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Tom Dolan is Revealed as One of Ireland’s Best Fastnet Race Hopes

5th August 2019
Last gasp victory – the Ultime 32 Gitana XVII aka Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (left) snatches a 58 second victory from Macif to establish a new Mulithull Course record in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019 Last gasp victory – the Ultime 32 Gitana XVII aka Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (left) snatches a 58 second victory from Macif to establish a new Mulithull Course record in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2019

The great George David’s Rambler 88 – holder of the Round Ireland monohull record – finished the Rolex Fastnet Race at 0955 this morning to take mono-hull line honours, but the final run into Plymouth from the Scillies put paid to a new mono-hull race record hopes as Rambler 88 finished in a time of 1d 19h 55m 2s, 1 hour and 16 minutes off the record set by the Volvo Open 70 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in 2011 writes W M Nixon.

Rambler 88 had already established a new outward leg record when she cleared the Fastnet Rock at 1645 hrs yesterday evening, but the ability to maintain high speeds all the way to the finish – was frustrated by the winds easing towards Plymouth and drawing from dead astern, necessitating long tacks to lee.

Another of the big boats which has done exceptionally well is also American, David & Peter Askew’s Volvo 70 Wizard skippered by Charlie Enright, which finished at 11.37 to put her in a strong Corrected Time Overal Lead. Theoretically is can be beaten by smaller boats having a very fast unhampered return from the Fastnet Rock, but Wizard has been sitting in the overall lead for more than half of the race, and her time really will take some beating.

In fact, at the moment big boats dominate the Corrected Time placing, and 8th overall and 7th in IRC Zero is Bryon Ekhart’s Mini Maxi Lucky – currently off the Lizard running for the finish at 17 knots – whose crew includes peripatetic pro sailor Shane Diviney from Howth.

Ten miles ahead of Lucky is the leading IMOCA 60 Charal (Jeremie Beyou) shaping up for what could be quite a close finish among the leaders of the remarkably 20-stong IMOCA 60 class, as at least three other boats are within striking distance, and as yesterday’s afternoon’s 59 (or was it 58) seconds last-gasp victory by Gitana XVII/Maxi Edonde de Rothschild over Macif showed, you’re not there until you’re there.

Once the major razzmatazz of the IMOCA 60s has been cleared from centre stage, we can turn to complete concentration on the real Rolex Fastnet Race, the Fastnet Race of club crews campaigning with longtime shipmates in able little boats which won’t grab headlines, but they do the business in style.

As we pointed out in our very first Fastnet Race update, few do it better than the boats built in Lorient by Jean-Pierre Kelbert to designs by Jacques Valeur into which JPK himself makes a very definite input. At the moment as they slice their way towards the Fastnet on an increasingly bumpy sea – for the sou’wester has been vigorous for some time now – their top boat, Gery Trentesaux’s JPK 11.80, has just four miles still to sail to the Fastnet and is leading IRC 2 and IRC 2A but is now 22nd in IRC overall, having at one stage got up to 14th overall.

The second string to the JPK bow is Eric Mordret’s JPK 10.80 Dream Pearls, she is first in IRC and IRC 3A, but in this big boat race she’s back in 37th overall, while the third part of the JPK top trio is Noel Racine’s relative veteran, the JPK 10.10 Foggy Dew, which leads IRC4 and IRC 4A, but is 45th overall.

In addition, the new JPK 10.30 Leon with JPK himself onboard is second in IRC 3 and leading IRC 3B while rating 38th overall in IRC, so the word is that, size-for-size in a varied and at times unexpectedly rugged race such as this, the JPK range provides some superb all-rounders.

Unfortunately, Ireland’s definitive JPK 10.80, Dingle race winner Paul O’Higgins Rockabill VI, is currently in Schull in serious crew training for Calves Week 2019 which starts tomorrow, so for Irish hopes in the Fastnet Race 2019, we have to keep looking elsewhere.

Yet who would have though of Tom Dolan as a shrinking violet? Admittedly he has now committed himself so totally to the Beneteau Figaro circus that there may well be some friction if he shines in boats of another marque, but can reveal that the Mighty Meath Mariner is very much involved in this race, but it so happens that he’s racing a Jeanneau SunFast 3600 in the two-handed division.

tom dolan2Tom Dolan is successfully flying the flag for Ireland in the Fastnet Race 2019 Two-Handed division

Officially the boat is called One Way and she’s owned and skippered by Polish sailor Janusz Madey. But Ingredient X on board is one Thomas Dolan, and as they’re lying fifth in the large Two-Handed Division and fifth in IRC 3 and 4th in IRC 3A, so they’re going good which suggests we’re looking at a very effective co-skipper arrangement.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s previous star in the SunFast 3600 firmament, 2017 Sailor of the year Conor Fogerty of Howth, has not been having a happy race with Raw, the only one of the new foiling Beneteau Figaro 3s in the entire feet. Conditions have not been good for a smaller foiling boat, and Raw – despite a crew of all the talents – maybe managing a respectable 8.3 knots at the moment as she bashes toward The Rock, but she’s 37th in IRC 1, 21st in IRC B, and 156th in IRC overall – as the old saying would have it, it’s taking a helluva lot of boats to beat her.

Other hopes-at-one-time have also faded – Conor Doyle’s Xp 50 Freya made have led Class 1 briefly on Saturday night, but faced with the prospect of a veering wind as she squared up to the Scillies-Fastnet Rock leg, she elected to take her punishment early and go west of the TSS to the west of the Scillies, and though she’s now about 20 miles from the Fastnet Rock, her placing of 22nd in IRC 1 makes it a moot point of whether or not that rather extreme tactic paid.

But meanwhile Kenneth Rumball and Barry Hurley in the Ker 40 Keronimo now have the rock well astern, and are making a steady 13.6 knots towards the Bishop, still at fifth in IRC 1, and fourth in IRC1A. They’re definitely the Steady Eddies of the Irish presence in Fastnet 2019.

Race Tracker & Leaderboard 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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