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County Meath Solo Racer Tom Dolan Relishes Return to Offshore Racing Next Week

16th June 2020
Next week’s Solo Maitre Coq starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne. Next week’s Solo Maitre Coq starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne.

With the gradual easing of the French lockdown and offshore racing sailors now having returned to training, the future is again looking brighter for Irish solo racer Tom Dolan.

Since relaunching at the beginning of June the Brittany based racer, who originates from Kells, County Meath, has been accumulating hours on his Figaro Beneteau Smurfit Kappa and is now making final preparations for what will be the first race of the season, next week’s Solo Maitre Coq which starts and finishes in Les Sables d’Olonne.

“It will be nearly a year since I have raced solo, so yes there is a wee bit of rustiness, but it comes back quickly. It is like riding a bike in some ways, you don’t lose it, but you’re looking for the finesse to return, making manoeuvres smooth and instinctive, especially looking towards working on a dark night when you can’t afford mistakes.” Dolan asserts, “But for sure I can’t wait to be back out racing. It has been much too long.”

Tuesday day and overnight this week, Dolan is making a 24 hour offshore training sortie with the Lorient Grand Large group of which he has been a long time member. Until now he has just had four or five days training locally himself as well as some important corporate sailing with guests from Concarneau who were due to support him and co-skipper François Jambou with whom he was due to race the AG2R Transatlantic in April which was postponed until 2021. The duo also took key workers who were on the front line during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis out for a sail.

“Immediately the objective is to have the boat ready to pass the safety and measurement checks. There are still some water ingress issues which other boats still also have. The builders are working on it but it is not an ideal situation as we approach the second season with these boats.” Dolan comments.

With doubt surrounding the running of this year’s La Solitaire du Figaro for many months, the news that it will go ahead in September is a considerable relief for Dolan and all of the Figaro sailors.

“For a while, it was looking pretty grim, as if there might not be any racing at all this season. To their credit, Smurfit Kappa have been very supportive. They have been stretched through the crisis supplying packaging for essential supplies. They completely understood the situation.” Dolan concludes.

The Solo Maitre Coq race starts Thursday next week and should finish Saturday.

Published in Tom Dolan
Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson

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Andi Robertson is an international sailing journalist based in Scotland

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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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