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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

It was a tired, disappointed but totally objective Tom Dolan who arrived in Fécamp, France this morning in 22nd place at the end of a tough 490 miles Leg 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro which started on Sunday afternoon from Lorient in Brittany.

Dolan was on the back foot all the way through the leg after being unable to hold his own off the start line and around intense four-leg circuit designed to give spectators a sight of the action before the 34 boat fleet leaves for the open sea.

A small deficit to the leaders opened further in the English Channel and this morning finished 3 hours and 34 minutes behind the stage winner Pierre Quiroga. After a solid 10th on the first leg Dolan now lies in 17th, two seconds ahead of his British rival Alan Roberts.

“Look we are halfway in and there is a long, long way to go.” Dolan remarked, “I am paying a price for my starting. I suppose that it was easier last year when we just left and were straight into it because of the health situation.” He commented on the dock in Fécamp, “I made a mess of the start and then for the first 12 hours I was not that good and from there it was generally a rich get richer situation. You forget how harsh the English Channel is when you end up nearly a tide behind. You get further and further back and when the tide changes from the west you get worse. I was sailing straight at the buoy on the first leg to Rochebonne and that did not seem to work. I passed some boats and some passed me but so much is down to the start. I was blessed last year because of the health situation there was no inshore courses and we just left every time. I am a bit disappointed to be honest, but in terms of how far I am behind the leader, I did think it would be a lot worse. So I need to be more careful and get going at the start. And I have water all over the place inside the boat. My starboard side foils is wobbling all over the place and I was definitely quicker on one tack than the other. I was not so worried about losing a couple of boats coming in, this is all about the big picture, aggregate time.”

Dolan and the 33 other skippers have three days to rest up before Stage 3 starts on Sunday.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) is hoping for some compression with the front of the fleet as Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro, from Lorient to Fécamp, takes on the notorious Alderney Race. The strong tidal current there, between Alderney and Cap de la Hague on the NW corner of the Cherbourg Cotentin peninsula, will build against the leaders this morning from around nine o’clock.

Dolan is lying in 19th place and has a deficit, according to the official tracker of around eight miles, but in reality, the bow of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan is around 4.6 miles from the stern of leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper MACIF 2019) and Dolan is making good speeds to the south of the main group, trying to stay out of the worst of the tide.

Racing in unsettled northeasterly winds of 18-20 kts it has been a very long night with not much rest, sailing in close to the rocky coastline round the north Brittany coast.

The leaders should pass the Cap de la Hague and the tip of the Cotentin peninsula this afternoon and evening before the long passage across the Bay de la Seine towards Fécamp.

“We are looking at really low tidal ranges at the moment and so tides will not be as important as on leg 1, or normally, Tuesday afternoon there should be a shift in the breeze to the left and that should be the trend as we get east of the high pressure system. So from north of Barfleur onwards it should be all on port tack, straight in to the finish on a slowly lifting breeze.” Marcel van Triest, weather adviser to Dolan’s Lorient training group advised pre-start in Lorient, Sunday.

The winds look set to build in the final night at sea to give a brisk, tough finish into Fécamp Wednesday morning.

Published in Tom Dolan

After a promising tenth place on the 627 nautical miles first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro, Ireland’s Tom Dolan was fighting something of a rearguard battle after a modest start to Stage 2 this afternoon off Lorient.

At the exit from a challenging four leg round the buoys sprint stage, leaving Lorient, Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kinsgpan was in 24th place over one mile behind the early leader, French ace Tom Laperche.

Dolan was staying cool and planning to stick to the strategies discussed with weather guru Marcel Van Triest who advises the Lorient Grand Large group that the Irish skipper has been training with since his days in the Mini650 class. A slow down was predicted for early evening some three or four hours after this afternoon’s 1400hrs start. As the 34 boat fleet approach Belle Ile on the early part of a 100 miles downwind passage to Rochebonne light, the NE’ly wind should go light and so present some opportunity for a catch up.

But in terms of the General Classification he was in good shape, starting the 490 miles stage round Brittany with a deficit of 2hrs 15 minutes 41 seconds on the leader of the race Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) 47 minutes behind third placed Tom Laperche (Bretagne CMB Performance) and within a handful on minutes of the top five.

