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Displaying items by tag: La Solitaire du Figaro

Ireland’s Tom Dolan was in fine form last night (Friday) in Saint-Nazaire at the awards ceremony for the 52nd Solitaire du Figaro, winning the Vivi Trophy for the best-placed non-French skipper in the demanding fourth stage, and taking third place in the fleet of 34 boats. After the frustrations and setbacks of the earlier stages, Dolan found new reserves of performance and endurance within himself for the challenge of a long final race from Morlaix round the Fastnet Rock (where he was narrowly leading overall) and then southeast past western Brittany to the finish at Saint-Nazaire, where he’d staved off multiple challenges to hold onto third slot.

Such is the level of competition in the modern Figaro Solo that the Vivi Trophy - presented to the Figaro organisation by Marcus and Megan Hutchinson of Kinsale and Brittany - has become a coveted award in its own right, and this - together with the prized third place in the fourth and final stage - was a much-needed boost for the Dolan team.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan with Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan threw aside the earlier frustrations of the Figaro Solo 2021 by taking third place at the conclusion of the final stage at the finish off St Nazaire tonight (Thursday). Having been in the lead in the turn at the Fastnet Rock a couple of days ago, Dolan has been in the unenviable position of fighting off challenges from the 33 other boats in mostly light winds which meant that, at any one time, it looked as though half a dozen other boats might have snatched his lead in their own private breezes.

Almost inevitably, Pierre Leboucher and Xavier Macaire took their chance when it was available, and were ahead coming into French waters and at the finish.

But In racing of remarkable intensity, the “Flying Irishman” managed to stave off the challenge for third place from his Transatlantic Race shipmate Gildas Mahe, and Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was a heart-stopping two and a half minutes ahead crossing the line.

First Round the Fastnet Rock

After leading the 34 boat fleet around the Fastnet lighthouse at 0240hrs early on Tuesday morning, in dirty, wet and very dark conditions, Dolan,34, held out resolutely, duelling with Macaire down the 370 miles downwind passage to the finish line, finishing only 11 minutes and 40 seconds behind the French skipper Macaire– who finished runner up overall. Macaire crossed the finish line just over four minutes behind Stage 4 winner, French Olympian Pierre Leboucher (Guyot Environnement-Ruban Rose). The race’s longest leg, at 687 miles, started on Sunday from Roscoff and returns to Saint Nazaire where the race started on Sunday, August 22nd.

After a promising tenth on the first leg, Dolan had two finishes he was disappointed with, 22nd on Stage 2 and then Stage 3 into Roscoff stinging him most, not just with the resulting 19th place but losing another three hours on his rivals after becoming stuck in very light winds and a strong contrary current within sight of the finish line.

Joy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro RaceJoy in leg four for Dolan after disappointing legs two and three of the 2021 Figaro Race

Dolan is placed provisionally 15th overall.

A tired but elated Dolan smiled, “It’s great to get that first podium on La Solitaire but the cherry on the cake was being first-round The Fastnet, that was a bit special for me. It was cool. I did really just stick to my plan in the English Channel I had seen there was more breeze in the west. And there was some herd mentality going on with everyone sticking together. I spent that whole night on my own not really knowing where anyone was in the thick fog then about six in the morning it got light and there was a break in the fog and I could see the whole fleet to windward.

Coming back it was tricky. I ended up sticking with Xavier a lot and I ended up being convinced I was furthest west and south. You have no AIS, nothing so on the Figaro you know nothing.

It ends the season on a high. It shows what I am capable of when I can get to the front. I feel great, just delighted. I am a bit tired, but I really feel good. I can’t wait for next year. I have to have more confidence in myself. The second leg I was just not good and into Roscoff it was bad luck, bad timing to get stuck like that.”

Published in Tom Dolan

The Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is leading the 52nd La Solitaire du Figaro fleet towards the Fastnet Rock with high hopes that he will be able to stay in front and lead the 34 boat fleet round the iconic lighthouse around midnight local time tonight.

The skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan made a key move early this morning when he chose to stay west, close to the Scilly Isles where he found more wind and was able to accelerate ahead of his rivals, most of whom had stuck close to the Cornish coast.

