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Tom Dolan Gets Back up to Speed after Figaro Slippage

11th September 2018
Sebastien Simon, front-runner in the Solitaire URGO Figaro. He has a new IMOCA 60 on the way for the Vendee Globe 2020 Sebastien Simon, front-runner in the Solitaire URGO Figaro. He has a new IMOCA 60 on the way for the Vendee Globe 2020

It’s a cruel scenario, the final wind-lacking 70–miles of Stage 3 of the Solo URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain across the Bay of Biscay to Saint-Gilles in the northwest of France’s Vendee region writes W M Nixon. We may feel the pain for Ireland’s Tom Dolan. He was looking at fifth place with Smurfit Kappa at one brief stage during the small hours of this morning. But then he lost the pace to slip back to 14th. Now, however, he is looking better. On a nice angle in a private breeze, for the moment there’s hope.

But overnight leader Thierry Chabagny’s fall from grace has been pretty well total during this Tuesday of Tribulations. The 46-year-old veteran of 17 Figaros has only once got on the podium after taking a stage place in the 2006 race. Yet he keeps coming back for more. For long enough it looked as though he could just possibly dream of a stage win. Even his opponents hoped for it. But currently he’s at 25th, out on his own to the north of the fleet, and with options closing as they crawl towards the turn at the Ile d’Yeu, the chances of getting back in the hunt lessen by the hour.

That said, there’ll be many hours when unicorn events may occur, judging by any of the weather predictions which all agree on light breezes or none at all, with the possibility of zephyr-like direct headwinds in the night. Spinnaker skills, untested on this leg thus far, may not be needed until Ile d’Yeu is astern. Meanwhile, at Saint-Gilles the Mayor, Francois Blanchet, has officially opened the Race Village, which will be heaving with conviviality for the next six days, as the final 165-mile sprint stage starts and ends at Saint-Gillles before the overall winner is declared.

It emerges that His Worship the Mayor is a former sailing journalist. What were we saying about unicorn events? If a sailing journalist can become the First Citizen of a coastal township, then all things are possible…….

We go into Night 4 with the highly-tipped Sebastien Simon back in the lead, but he’s at less than three knots, and there are a dozen boats within five miles of him, some of them currently going faster. Even as we’ve been writing this and wondering how we’d look in a Mayoral Chain of Office, Tom Dolan has got back up to 11th. But alas the gallant Joan Mulloy, having staved off the Scottish challenge for 300 miles, has now been passed by Alan Roberts who is 29th, while the Maid of Mayo is 31st.

Race tracker here

Published in Tom Dolan
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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