His tenth place on the first leg as a great morale boost for him, not least as an opening benchmark in the 34 boat fleet. But this second stage passes through all of Brittany’s notorious tidal traps including Raz du Sein at Ushant and the Raz Blanchard – or Alderney Race – as well as an often challenging finale into Fécamp – and so big time gaps can be opened or closed depending on timing at these key stages and the prevailing wind strength.

As he cast of his lines from Lorient this afternoon, in bright sunshine Dolan commented,

“The weather is looking that there might be no really big tidal gates unless we are behind the routing we have. We get stuck a bit at Penmarc’h tomorrow but you never know. Because the wind has been in the North East for so long it might mess up the tides a bit in the English Channel but let’s see. The focus straight away is getting off the start line better this time and not being left behind, and not crashing into anyone. This first part has a lot of manoeuvres and so they need to be clean and then you need to be quick tonight. I know this passage to Belle ile and to Rochebonne pretty well, I’ve been out there more times than I have had hot dinners!”

“This is a good old fashioned La Solitaire coastal course. There will be hardly any time to sleep, maybe a bit of a siesta before the chenal de Four but it not like the first leg when we could sleep a lot on the upwind in the open waters of the Bay of Biscay. But with this high pressure system centred over Ireland and Scotland the thing is it will upwind almost all the way. That should, I hope be good for me as I had pretty good speed upwind, I have a little magic setting for my jib that I have worked on. That was good in the strong winds, but let us see.” Dolan explained on Saturday as he did his final strategic planning.

“It has been a good stopover for me. I feel rested even if I struggle to sleep. This morning I found myself up at four in the morning doing weather, but I kind of figure that is OK. As long as I bank sleep when I am feeling tired then I do find it is better to try and stay in the rhythm of the race.” He explained.

“The English channel will be interesting. I have two very different routings and need to see how it plays out nearer the time.”

The stage is expected to finish into Fécamp on Wednesday morning, which would in theory mark the halfway point of the four stages race.

Tracker chart here

Published in Tom Dolan

Localised wind shifts in the finishing sections of Stage 1 of the Figaro Solo 2021 at Lorient this morning saw Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan being pipped for ninth place by one minute by female skipper Elodie Bonafous racing Bretagne - CMB Oceane. After being in or around 16th place for much of the first half of the race out to the turning mark off Spain, Dolan revelled in the sometimes rugged windward conditions coming back across the Bay of Biscay towards the Loirent finish, and at one stage he was pacing so well that he was being recorded as lying seventh.

However, with his immediate competitors including the likes of proven performer Alexis Loison, it was all he could do to maintain his placing rather than move even further up the rankings, and some difficult tactical challenges saw Loison slip through to finish sixth, while Dolan’s Transatlantic shipmate Gildas Mahe in Breizh Cola also got away to finish seventh. The battle for 8th was then between Gaston Morvan, Elodie Bonafous and Tom Dolan, and just 1 minute and 20 seconds covered the finish times of the three boats, but it was Tom Dolan who’d drawn the short straw.

Up at the front of the fleet, however, things were rather different with winner Xavier Macaire taking it by 43 minutes clear from Pierre Quiroga in Skipper Macif 2019, with Tom Laperche in CMB Performance 41 minutes further astern in third.

On the dock in Lorient this morning a tired but content Dolan said, “Tenth is a good result. The group of boats behind me split in two and I didn’t know which to cover. One group got past, but apart from that, it was good. I had fairly good boat speed upwind and I chose the right tacks and stuck to the plan and it worked well. It was cool to be alongside Gildas Mahé as we train together. A pity I didn’t catch him, but I’ll get him next time. For me, it was important not to knock myself out on the first leg as that would mean spending your time trying to catch up. Time-wise, I am in touch with everyone, apart from Xavier. Mentally I was good and never cracked even after the bad start. I was pleased with the speed. It was good fun in the waves and gusts of thirty knots and some extreme broaches. There was a full moon, so that was good fun. I had the mast nearly in the water twice. It was not the hardest leg we’ve done. Upwind it was OK. We just had to trim the sails now and again and try to decide where to go.”

