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Racing on Breizh Cola with French ace Gildas Mahé, Ireland’s Tom Dolan reported today that he is happy with their positioning on the Transat en Double Concarneau – Saint Barthélemy fleet.

Racing downwind in 18-20kts of NE’ly tradewinds 175 nautical miles WNW of Casablanca this Monday afternoon Dolan and Mahé are computed to be lying ninth in the 18 boat fleet but in terms of latitude, they were the furthest south of the leaders and were the quickest boat over the previous 24 hours making 226 nautical miles.

They still have over 420 miles to go the Canary Island where there is a passing virtual mark before the fleet turn west to cross the Atlantic.

The Smurfit Kappa backed Dolan reported this afternoon, “Tonight might yet be a key stage of the race as some weather files are looking at 27 to 30kts of wind, downwind, full on, should be tiringly good craic! But it’s an important part of the race I’d say. We struggled a bit for speed with all of the reaching at the start over the first few days, it wasn’t much fun, it was hard work, always heeling and trying to scrape back every little 0.1 of a mile. But since it has become downwind we're really in the groove! ! am happy with our trajectories and in the right place so all is good on board.”

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Tom Dolan and Glldas Mahé are lying seventh in the 18-boat Transat en Double Concarneau-Saint Barthélemy after last night's start of the postponed fixture.

Dolan's prediction that the first stage of the race will be key has proved correct as the fleet moves towards Cape Finisterre this morning.

Following a postponed start, moved to this Wednesday evening at 1900hrs local time from last Sunday because of stormy conditions on the Bay of Biscay, the Irish Sailor of the Year and his ace French co-skipper Glldas Mahé were in a buoyant mood as they made their final preparations for the Transatlantic race from Brittany to the Caribbean.

“I can’t wait to be going, I really can’t. It was great to have been actually at my own home in Concarneau these last few days waiting for the weather to change, it makes a real difference, but now we are ready to go and get on with it.” Says Dolan. “Let’s be clear though I am not taking this race lightly. I never forget how lucky I am to be here. I am lucky to be here with this boat and to be racing with someone like Gildas so you can be sure I will be making the absolute most of it.”

With the passage of the past days, the weather picture on the Bay of Biscay has changed considerably since Sunday’s feisty outlook. The conditions will still be brisk for the first few hours on Biscay but there are now fewer strategic options when it comes to the passage of a new low pressure moving west to east across the path of the 18 boat fleet at Cape Finisterre.

Dolan summarises, “The first key stage will be the Bay of Biscay, negotiating the low pressure which will complicate the course towards Cape Finisterre. Now we are going round the west of it but there will be fewer options here and so I can’t see the fleet spreading out here. We arrive at Cape Finisterre with a new low pressure coming in. The negotiation of that, a shift in the wind to the left and then the big shift to the right in wind direction will be key, inside or outside the Traffic Separation Scheme – an exclusion zone at Cape Finisterre – and after that there is a dying undulating front which comes across the zone and so you have to be careful not to be caught there. At Cape Finisterre, the timing of the wind shifts is key and not getting eaten by the light winds at the second front. And tonight can be interesting.”

Tom Dolan estimates it will take six and a half days of sailing to the waypoint at the Canary Islands for an overall passage of 17-18 days duration.

Tracker here

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As Sunday’s start of the Transat en Double race to Saint Barthélemy was postponed because of severe weather forecasted for the Bay of Biscay, Tom Dolan and Dubarry are pleased to make use of the delay to announce an extension of their partnership.

Ireland’s leading solo offshore sailor, Tom Dolan, has extended his long-standing partnership with marine footwear and clothing brand Dubarry for a further three years.

The skipper of Smurfit Kappa has just taken a timely delivery of a full collection of pieces from their New Aquatech range as he prepares to take on the Atlantic for the imminent "Transat en Double", Concarneau- Saint Barthélemy race.

Transat en Double competitors Gildas Mahé (left) and Tom DolanTransat en Double competitors Gildas Mahé (left) and Tom Dolan Photo: Alexis Courcoux

“Dubarry were the first on board back in 2016 when they really showed some early interest and faith in me. Michael Walsh sent me over a pair of boots for my first serious mini-campaign and after five full racing seasons, including three Atlantic crossings, I still use them today! Since then we've had a great relationship and stay in close touch, they have always taken an interest in what I am doing and clearly, they feel I do a reasonable job for them. I am really delighted they have chosen to extend our partnership.” smiled Dolan, “They are an Irish company achieving global success in their markets and I am proud to fly their colours.”