Dolan, 34, from County Meath, has had a good record racing to the Fastnet in recent editions of the annual French multi-stage solo race. Last year he also led the race and rounded third, en route to finishing fifth overall.

After two disappointing stages to Lorient and Fécamp, Dolan is hoping he has saved his best for the last leg, a marathon 685 miles leg which started from Roscoff Sunday afternoon and should finish into Saint Nazaire on the French Loire-Atlantic coast late on Thursday.

With 70 miles to sail to the Fastnet, he was more than five miles clear of the next sailor, France’s Xavier Macaire (Groupe SNEF) who led Dolan round the rock last year. Macaire, who lies second on the overall standings after three of the four stages, has been fast all afternoon and was closing miles on the Irish leader.

I was kinda expecting this ranking following my route to the west of TSS. I knew I was ahead but I didn't know by how much. It’s great to be in this position, especially when I feel like I’m heading homewards towards Ireland. I come from a small town which is in the northeast of Ireland, north of Dublin, almost on the border with Northern Ireland.” He told the race media team on board the guard boat,

Explaining his strategy he said, “I had seen from the files that it was more wind in the west, and that there was something to do. I lost everyone with the fog last night and the AIS not working. I had my doubts, I thought I was the only one going that way. But we have also Philippe (Hartz) and Maël (Garnier) I think it was them as I heard them talking in the radio. The Fastnet, I must have passed it about 50 times because I spent a lot of time in Baltimore, and we often went out there often.”

“Right now the sun is shining, it's great if a bit rare at this time of year. I'm afraid there won’t be much wind when I get to the lighthouse. This morning, I slept a lot and now I'm steering a lot to get to the Fastnet because I would like to get round before the bad wind arrives. I feel like I'm on the right timing I think, I have my fingers crossed, I might get some good luck from Ireland.”

In English Dolan said, “I am happy with my position at about 80 miles from the Fastnet, I think we will arrive there about midnight Irish time, it will be a bit of a pig because I was looking forwards to seeing Ireland, so I won’t see much of it this time around. I am happy to be going there just the same. The conditions are fairly good at the moment. I have around 20-24kts of wind and am under big spinnaker with a bit of swell over the back of the boat and I am pushing along at 12-13-14kts. I am happy with what happened. On the GRIB files I had seen there was a but more wind in the west and sailed very low and it seemed to work. I was a bit doubtful heading into the fog but here we are, voila, voila.

Tracker here

Published in Tom Dolan

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan was placing his faith in a slightly different, more westerly strategy as he left Morlaix Bay in north Brittany this afternoon at the start of a mammoth 685 miles final stage of La Solitaire du Figaro. The skipper of Smurfit Kappa - Kingspan, who lies 19th overall, had left the dock saying he expected to stick with the main group as much as possible on the 270 miles leg up to the Fastnet Rock.

“I have to be nice and patient and work hard on the climb north I would say. I am going very, very low risk on the way up, stay with the group as much as possible.” Dolan said.

After three nights of decent sleep, extended today as the start was delayed until 1600hrs this afternoon because of light winds, Dolan was in a positive frame of mind, looking forwards to seeing the Irish rock lighthouse close to where he started his sailing career as an instructor at Glenans in Baltimore, “I feel a lot better than when I came in here a few days ago. I have had some good rest and am ready for this. I often do quite well going out to the Fastnet, certainly it feels like going home even if it is only hearing the weather forecasts in a nice Irish accent and knowing the French guys won’t be understanding it! But I spent a number of happy years teaching at Glenans in Baltimore near the light. I don’t think there is any extra local knowledge I might have, it will be so light, and most of these guys have been out there a few times. But I feel good, light downwind I don’t seem to be too bad at. But I want to just stay with my ‘petits copains’ (friends) as much as I can and then see on the way back.”

