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Irish Solo Sailor Tom Dolan Looks to Pick Up New Skills On The Route du Rhum Race

5th November 2022
Irish Solo Sailor Tom Dolan is working in a back up role for Ultim sailor Arthur Le Vaillant in the Route du Rhum race
Irish Solo Sailor Tom Dolan is working in a back up role for Ultim sailor Arthur Le Vaillant in the Route du Rhum race

With the Figaro circuit season behind him, Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan is fully involved in the Route du Rhum solo ocean race across the Atlantic from Saint-Malo to Guadeloupe. He is working in the back up team to French 35-year-old aspiring Ultim class racer Arthur Le Vaillant, the youngest Ultim skipper whose Mieux was launched as Geronimo ten years ago before becoming Thomas Coville’s Sodebo.

Dolan has been working on the boat during the build-up phase in Saint-Malo, but his primary job will be as part of the weather routing team. The 45 high-speed Multihulls in the Ultim, Ocean Fifty, and Multi Rhum classes are all allowed to use on-shore weather routers because their boats are so fast. The weather teams prepare detailed real-time strategies which allow the solo skippers to focus entirely on speed and sailing the boats safely.

From Saint Malo, Dolan reports, “We have been spending time on the boat now just double checking the systems and how they work and refining how we will work. The new thing I have not used in terms of the technology is every 15 minutes we have live information coming off his boat, boatspeed, wind direction and all the key data. It sends the last 15 minutes of information in packets. You can have it almost real time but that costs a fortune.”

Tom Dolan has been working on Arthur Le Vaillant Mieux during the build-up phase of the Route du Rhum in Saint-MaloTom Dolan has been working on Arthur Le Vaillant Mieux during the build-up phase of the Route du Rhum in Saint-Malo 

After putting his Beneteau Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan to bed in Port La Fôret before winter training, Dolan loves the atmosphere in Saint-Malo. He has sought to get involved with a big team and improve his learning and experience, “I have been interested in getting involved for a while, I am a real weather and technology geek. And we trained a bit together in the Figaro in the 2019 season. And so I connected with him and with Tanguy Leglatin who is also our coach in Lorient. So he was putting together a ‘cell’, and so there is Tanguy, the boat captain Jean Baptiste Le Vaillant, who is Arthur’s father and a very successful well known French ocean racing helm and myself and Pep Costa, who is Spanish and is also a Figaro sailor.”

He enthuses, “Pep and I mainly take turns at monitoring the boat, the performance and the safety issues, and analyse the real-time weather conditions coming off the boat and see how they match up to the weather modelling. And we are monitoring and updating the performance so that we know how the boat is going, and thus we can fine-tune the strategy and timing very accurately.”
“We use both WhatsApp and Telegram. Pep and I will send our info to Tanguy and JB, and they use that to develop and refine the strategy. We have a meeting every morning, but it is Tanguy who prepares the final information that is sent. The idea is to send clean, clear information with a very strict feed.”

He concludes, “ It is great fun and being at this huge Route du Rhum start. It reminds me that all these guys were at my level and I have raced against before so it strengthens my ambitions to push on and do more in the future. But this is a great learning experience.” 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.