Ireland’s Tom Dolan finished 10th into Lorient this morning concluding the first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro with a result which matches his 10th place in 2020 when he finished fifth overall at the end of the three stages. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa- Kingspan was 17th in the 34 boat fleet when they rounded the La Coruna buoy, the midpoint of the 627 miles course but made good gains with excellent upwind boat speed. Ireland’s Tom Dolan finished 10th into Lorient this morning concluding the first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro with a result which matches his 10th place in 2020 when he finished fifth overall at the end of the three stages. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa- Kingspan was 17th in the 34 boat fleet when they rounded the La Coruna buoy, the midpoint of the 627 miles course but made good gains with excellent upwind boat speed. 

Tracker chart here

Published in Tom Dolan

After spending much of the early part of the first race of the Figaro Solo 2021 hovering around the 16th and 17th places in the fleet of 34 boats, Ireland’s Tom Dolan in Smurfit-Kappa Kingspan has borne up very well under the pressure of the long and sometimes rugged windward leg against a northeasterly back to France from the turn off the Spanish coast, and is currently lying 8th as the fleet closes in on the finish, now 60 miles away at Lorient.

However, as he warned in his preview of the race in Afloat.ie, a fading wind through what should be the last night may well prove to negate hard-won places, and the next eight hours will be crucial.

Tracker chart here

Published in Tom Dolan
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Tom Dolan, the leading Irish solo sailor, started the first stage of the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro in perfect conditions from Saint-Nazaire - on outer reaches of France’s Loire estuary - pledging to stick to his strategy but to give everything to be near the front of the peloton when the 34 strong fleet turns at La Coruna for the return upwind to the finish at Lorient where the leaders should arrive Thursday afternoon.

Starting his fourth La Solitaire du Figaro La Solitaire, the 34-year-old skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan would love to emulate the dream opening to his race last year when he was in the leading group to the Fastnet rock. But on this 300-miles downwind sprint to the NW Spanish coast will see the breeze increase as the race progresses he admits he will be happy to be in the leading group for the turn.

Three exclusion zones have been introduced by Race Direction to keep the fleet away from a French Navy exercise on the Bay of Biscay. The choice of how to pass them, in particular with regard to the timing relative to the shifts in the wind direction, may shape the leg and Dolan has a well-prepared choice of options.

“I know what I would like to do but I won’t say before the start.” Grins Dolan, “It will be all about the timing when we get there. But always I will stick to my plan, I have done my homework and learned now to be confident in my choices for the right reasons.”

“That said,” he continues, “We have to make sure we don’t get into the exclusion zones as you will be disqualified. Whoever is in front will get the increasing advantage because the boat tends to accelerate more the more wind, going downwind. With the zone of high pressure in the Bay of Biscay like this then there is always this zone of acceleration there. There could, however, be some flap-flap, light wind at La Coruna where we will round very early morning and it is very close in to the coast.”

The course has been shortened because of the possibility of light winds near the Lorient finish line on Thursday afternoon.

“Some of the weather files are showing very light winds at the finish and so we can maybe go out there and kill ourselves for three days and all end up in the same spot near the finish. Who knows? Really this is a typical Figaro leg. It will be important to be foot to the floor off the start line to get into the downwind well. It will be hard to scrape back miles on the upwind. So downwind that means a lot of driving and pushing hard. Initially not too much wind, 10-12kts on the first night, fairly calm. At Spain we will maybe see 25kts maybe 30 and so it will be important not to destroy the big spinnaker on the first leg.”

In champagne sailing conditions bright sunshine and moderate breezes Dolan was mid-fleet as the race left the bay at Saint Nazaire.

Published in Figaro
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The last weekend before Irish solo skipper Tom Dolan moves to Saint Nazaire for next Sunday’s start of his fourth La Solitaire du Figaro has been focused on peace, quiet and relaxation.

Buoyed by a recent fifth place on the Solo Concarneau and by being as well prepared as he ever has been before any race, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan is quietly confident he has everything in place as he makes ready for what promises to be the longest, toughest edition of recent years.
With a double-handed Transatlantic race under his belt this season as well as good solid results in the preliminary races Dolan is pleased not to be ‘running around daft’ as he might have been in previous years.

“The last five or six days have been spent doing literally as little as possible, sleeping, eating well and exercise. That is a first before any La Solitaire, I have never managed to do that so far before any Solitaire. Usually, I am running about daft.” Smiles Dolan at home in Concarneau. “I have never been so ready. I am rested. The head is clear. The boat is in great shape. I have all new sails which I did not have last time. So I am ‘humbly’ good. Feet on the ground and realistic. This is, after all, the Figaro and you are never far away from a good spanking, especially with the legs we have on this race.”