Reviewing the complex weather picture Dolan concluded, “There will be a lot of downwind sailing and a lot of light wind sailing. Getting up to the Fastnet is not going to be that complicated and there might be a bit of a bend in the wind around Cornwall which you have to play right. There is not too much to be gained from splitting from the pack and taking big risks and a lot to be lost. If you are a little bit behind at the Fastnet that could turn into a big kicking, a big loss. There is a weird frontal system at the Fastnet which the first boast can get through with a nice big lead.”

The fourth and final stage of the race should finish in Saint Nazaire on the Loire-Atlantic coast late on Thursday.

Published in Tom Dolan

The disappointment was etched into Tom Dolan’s tired face as he docked Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan into Roscoff this afternoon at the end of a tough 624 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro.

Having been ninth at Bishop Rock, at the Scilly Isles yesterday afternoon Dolan crossed the finish line in 19th place more than three hours and 13 minutes after stage winner Pierre Quiroga.

The final night across the entrance to the English channel proved very tough and confounded many of the other top solo racers. The breeze was very unsettled in terms of wind strength and direction making it hard to maintain a rhythm. South of the Scillies, he lost places on the east side of the Traffic Separation Scheme exclusion zone around 0300-0400hrs early this morning when racing in a tight group and then tacked away with a group to the south in anticipation of an expected increase in the breeze and change in the wind direction.

His problems were compounded when the breeze dropped and the contrary tide started building within a few miles of the finish line, Dolan being stuck with a group of others trying to make the finish gun.

Dolan grimaced, "I feel a bit sickened really. I felt like I had sailed quite well until last night and one cross, just before the wind died and then I did not get going. It was a pretty brutal stage and right now I am pretty fed up, especially sitting out there for an extra three hours fighting the tide. I feel like I sailed better than that."

Published in Tom Dolan

Things had been looking good for Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan going into the final 120-mile Isles of Scilly to Roscoff leg of Stage 3 in the Figaro Solo 2021.

He’d worked his way up to 8th as they made their way in difficult winds across the English Channel, but with first one side of the fleet being favoured, and then the other, the Irish skipper seemed too often to be with the wrong group, until by the time he finished at 15.13.03 hrs French time this afternoon, he was back in 19th place in the 34-boat fleet. More detailed analysis from the Dolan Team here

Tracker here

Published in Tom Dolan

In the exceptionally challenging sailing of the 620-mile third stage of the Figaro Solo 2021, Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was lying eighth as he rounded the Bishop Rock at the western point of the Isles of Scilly at 1400 hours today (Wednesday) and shaped his course for the 120-mile final leg to Roscoff in Brittany. To say that his fortunes have been up and down really understates it, as he has been in a best placing of sixth, but equally for a while was back in 30th in the 34-boat fleet in which the boats have seldom seen more than a six miles range across the fleet, but now in the closing stages are beginning to experience a greater spread.

Details in Tracker here

Published in Tom Dolan

Ireland’s solo offshore racer Tom Dolan set out from Fécamp on the north coast of France at midday today ready to take on the 620 miles Leg 3 of La Solitaire du Figaro. After two tough stages which both featured long periods battling upwind in brisk winds, Leg 3 looks set to be a complicated, light winds stage with the breeze rarely topping 20 knots but mostly downwind and reaching and many, many transitions and potential options to make up lost time.

Dolan lies 17th in the 34 boat fleet with a deficit of 5 hrs 34 minutes on the leader Pierre Quiroga of France, but the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan has rested well on the four-day long stopover in Fécamp, making sure he was well prepared and fully briefed for the leg which takes the fleet across the Channel to a buoy off Chichester -east of the Isle of Wight – where the leaders should reach around midnight tonight.

Then there is a strategic choice to be made during Monday morning whether to go south of the Casquettes traffic separation zone which excludes small craft from the busy shipping lane north of the Channel Island and south of Brixham.

But this stage will be mainly raced in light winds on tidal currents which are now getting stronger each day. The race goes to Saint Gowan shoals off the southwest tip of Wales and finishes into Roscoff on Morlaix Bay. The weather situation becomes quite dynamic through the last 24 hours of the race with a small, not very active low pressure passing over the fleet. This will likely allow the fleet to compact again close to the finish, which may be one of the many opportunities for Dolan to claw back some time.