Tom will be fully kitted out with pieces from the new Dubarry Aquatech clothing range, with footwear as well as some financial support. “We are proud to support Tom and to share in his story seeing him progress from leaving his native rural County Meath to pursue his dream in France” commented Michael Walsh Marketing Director of Dubarry. “We like Toms professional yet friendly approach both on and off the water and value the feedback he can provide us on the performance of our footwear and clothing, which our Design team can then incorporate into the product development process” added Walsh.

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Irish sailor Tom Dolan is among the 18 duos breathing a collective sigh of relief today in Concarneau, France after Sunday’s start of the Transat en Double race to Saint Barthélemy has been postponed because of severe weather forecasted for the Bay of Biscay during the first part of the coming week.

Winds were expected to be over 50 knots off the notorious Cape Finisterre on the northwest corner of Spain, accompanied by big, five-metre confused seas.

Race director Francis Le Goff has chosen to be extra prudent as this is the first Transatlantic race yet for the 10.85m semi foiling Beneteau Figaro 3. On top of that there are three low pressure systems rolling in one after the other.

“The saying in this part of France is L’orage sur mer, trente jours à terre which literally means ‘storms at sea 30 days on land’ but it is really when there are this type of storms at sea, with the lows coming up from the south and the Iberian peninsula, they tend to follow one after the other.” the Smurfit Kappa backed sailor explains.

“Right now we just have to chill out, keep following the evolution of the weather and keep super rested. I don’t think we will be going anywhere before the middle of the week as it looks at the moment.” Dolan adds, “And I am in the very lucky position of having this race starting from my home port and so I can wait things out in the comfort of my own home.”

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Next weekend Irish racer Tom Dolan and current Irish Sailor of the Year will line up at the start of the 3,890 nautical miles Transat En Double Concarneau - Saint-Barthelemy harbouring realistic hopes of finishing on the podium, possibly even winning the two-handed race across the Atlantic which has attracted 21 starters. Dolan sails the Atlantic representing sponsors Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan partnering with his very experienced French co-skipper Gildas Mahé who has twice finished on the podium on this race.

A long time friend and the training partner with whom he put in many hours on the water last Autumn and early Winter, Dolan and Mahé prepped and tuned in search of the small speed gains which the duo hope will make a key difference on this year’s two pinnacle events, this imminent Transat en Double and September’s La Solitaire du Figaro.

"Dolan is quietly pleased that he was asked by 45-year-old Mahé to join him"

While the pair share the same approach and have complementary skills, Dolan is quietly pleased that he was asked by 45-year-old Mahé to join him, in itself a very strong validation of the Irish sailor’s established status among the top Figaro sailors.

The race is in effect the 15th edition of an event previously known as the AG2R Transat and follows a course from Brittany to Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean. Cancelled last year because of the pandemic this will be the first Transatlantic race for the new Figaro Beneteau 3. Mahé has two podium finishes to his credit, second in 2016 with Nicolas Lunven and third in 2018 with Nico Troussel and he was runner-up on the 2019 La Solitaire du Figaro.

“It is an honour to be asked by Gildas but we have been good friends for a few years now. Last season, we worked a lot together and shared logistics, accommodation at races, a preparateur and pooled transport resources. So we then worked together last year after the season and so it is logical we sail together and we get on well, but it is still nice to be asked!” explains the usual skipper of Smurfit Kappa and Kingspan who joins Mahé on Breizh Cola for the occasion.

"I have certainly come up in the world after La Solitaire.” Jokes Dolan who finished fifth overall on the 2020 La Solitaire, “And now we have put an Irishman in charge of food, we have loads of crisps and cola, we will be just fine!” “Seriously it is great to learn from Gildas, he is a natural long time competitor who came up through the ranks of the Optimist, 420 and 470 and so he is great at starting and the boat on boat stuff which has been my weakness because I did not do that as a youngster. But I know I can sail the boat fast, we both can, but I am better in the ‘geekery’, the technical performance data collection and analysis, knowing the boat. He was good in the Figaro 2 but this boat is a little more like a Mini 650 when it comes to crossing the Atlantic and I went across twice in the Mini. So we have a good mix of experience.” Dolan outlines.

The 35-year-old who grew up on a farm in County Meath, Ireland and moved to France in 2009 is cautiously optimistic about their prospects on this race. Physically and mentally he has put the early-season ankle injury behind him, despite missing a few weeks sailing rehabbing the injury.

“It is all good, I missed out a little but I am glad we did so much last Autumn because we have done the miles and are fresh now which is important going into a Transat like this.”

“We could do OK. What is nice is that I can finally look around the top of the fleet and know I have beaten everyone at least once and I think with Gildas we are a good team. I’ve known him as a friend for six or seven years so we are buddies, we are pretty solid.”

Dolan concludes, “ We share similar values, concerns about the health of the oceans and the climate. We are both comfortable downwind and the boat really is super well prepared. We have worked hard to have the sail shapes and designs, evaluating and choosing our best options. Between us, we count many Transatlantics, we know the game is going to be wide open and we have to make sure we finish before we can think about winning.”