Many skippers believe that sleep can be banked, stored up ready for the unprecedented series of three legs of four days at sea covering more than 600 miles – the equivalent of racing four Fastnet races solo, back to back with only 48 hours of ‘rest’ in between.

Does Dolan believe in banking sleep? He says, “I think so, but really as much as anything I have been actually catching up on lost sleep and restoring my energy banks, especially with the Transatlantic which took a bit out of me, and the injury. I definitely feel recharged. I am fresh and raring to go. I made a point of not doing the Fastnet Race like some others did. It was a good choice. I wanted to be as fresh as I can.”

The biggest breakthrough that led to his career best fifth in the last edition of La Solitaire, the best international result for many years, was in his head, building solid self-confidence and self-belief. He has continued the good mental preparation.

“ I am in a good place in my head, I am quite relaxed now with nothing troubling me, no worries and that is a good place to be. I have done a bit more work with the psychologist on self-confidence and decision making. Those are the big ones. It is so important in having confidence in your decisions, something I struggled with before, having all these ‘rockstar’ sailors around me and it is hard not to be influenced by them and what they are doing.”

And in practical terms he is in good shape too, “It is all about having everything done, all the t’s crossed and I’s dotted so that when I get there it is only about doing the weather. It is about having the nav and the weather completely prepared. That gives you confidence when you come to leave the dock. At that point your head needs to empty other than for the details about the leg, you need to be rested and not looking at the others.”

He expands, “Before I was obsessed with speed and the others and what they were doing. Beyond anything that was just draining mentally. So now the more I gain confidence in my own analysis of the weather and my own speed the less I am looking at the others.”

A key part of his mental strategy is staying away from the French media build-up, much like an Olympic athlete might pre-Games.

“I have stopped looking at the media, for example, reading what everyone else is saying. I switch off from social media and try not to read anything about myself. It pollutes your mind, we have enough stuff going on with the meetings and safety controls and the briefings, the skippers’ briefings all that schedule pre-start, to be bringing any other stuff into your head. We have a lot on, so we do.”

Logistics are shared again with French ace Gildas Mahé who was also Dolan’s co-skipper on Spring’s Transat En Double race to the Caribbean.

“We have the same preparateur, the same Airbnb’s and sharing the trailer to take the shore gear and spares around. It worked well last time. We have worked together all year and did the Transat.”

And he has been trying to take care of his diet too,  “ I have gone back to freeze-dried, I have found a brand which I like and I have to really watch it because in the recent races I have not eaten enough and drunk too much. I have returned with too many of the food bags full. I am making sure I have been eating well on land as I have had time to really prepare this time, so lots of fresh vegetables – locally grown – a bit of nice local meat and eating at the right time, making sure it is all fresh and then having time to rest. Usually, you’d be rushing a sandwich working on the boat at this time, and going for a good few runs. The ankle is good but I have to be careful and not run too much.”

Published in Tom Dolan

Ireland's Tom Dolan who won Ireland's best-ever finish in the 2020 race is back on the La Solitaire du Figaro line next month.

The 52nd edition, which will start from Saint-Nazaire on August 22, promises to be quite a spectacle. Throughout the 2,400 miles to go, the 34 registered skippers include 12 rookies.

Five former stage winners will be present - Fabien Delahaye, eric Peron, Alexis Loison, Gildas Mahe and Xavier Macaire. There are no former winners of the race.

On the skippers' programme: four particularly demanding stages, stopovers in Saint-Nazaire, Lorient, Fecamp, Baie de Morlaix and famous crossing points in La Coruna (stage 1), Isle of Wight and Saint Gowen (stage 3 ) as well as the Isles of Scilly and calling to Irish waters when the fleet rounds the Fastnet lighthouse during stage 4.

Dolan appears to be on form. He is fresh from success in this month's Solo Concarneau race where he finished fifth overall in his final test before the Figaro race marathon.

As regular Afloat readers will know, Dolan earned himself the coveted Irish Sailor of the Year Award for his outstanding Figaro achievement, so the prospect of him doing better in his third bid is a tantalising prospect for Irish offshore sailing fans.

Published in Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan proved his preparation for next month’s La Solitaire du Figaro is on course when he finished a very tough, testing Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten race in fifth place from 33 starters.

