, Sydney to Hobart, Volvo Ocean Race, Cowes Week and the Fastnet Race.

We're always aiming to build on our sailing content. We're keen to build on areas such as online guides on learning to sail in Irish sailing schools, navigation and sailing holidays. If you have ideas for our pages we'd love to hear from you. Please email us at [email protected]