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Solo Sailor Tom Dolan Sets out on Figaro du Solitaire Race Dream

24th August 2018
The 30-year-old Tom Dolan (above) from Kells, County Meath, will set out on his 32ft–yacht Smurfit Kappa to become the first Irish sailor in history to win the ‘rookie’ category. In a  first for Irish Sailing, two Irish solo sailors, Joan Mulloy (left) will be on the line for the La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro this Sunday The 30-year-old Tom Dolan (above) from Kells, County Meath, will set out on his 32ft–yacht Smurfit Kappa to become the first Irish sailor in history to win the ‘rookie’ category. In a first for Irish Sailing, two Irish solo sailors, Joan Mulloy (left) will be on the line for the La Solitaire Urgo Le Figaro this Sunday

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan will see his dream become reality on Sunday when he starts the iconic Figaro du Solitaire race.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, will set out on his 32ft–yacht Smurfit Kappa to become the first Irish sailor in history to win the ‘rookie’ category for first-time entrants when racing begins at 1 pm local time.

The Solitaire du Figaro is among the world’s most revered solo sailing races and is renowned for making – and often breaking – the very best singlehanded racers.

While landlubbers might consider it a modern-day voyage for madmen, for Dolan just taking part will be a dream come true.

“I’ve been dreaming about doing this race for years, and it’s amazing to finally be here,” he said. “I remember looking at these boats ten years ago and never even contemplating being on the start line but here I am.

“It’s a special race – it’s not really even one race it’s four races, one after an another with no rest in between. It’s like doing three Fastnets and a bit more back to back, which puts it into perspective.”

Dolan, nicknamed L’Irlandais Volant – the Flying Irishman – by the French press for his sheer speed on the water, will be among 38 skippers including eight newcomers departing Le Havre on the first of four gruelling legs.

The stages range in length from 165 nautical miles to 570nm, and the race is scored on cumulative time.

The legs are long enough to test the skippers’ navigational skills but too short to allow for any downtime.

To make things even tougher, they all start within a few days of the previous one finishing, allowing for little rest in between.

Despite the challenge that lies ahead, Dolan says he’s ready to give his all in pursuit of his goal: to be the top rookie.

“I’m ready,” Dolan said. “There are always tiny little things you could keep doing but at some point, you have to just stop and get on with things. I’ve done a lot of miles with the boat this year – probably seven thousand – so I think I know it well now. It’s been a full-on year but I don’t regret it at all.

“My goal is to be the top rookie – that’s the dream. I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t in the top three, but the fleet is so strong.”

Dolan made his name in solo sailing in the Mini 6.50 class before moving into the larger and more competitive Beneteau Figaro class in early 2018, backed by eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.

After winning the top rookie in the double-handed Transat AG2R La Mondiale in May, Dolan has notched up a string of impressive solo results which will see him begin the Solitaire du Figaro as the highest-ranked rookie – a first for an Irish sailor.

But he will face stiff competition from a host of rivals including rising French stars Lois Berrehar and Thomas Cardrin, not to mention fellow Irish sailor Joan Mulloy.

The first leg, a 570-mile epic from Le Havre in Normandy to St-Brieuc in Brittany, will kick off at 1pm local time (12pm UK) on Sunday in favourable conditions.

“It’s looking like there will be wind,” Dolan added. “My worry was that there would be light winds, which could spell the end of a campaign just by missing one tidal gate. Thankfully it’s not looking like that will happen, and I relish better winds.”

The race timings will be as follows:

Leg 1 – 26 August

Le Havre to Saint-Brieuc – 570 miles

Leg 2 – September 2

Saint-Brieuc – Ria de Muros-Noia – 520 miles

Leg 3 – September 8

Ria de Muros-Noia – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

Leg 4 – September 13

Saint Gilles Croix de Vie – Saint Gilles Croix de Vie

Published in Tom Dolan
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Tom Dolan, Solo Offshore Sailor

Even when County Meath solo sailor Tom Dolan had been down the numbers in the early stages of the four-stage 2,000 mile 2020 Figaro Race, Dolan and his boat were soon eating their way up through the fleet in any situation which demanded difficult tactical decisions.

His fifth overall at the finish – the highest-placed non-French sailor and winner of the Vivi Cup – had him right among the international elite in one of 2020's few major events.

The 33-year-old who has lived in Concarneau, Brittany since 2009 but grew up on a farm in rural County Meath came into the gruelling four-stage race aiming to get into the top half of the fleet and to underline his potential to Irish sailing administrators considering the selection process for the 2024 Olympic Mixed Double Offshore category which comes in for the Paris games.

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