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Donegal's Bloody Foreland Is Appropriately Named For Tom Dolan In Dumbing-Down Of Round Ireland Record

6th May 2023
Tom Dolan when the going was good in his Round Ireland record challenge off the Skelligs on the County Kerry coast
Tom Dolan when the going was good in his Round Ireland record challenge off the Skelligs on the County Kerry coast Credit: Tom Dolan Racing

Day 3 (1030hrs) – Ireland's northwest corner, the unspectacular but memorably-named Bloody Foreland in Donegal, lived up to its name all too well for Round Ireland record challenger Tom Dolan in his Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan at midnight. For although he was well out to sea, shaping his slow progress to take him outside Tory Island, it was when Bloody Foreland was abeam at the midnight hour that he was "overtaken" by the Michael Kleinjans in his Open 40, currently the record-holder of the solo Round Ireland challenge.

Now Kleinjans may have dome the business back in 2005, some eighteen years ago, following which the Irish Coastguard made it clear that solo sailing for long distances in Irish waters contravened regulations. But as far as his French fan base is concerned, Tom is sailing solo as the cameraman recording his challenge is in a non-sailing role. And thus, to further simplify things for that fan base, Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan may have been pre-determined to go round Ireland in a clockwise direction as Kleinjans did, with Dolan's progress on the track chart set against Kleinjans positions in 2005, although in fairness, it should be said that they did study the anti-clockwise option when it came to the day.

The direct Kleinjans challenge was fine and dandy at the Tuskar Rock on Wednesday evening, as Dolan pulled ahead of the comparable Kleinjans 2005 position. And he continued to pull away on the south coast, and on up the west coast until he got to the area off Achill. There, the wheels came off with the wind slackening and going all over the place. Soon, the Ghost of Kleinjans Past came up over the horizon from astern, and by the time Dolan had crawled across Dongel Bay, the Belgian was snapping at his heels and was going so well - relatively speaking - that by Malin's head at 0800 hours this morning, his placing was something like 16 miles ahead.

With light headwinds and the adverse tide starting to run in the North Channel by noon today (Saturday), it doesn't look good for the challenge, but Tom has pulled things out of some very adverse hats before. That said, he still had 178 miles to sail to the Kish as he got himself past Inishtrahull at 10:00 hrs this morning, and those 178 miles include not only the North Channel's notorious, adverse tides but light headwinds too.

Of course, much can happen in the generally volatile weather pattern we've been experiencing for some days, but today looks like being one of the more settled, with even less possibility of a sudden favourable breeze coming out of nowhere. To beat Kleinjans, Tom has to be at the Kish before 04:00 hours tomorrow (Sunday). But to beat the other record which has come rocketing up the agenda, the two-handed three days 19 hours and 41 minutes set in a Figaro 3 by Pam Lee and Cat Hunt in October 2020, he needs to be looking at Dublin Bay around sunset this evening.

Meanwhile, Round Ireland Record aficionados are faced with the possible dumbing-down of their beloved challenge. Because if it becomes accepted that the record is to be set clockwise, an entire bundle of the "knowable unknowables" will be removed from the fascinating strategic and tactical decisions required to take on the Great Conundrum.

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.