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Tom Dolan Finishes La Solitaire Du Figaro 2021 With Podium Place in Stage Four

16th September 2021
Taking third place in stage four a jubilant Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan) crosses the line at Saint Nazaire to complete the podium of the final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro
Taking third place in stage four Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan) crosses the line at Saint Nazaire and completes the podium of the final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro Credit: via Facebook

Tom Dolan with Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan threw aside the earlier frustrations of the Figaro Solo 2021 by taking third place at the conclusion of the final stage at the finish off St Nazaire tonight (Thursday). Having been in the lead in the turn at the Fastnet Rock a couple of days ago, Dolan has been in the unenviable position of fighting off challenges from the 33 other boats in mostly light winds which meant that, at any one time, it looked as though half a dozen other boats might have snatched his lead in their own private breezes.

Almost inevitably, Pierre Leboucher and Xavier Macaire took their chance when it was available, and were ahead coming into French waters and at the finish.

But In racing of remarkable intensity, the “Flying Irishman” managed to stave off the challenge for third place from his Transatlantic Race shipmate Gildas Mahe, and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was a heart-stopping two and a half minutes ahead crossing the line.

First Round the Fastnet Rock

After leading the 34 boat fleet around the Fastnet lighthouse at 0240hrs early on Tuesday morning, in dirty, wet and very dark conditions, Dolan,34, held out resolutely, duelling with Macaire down the 370 miles downwind passage to the finish line, finishing only 11 minutes and 40 seconds behind the French skipper Macaire– who finished runner up overall. Macaire crossed the finish line just over four minutes behind Stage 4 winner, French Olympian Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose). The race’s longest leg, at 687 miles, started on Sunday from Roscoff and returns to Saint Nazaire where the race started on Sunday, August 22nd.

After a promising tenth on the first leg, Dolan had two finishes he was disappointed with, 22nd on Stage 2 and then Stage 3 into Roscoff stinging him most, not just with the resulting 19th place but losing another three hours on his rivals after becoming stuck in very light winds and a strong contrary current within sight of the finish line.

Joy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro RaceJoy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro Race

Dolan is placed provisionally 15th overall.

A tired but elated Dolan smiled, “It’s great to get that first podium on La Solitaire but the cherry on the cake was being first-round The Fastnet, that was a bit special for me. It was cool. I did really just stick to my plan in the English Channel I had seen there was more breeze in the west. And there was some herd mentality going on with everyone sticking together. I spent that whole night on my own not really knowing where anyone was in the thick fog then about six in the morning it got light and there was a break in the fog and I could see the whole fleet to windward.

Coming back it was tricky. I ended up sticking with Xavier a lot and I ended up being convinced I was furthest west and south. You have no AIS, nothing so on the Figaro you know nothing.

It ends the season on a high. It shows what I am capable of when I can get to the front. I feel great, just delighted. I am a bit tired, but I really feel good. I can’t wait for next year. I have to have more confidence in myself. The second leg I was just not good and into Roscoff it was bad luck, bad timing to get stuck like that.”

Published in Tom Dolan
WM Nixon

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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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