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Ireland's Tom Dolan Relishing Tough Second Stage of La Solitaire du Figaro 2022

28th August 2022

Twelfth after Stage 1 of the 2022 La Solitaire du Figaro, Ireland’s solo racing sailor Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) sees the 635 miles second stage, which starts Sunday at 1300hrs local time in Port La Forêt, Finistère, Brittany, as a great opportunity to play to his strengths and experience as he seeks to reduce the 1hr 23min deficit he has to the podium of the three-stage race.

Since finishing Thursday morning, Dolan has been super vigilant and disciplined in his rest and recovery. Even though he lives only a ten-minute's drive from the La Solitaire race village, he has chosen to rent an apartment locally to ensure he stays absolutely in the ‘zone’.

He asserts, “Anytime I have gone home during a race, I have not done well on the next leg, so it is important to stay in the zone, in the race, in the rhythm. I don’t know if others who live round here have done the same because I literally have not seen anyone. It is sleep, eat, weather, drink water and drink more water.”

"24 hours of strong winds ahead – 25 gusting 30 knots"

With the benefit of hindsight and rest, he is happy with his Leg 1 performance, “It was positive. Overall I think I sailed well. I even led the race for a couple of hours – even if nobody noticed – but it is positive to have been up there. And from there, you can only control the controllables as they say. I don’t feel like I made mistakes and finished with the group I was with. I could do nothing to respond to the boats which were miles behind and then went way west; that was their opportunity. And I finished within fifteen minutes of the top of the lead group, so that is good.”

But while Leg 1 was stop-start and allowed the fleet to compress many times, this second stage is going to be a big test of big winds sailing, “On paper, the next leg looks like the toughest leg I have ever seen coming up on a Solitaire. We have 24 hours of strong winds – 25 gusting 30kts in the north of the English Channel, upwind and downwind, at night with cargo ships everywhere. So that will be 24 hours without sleep and then the wind just shuts off completely at the Chaussée de Sein. With the two conditions like that you can't sleep. Twelve hours stuck at the helm, under the spinnaker, gobbling down energy bars with the brain switched off and the drysuit on. Then we sail straight into the light winds.”

The prospect of the fast sailing is one Dolan is looking forwards to, not least after a high proportion of drifting around on Leg 1, even if he was up front until the final third of the course from Saint Nazaire to Port La Foret. He concludes. “I am a little excited by it. I like it and manage alright. This will be a test of seamanship, don’t explode the spinnaker. And going through Guernsey with big wind over tide. It will be about looking after the boat and myself, making good manoeuvres and doing them slowly and well. And it is not the kind of stage where you absolutely have to be in the lead group. Even if they get away from you every GRIB file says we will sail into a hole at the end. It is important not to be completely left behind, it is about keeping up a high average and looking after the boat and the kit.”

Follow the race here

Published in Tom Dolan Team

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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.