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Meath's Tom Dolan in Seventh Place as Figaro Fleet Head for the Fastnet Rock

31st August 2020
Tom Dolan is currently lying in seventh place after the first night at sea  in the 51st Figaro Race from France Tom Dolan is currently lying in seventh place after the first night at sea in the 51st Figaro Race from France

Tom Dolan has had a great start to the 51st La Solitaire Du Figaro, the County Meath man's third attempt at the solo marathon race.  Dolan is lying in seventh place this morning, mixing it with the all-important top ten and just two miles behind the early fleet leader. Rookie rival Kenny Rumball from Dublin is lying in 28th place after the first night of an estimated one month of racing ahead over four legs. The first leg includes a voyage to Ireland and a rounding of West Cork's Fastnet Rock.

The 35 solo sailors who started the 642 nautical miles first stage of La Solitaire du Figaro on Bay of Saint Brieuc on France's northwesterly Channel coast enjoyed a spirited send off in perfect 15-18 knot northerly winds.

With sunshine threatening to finally split the leaden skies, the lone skippers set their course for Fastnet Rock, 300-odd nautical miles to their west- north-west, knowing that the first 24 hours of the out-and-back passage, will be battling through a ridge of complicated light winds in strong tides. This first night may yet prove decisive not just in terms of the first stage results but the whole four leg race.

France's Tom Laperche (Team Bretagne CMB Espoir), who won the Solo Maitre Coq and was second in the Drheam Cup, was leading the fleet on the beat out of the bay towards the turn left turn where sheets would be eased. Britain's solo skippers made solid rather than spectacular starts, Phil Sharp (OceansLab) recovering quickly back into the fleet after being called as being over the start line before the gun.

Solidarity between skippers in the Figaro fleet is well known in the world of sailing and it was exhibited again when Gildas Mahe (Breizh Cola), runner up last year and local favourite on his home waters, tore his mainsail doing an emergency gybe to avoid a collision with another boat crossing his path. Friend and rival Xavier Macaire immediately proposed to lend him a previous mainsail of his Groupe SNEF. With the rapid response and collaboration of other support teams Mahe had the replacement set. He reached the start on time keeping intact his aspirations of winning Stage 1.

As the fleet negotiate the rocky north Brittany, English Channel coast this evening and into the night ortherly wind is due to fade, heralding the arrival of a high pressure ridge of very light, unstable and unpredictable winds.

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Published in Tom Dolan, Figaro
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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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