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Tom Dolan Holds 12th Place as Mini Transat Fleet Finally Reaches Las Palmas

12th October 2017
Tom Dolan Holds 12th Place as Mini Transat Fleet Finally Reaches Las Palmas

At 00.57.20 this morning UTC, Ireland’s Tom Dolan finally crossed the finish line in Las Palmas in the Canaries in 12th place at the end at the end of a mostly slow 1,350 mile Stage 1 of the Mini-Transat from La Rochelle writes W M Nixon.

Having been at the back of the fleet shortly after the start because of the need to re-trace his steps to round a mark missed in error, he’d worked his way steadily back up through the rankings to be in a best place of 9th in a Production Class of 56 boats. But the final 500 miles of the course from south Portugal have been plagued by calms and some exceptionally severe reversals of fortune, with hard-won gains snatched away by the sudden new appearance of a better breeze in another section of the fleet.

Tom dolan mini transat 2017 1At 00.57.20 this morning UTC, Ireland’s Tom Dolan finally crossed the finish line

At times Ireland’s sole entry found himself at 9th, but equally at others he was back in 19th or worse. While he had been one of the star performers when the fleet was in fresh nor’easters off northwest Spain a week ago, the war of attrition which developed since in light and sometimes non-existent north to northeasterlies for the concluding 500 miles was much less his style.

At the front of the fleet in Las Palmas last night, the Proto Division was won by favourite Ian Lipinski in, but only by 2 minutes from Arthur Leopold Leger in Antal-XPO - Leger had in fact led this race for long periods in a season which has been largely dominated by Lipinski’s bat.

In the Production Class, a new name came to the fore with a win for Valentin Gautier, who took the lead in the final days from steady performer Remi Aubrun, whom he beat by all of 2 hours and 20 minutes last night. Placings were closer thereafter, as Aubrun was only 8 minutes ahead of Clarisse Cremer in third, while Erwan Le Draoulec was just 16 minutes behind in fourth.

Tom Dolan meanwhile was battling for 12th place with Oliver Tesloff and Germain Kerlevo, and he succeeded in beating both of them when he crossed the line just before 0100 hrs this morning. This means that, timewise, the only skipper ahead of him who goes into the second-stage “real” Mini-Transat itself in early November with a really significant time advantage (the final results will be based on the total time for the two legs) is Valentin Gautier, as all boats between 2nd and 14th finished within a five hour slot.

Valentin Gautier’s performance is notable, as the first part of his season had not gone well for him, with non-finishes in two important training races. But as this first leg of the Mini Transat 2017 proceeded, he was increasingly in contention, and in the final stages he was in the situation of either reading the flukey winds to perfection, or being lucky. It helps to be both.

While the top sailors in this special event – maybe twenty in all - are fully-sponsored and on proper salaries from their sponsors, financially speaking Tom Dolan is largely on a wing and a prayer. For all that it is recognized as a major event of international significance, the Mini-Transat has a strong, almost totally French emphasis.

Thus a very Irish farm boy from Meath like Dolan always has a struggle in demonstrating his relevance to the French cultural-sporting and sponsorship scene, while at the same time remaining connected to his supporters back home. It is truly remarkable that he has got as far as he has, and the big one in November – all 2,750 miles of it - now beckons with Tom Dolan reasonably well placed in terms of overall potential.

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