“It looks like it will be light winds.” Commented the Irish skipper who was tenth of the first leg, “It looks like there will be a split in the fleet at the Casquettes but it was changing all the time on the files this morning. The strategy will be to get south if possible in the Channel. Off the start line you need to be anticipating where the tide will be at the first mark and not get stuck there. When the wind and tide are going the same way there is in effect less wind and so you have to avoid that.”

“At least there are lots of options on this leg with boats going in different directions at different times. I will be looking to make up for my disastrous second stage. It will be tricky getting round that first mark tonight with light winds and strong tides. There will be lots of opportunities to win and to lose, it is a good old fashioned leg of La Solitaire. I have slept four good nights here, eaten well and looked after myself and so I am on top form. Getting down the English Channel it will be important to get down towards the southwest as the wind is stronger there. But the winds will be light and angles will be all over the place.”

Published in Tom Dolan

It was a tired, disappointed but totally objective Tom Dolan who arrived in Fécamp, France this morning in 22nd place at the end of a tough 490 miles Leg 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro which started on Sunday afternoon from Lorient in Brittany.

Dolan was on the back foot all the way through the leg after being unable to hold his own off the start line and around intense four-leg circuit designed to give spectators a sight of the action before the 34 boat fleet leaves for the open sea.

A small deficit to the leaders opened further in the English Channel and this morning finished 3 hours and 34 minutes behind the stage winner Pierre Quiroga. After a solid 10th on the first leg Dolan now lies in 17th, two seconds ahead of his British rival Alan Roberts.

“Look we are halfway in and there is a long, long way to go.” Dolan remarked, “I am paying a price for my starting. I suppose that it was easier last year when we just left and were straight into it because of the health situation.” He commented on the dock in Fécamp, “I made a mess of the start and then for the first 12 hours I was not that good and from there it was generally a rich get richer situation. You forget how harsh the English Channel is when you end up nearly a tide behind. You get further and further back and when the tide changes from the west you get worse. I was sailing straight at the buoy on the first leg to Rochebonne and that did not seem to work. I passed some boats and some passed me but so much is down to the start. I was blessed last year because of the health situation there was no inshore courses and we just left every time. I am a bit disappointed to be honest, but in terms of how far I am behind the leader, I did think it would be a lot worse. So I need to be more careful and get going at the start. And I have water all over the place inside the boat. My starboard side foils is wobbling all over the place and I was definitely quicker on one tack than the other. I was not so worried about losing a couple of boats coming in, this is all about the big picture, aggregate time.”

Dolan and the 33 other skippers have three days to rest up before Stage 3 starts on Sunday.

Published in Tom Dolan

Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) is hoping for some compression with the front of the fleet as Stage 2 of La Solitaire du Figaro, from Lorient to Fécamp, takes on the notorious Alderney Race. The strong tidal current there, between Alderney and Cap de la Hague on the NW corner of the Cherbourg Cotentin peninsula, will build against the leaders this morning from around nine o’clock.

Dolan is lying in 19th place and has a deficit, according to the official tracker of around eight miles, but in reality, the bow of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan is around 4.6 miles from the stern of leader Pierre Quiroga (Skipper MACIF 2019) and Dolan is making good speeds to the south of the main group, trying to stay out of the worst of the tide.

Racing in unsettled northeasterly winds of 18-20 kts it has been a very long night with not much rest, sailing in close to the rocky coastline round the north Brittany coast.

The leaders should pass the Cap de la Hague and the tip of the Cotentin peninsula this afternoon and evening before the long passage across the Bay de la Seine towards Fécamp.

“We are looking at really low tidal ranges at the moment and so tides will not be as important as on leg 1, or normally, Tuesday afternoon there should be a shift in the breeze to the left and that should be the trend as we get east of the high pressure system. So from north of Barfleur onwards it should be all on port tack, straight in to the finish on a slowly lifting breeze.” Marcel van Triest, weather adviser to Dolan’s Lorient training group advised pre-start in Lorient, Sunday.

The winds look set to build in the final night at sea to give a brisk, tough finish into Fécamp Wednesday morning.

Published in Tom Dolan
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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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