Exhausted after sleeping for just one snatched hour between Thursday afternoon’s start and crossing the finish line back in Concarneau at 15:44 hrs local French time this Saturday afternoon, Dolan was quietly content that his only solo race so far this season – and the last before La Solitaire - went well and most of all that his carefully planned strategy paid off.

“My face is burning with the constant barrage of seawater over these last 36 hours, it has been quite an extraordinary race.” Smiled 37-year-old Dolan from County Meath, “In Ireland, we are maybe used to getting four seasons in one day but this race had everything from no wind to 35 knots, burning sunshine to thunder and lightning and heavy hailstones and no visibility. So it was a difficult race to stay on top of and so it feels good to come away with a result.”

Smurfit Kappa- Kignspan skipper Dolan and French ace Gildas Mahé – who sailed together on the Transat en Double race earlier this season – sought the weather strategy advice from Marcel van Triest, one of the world’s leading racing meteo experts and his ideas paid off.

“Basically we broke away to the east to stay to the north of a weather trough for as long as possible and that paid for us. At about six hours before the finish, I started to feel confident I could make a good result when the wind changed as I expected it to and I was able to see the fleet under me.” Dolan reported.

Smurfit Kappa-Kingpsan was sixth at the Birvideaux mark early in the course and eighth at the most southerly turn. “These are kind of arbitrary positions because one minute you can be third and the next 11th the fleet is so close and the angles changing all the time on a race like that. And so I really did not watch where the others were, I sailed my own race according to what I could see on the water and in the clouds. Really I tried not to focus on the others at all and that works for me.” Tom Dolan concluded, “But for sure I made the right sail choices at the right time and seem to be fast enough.”

Fifth place in this fleet matches Dolan’s career best fifth on last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan set off this afternoon on his final solo offshore race test before La Solitaire du Figaro, starting the 33-boat 380 nautical miles Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten.

After a season which so far has largely been dominated by double-handed races, the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan is relishing the return to solo sailing and looking to return a good result before the year’s pinnacle event, the four-stage La Solitaire du Figaro which starts 22nd August.

The course takes the fleet northwards to a turning mark off the island of Ushant before turning to the south and sailing to a southernmost turn at the Rochebonne Plateau, south of Les Sables d’Olonne and the Vendée coast.

Although the northwest of France has been sharing the same heatwave conditions – fiery temperatures and only very light winds – that have prevailed in the north of Europe over recent days, the weather is set to change Friday with thunderstorms as the prelude to an Atlantic low-pressure system between Friday and Saturday ushering in rain and strong breezes.

“I am really looking forwards to being solo again. I have learned a lot from both my co-skippers recently but it is time to go solo and put that into practice. I feel pretty sharp because I have sailed so many miles already this season.” Said Dolan before leaving the home port of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan Concarneau.

“We might see 30 knots into the finish on Saturday but before that there will be a bit of just about everything. So for sure this race is not going to be over until the finish line and anything can happen.” Dolan explains, “And all the names are out here on this race and so it is a good benchmark prior to La Solitaire. On the one hand you want a good result to give a bit of confidence going forwards to La Solitaire, on the other hand you really don’t want a bad race at this stage as it might have the opposite effect. The main thing will to stay alert and focused.”

“The most difficult aspects are the conflicting effects of the gradient, synoptic wind (the wind generated by the weather systems) and the sea breezes (thermal winds caused by temperature differences between sea and land) and then there is a low pressure trough which we are literally sailing along rather than across and so the weather will be very unpredictable.” Dolan outlines.

The skipper told the race media, “ The main difficulty will clearly be this trough Friday morning which will generate clouds and thunderstorms and we risk getting stuck for a while. That said there might be opportunities here too. Then it will be speed more we should finish the course under a gennaker with 25 knots of wind going fast on the edge. Racing solo always adds a dose of adrenaline that I can't wait to get back to. I’m all the more motivated as I’m racing from home. I really want to sail well and finish with a feeling of a job well done. The last two stages of the Tour de Bretagne à là Voile didn't go too well for me and I don't like to be stuck with a bad feeling. With La Solitaire fast approaching, I want to build up my confidence. "

The race is expected to finish back into Concarneau Saturday afternoon. Dolan finished 14th on this race last year.

Published in Tom Dolan
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