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Unlucky but Positive Seventh for Tom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan in Trophée Banque Populaire

5th May 2022
Tom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan
Tom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan which reached the finish in Concarneau just minutes behind the winners on Thursday 5 May Credit: Alexis Courcoux

Tom Dolan and his English co-skipper Alan Roberts were taking the many positives from the seventh place finish that they secured early this morning (Thursday 5 May) when the Trophée Banque Populaire Route Sur La Route Iles Ponant finished into Concarneau, Brittany after nearly four days of very intense, high-pressure racing.

Having led the 12-boat fleet for much of the first half of the three-day, 18-hour race, sailing the Irish skipper’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, one strategic decision off Roscoff cost them a potential podium place on this new two-handed race around the Brittany course and the Ponant islands.

“After that mistake there was really no way of getting back into it in the light winds. We were in that scenario in the Channel where those who were first into the west going tide took a gain you would not get back,” Dolan said.

“But we sailed well enough; it gives us a lot of confidence to not just have been leading, but leading comfortably at times and clearly having good boat speed.”

The Irish-Anglo duo profited from a very good ambience on board and now consider themselves to be in good shape for the upcoming Sardinha Cup, the two-handed race from the Vendée coast across the Bay of Biscay to Portugal which takes place in one month’s time.

Tom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan | Credit: Alexis CourcouxTom Dolan and Alan Roberts on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan | Credit: Alexis Courcoux

“I feel like we sailed our own race and made good decisions – other than that one – and kept the boat fast and well positioned,” Roberts added. “It was a pleasure to sail with Tom and we worked well together.

“We worked it so that we shared the big decisions – looking at the available information and agreeing together – while I did probably more of the sailing the boat with Tom trimming and keeping us fast as well as doing the navigation.”

Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan finished just 18 minutes and 46 seconds behind the winners Lois Berrehar and Erwan Le Draoulec on Skipper MACIF and 15 minutes shy of a podium finish after racing more than 540 nautical miles around the Brittany coast, passing as far south as La Rochelle and north to Roscoff.

Dolan concluded: “I think we learned we can be more disciplined in sleeping and not getting over tired but this was a very intense race with boats only a few hundred metres away all the time.

“The next race, the Sardinha Cup, is more of an open ocean race across Biscay and so there should be more chance to get into a watch type system and make sure we are better slept.”

Published in Tom Dolan, Offshore
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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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