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Tom Dolan Rips Spinnaker and Finishes 11th on Solo Guy Cotten Offshore

15th March 2024
"It’s a real shame about that big spinnaker.” - Tom Dolan on his 2024 Solo Guy Cotten Offshore performance Credit: Gilles Dedeurwaerder

Tom Dolan overcame a torn spinnaker to finish in 11th place on the 370-mile offshore race of the Solo Guy Cotten-Concarneau, the Irish solo skipper’s first offshore race of the 2024 season.

The spinnaker tear happened within the first couple of hours of the race. With a small initial cut threatening to open up the sail completely, Dolan hung on adeptly until the big gennaker finally tore its full length.

Required then to use a smaller sail on the longest downwind leg of the course he lost a few places, but ultimately this morning he was moderately happy with the way he had sailed and, especially the strategic choices he had made.

Mea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet - Tom Dolan on his ripped spinnakerMea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet - Tom Dolan on his ripped spinnaker Photo: Gilles Dedeurwaerder

Skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was objective “Mea culpa, that’s operator error in a mechanical sport like this and you can’t get away with it in this fleet. I was lucky it held on as long as it did. I had hoped to repair it on the long leg to Rochebonne but it was too far gone. But, otherwise I sailed well and made some good calls.”

Around the midpoint of the course, Dolan was between fifth and sixth, having called a windshift correctly on the long leg south, which allowed him to make his expected gains. But, lacking sailpower, he had no way of holding off his rivals who could still fly their big sails.

“It was a typical Figaro race in March. It was wet, intense, short, sweet and great to be back in it. I was happy to have got up to where I wanted to be, in the top group, but a little disappointed with how it worked out in the end. Under the small kite, I really struggled a bit when the wind was right down to 12-13kts, and it felt like there were boats passing me all the time.” Dolan concluded.

“I tore the kite when I was launching it at Penmarch. Initially, there was a little hole. I thought I would repair it on the long-reaching leg between Occidentale de Sein and Rochebonne, but shortly after Pierre Vertes, it broke. It’s a shame because I really liked that sail.”

He explained, “After that, I anticipated the big right shift. It is something I had worked on a few days ago. It worked well. I had fun and made sure to sail as fast as possible because I knew that then I was going to lose out when they were back under the big spinnaker and me the wee one. After Yeu, I limited the damage, but without the right sail, the loss was two knots of boat speed and 5° of VMG.”

“Overall, I felt very good in terms of speed. It’s a real shame about that big spinnaker.”

Looking ahead Dolan says, “Next thing is the Laura Vergne Trophy. I have Class40 training this week before that.

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.