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Tom Dolan Sets Out On Potentially Decisive Leg 3 Of La Solitaire du Figaro

5th September 2021
Ireland's Tom Dolan lies 17th in the 34 boat fleet of La Solitaire du Figaro
Ireland's Tom Dolan lies 17th in the 34 boat fleet of La Solitaire du Figaro

Ireland’s solo offshore racer Tom Dolan set out from Fécamp on the north coast of France at midday today ready to take on the 620 miles Leg 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro. After two tough stages which both featured long periods battling upwind in brisk winds, Leg 3 looks set to be a complicated, light winds stage with the breeze rarely topping 20 knots but mostly downwind and reaching and many, many transitions and potential options to make up lost time.

Dolan lies 17th in the 34 boat fleet with a deficit of 5 hrs 34 minutes on the leader Pierre Quiroga of France, but the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan has rested well on the four-day long stopover in Fécamp, making sure he was well prepared and fully briefed for the leg which takes the fleet across the Channel to a buoy off Chichester -east of the Isle of Wight – where the leaders should reach around midnight tonight.

Then there is a strategic choice to be made during Monday morning whether to go south of the Casquettes traffic separation zone which excludes small craft from the busy shipping lane north of the Channel Island and south of Brixham.

But this stage will be mainly raced in light winds on tidal currents which are now getting stronger each day. The race goes to Saint Gowan shoals off the southwest tip of Wales and finishes into Roscoff on Morlaix Bay. The weather situation becomes quite dynamic through the last 24 hours of the race with a small, not very active low pressure passing over the fleet. This will likely allow the fleet to compact again close to the finish, which may be one of the many opportunities for Dolan to claw back some time.

“It looks like it will be light winds.” Commented the Irish skipper who was tenth of the first leg, “It looks like there will be a split in the fleet at the Casquettes but it was changing all the time on the files this morning. The strategy will be to get south if possible in the Channel. Off the start line you need to be anticipating where the tide will be at the first mark and not get stuck there. When the wind and tide are going the same way there is in effect less wind and so you have to avoid that.”

“At least there are lots of options on this leg with boats going in different directions at different times. I will be looking to make up for my disastrous second stage. It will be tricky getting round that first mark tonight with light winds and strong tides. There will be lots of opportunities to win and to lose, it is a good old fashioned leg of La Solitaire. I have slept four good nights here, eaten well and looked after myself and so I am on top form. Getting down the English Channel it will be important to get down towards the southwest as the wind is stronger there. But the winds will be light and angles will be all over the place.”

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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