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At 17th in Mini Transat, Tom Dolan Has Most of Fleet Behind Him, But Four Leaders Are Very Clear Ahead

4th October 2017
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Although only twenty years old, Erwan Le Draoulec has emerged as one of the key pace-setters in the Mini Transat 2017 campaigns Although only twenty years old, Erwan Le Draoulec has emerged as one of the key pace-setters in the Mini Transat 2017 campaigns

Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan and the other contenders in the leading group in the Mini Transat have finally been able to start exiting the Bay of Biscay at better speeds this morning as new east to nor’east winds have finally set in writes W M Nixon. And once they’ve finally emerged into the open Atlantic to shape a course down Spain’s west coast and on towards Portugal, speeds should become very impressive as the famed and favourable “Portuguese trades” do the business.

But talk of a “leading group” is a very loose term, for although there are dozens of the 56 competitors astern of Dolan – some of them very far indeed behind him – he in turn got on the wrong side of a gate mark and also the wrong side of a couple of shifts during the very frustrating beat from La Rochelle’s Sunday start. However, his regular sparring partners Erwan Le Draoulac and Clarisse Cremer, together with Remi Aubrun and Yannick Le Clech, seemed to know exactly when it was right to transfer to the to the north of the rhumb line in order to be first to avail of the long-forecast but slow-to-arrive change in wind direction.

mini transat guys2Let’s just get started….Erwan Le Draoulec, Francois Jambou and Tom Dolan in the pre-Mini Transat shoreside stage

As it is, Dolan had been doing very well in steadily working his way up through the fleet from a very frustrating first 24 hours. He’d been leading in the early stages, but after realizing in the very poor visibility that he’d missed that gate mark, he had to take the medicine and go a seriously long way back to have him re-start in 54th place. But then he put in some really hard work, and by Tuesday he was being recorded as around 12th to 14th overall in the Production Boat (Serie) Division, at distances of between 9 and 12 miles behind the leaders.

But last night, with the leading group in the area off the majestic Cabo Ortegal, the final and definitive wind change arrived. Yet it did so very unevenly, and stretched out the front runners, with the leaders being most favoured. This morning Erwan Le Draoulac and Remi Aubrun are neck and neck in the lead, crossing the bay off La Coruna, and making between 8 and 10 knots with Yannick Le Clech and Clarisse Cremer 2.1 and 3.3 miles behind respectively, but logging similar speeds.

This leading foursome have got very clear away, as fourth-placed Ambrogio Beccarria is all of 14 miles behind the two front runners. And this tendency to stretch the margins the further you go down the fleet is reflected in Tom Dolan’s location, for though he’s currently on 8.8 knots, and on track speeding past Cabo Ortegal well offshore, he’s lying 17th in class and is 30 miles behind the leaders.

Running hard in the Portuguese Trades is demanding of boats and sailors, but Tom Dolan has shown he can thrive in such sailing in times past – he’ll be looking forward to it. And now at least, the sun shines, and the horrible headwinds and miserable rain of the first day are a very faded memory.

Tom dolan at start3After sunshine the day before, Sunday;s start was in dispiriting condtions. Tom Dolan (IRL 910) pacing with Jerome Lhermiette (FR 891)Race tracker here

Published in Solo Sailing
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