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County Meath solo sailor Tom Dolan is confident he will be fighting fit for the double-handed Transat en Doible Concarneau to Saint Barthelem which starts May 9th. This is despite an ankle injury sustained by Dolan in the Season Opening Solo Maître Coq at the weekend.

As Afloat reported earlier, the Irish Sailor of the Year sustained the ankle injury midway through the 340 nautical miles long offshore race curtailed Dolan’s chances of a top 10 overall finish in the first solo race of the French Figaro season.

At the Ile de Ré, the southernmost turning point of the course, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa was comfortably racing among a strong breakaway group of ten leading the 29 strong fleet, when he overbalanced while stepping back into the cockpit of his Figaro Beneteau 3 and landed heavily, hurting his ankle and injuring his hand.

At first, in the light airs he tried to carry on but as the wind and seas built with the arrival of a front, the pain was scarcely bearable and it became obvious to Dolan that he had no alternative but to retire into Lorient. A medical examination has subsequently confirmed his ankle is badly sprained with some nerve damage. He has been told to rest his leg for three weeks to one month.

“It is just one of these things. I had had a problem with the tack line and had been up to the bow to fix it and I just stepped awkwardly back into the cockpit. I hurt my left hand and right foot. It is a lesson to be more careful in the future. I’ll lose a little bit of training time before the Transatlantic Concarneau Saint Barths but I am staying positive. I had sailed well in the opening races and was up with the top group when it happened so I am not despondent.” Dolan reported today (Monday) after finally being reunited with his phone which was left (according to the race rules) in Les Sables d’Olonne, the start and finish port.

“Initially I was determined to go on and finish but as the wind and seas built up it was apparent how immobile I was and it was clearly dangerous to go on.” He recalled, “I will be so much more careful in the future.”

Having finished seventh and 13th in the two inshore races last Monday and Tuesday, Dolan had started the offshore race in ninth place. Even counting the ‘RTD’ (retired) from the offshore race he still finished 18th, still his best result in the season opener yet.

“Look I am pretty happy nonetheless. I was good all round and was with the breakaway group and was going well. Overall I have good speed. I am still not very quick under gennaker and so that is a work in progress, I am not slow but neither am I the fastest. Meantime I have two or three weeks of physiotherapy to get on with and will be taking it carefully.” Tom Dolan concluded today.

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Tom Dolan had a disappointing retiral in the weekend's first on offshore race of the season that saw only 18 or 29 of the Solo Maitre Coq fleet finish the course in the Bay of Quiberon.

Dolan, who fell in the cockpit of his Figaro 3 and twisted both his ankle and wrist while in fourth place early in the race, admits to nearly giving up off La Rochelle as the pain was so bad in his ankle. See Facebook vid below.

Irish Sailor of the Year, Dolan, who was pitching to finish in the top 10 of the offshore which has a coefficient of three towards the overall 2021 standings was ninth overall after the first two inshore races of the regatta.

The concern now is that the County Meath sailor will be fit in time for the double-handed transatlantic race, from Concarneau, France to St. Barts starting on Sunday, 9th May in which he is teamed up with Gildas Mahé.

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The annual Solo Maître CoQ, the traditional curtain-raiser for the Figaro season, has never gone very well for the Irish racer Tom Dolan but the skipper of Smurfit Kappa has this time made a strong start to the early season Vendée based race series and after the two inshore races lies in ninth place in the 29 strong fleet of Figaro Beneteau 3s.

On Monday and Tuesday’s inshore courses which were raced in tactical conditions between Les Sables d'Olonne, Bourgenay and Brem-sur-Mer, Dolan was seventh on Monday and 13th on Tuesday. After the lay-day Wednesday, the fleet takes on a 340 miles coastal offshore course out of Les Sables d’Olonne between the islands of Belle-Ile, Ile de Ré and the Ile de Yeu.

“I'm pretty happy with these first two days of racing. Although it was complicated, the weather worked out as I thought it would and it was quite clear to me. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and it all happened pretty much as I had expected.” Said Tom Dolan today in Les Sables d’Olonne, “In the end, I made the right sail choices at the right time went the right way and actually did some great manoeuvres which was gratifying after all the boat-for-boat training we did recently.”

And while he was pleased with the first race’s opening seventh place, he was nearly as happy to have kept his head on the second race and recovered after a bad start.

“ I had a catastrophic start and that put my mental game to the sword but I managed to stay calm and follow my initial game plan without blowing up, ” explains the skipper of Smurfit Kappa. “Coming away with the 13th, in the end, was not too bad.”

Taking full advantage of the lay day to prep and rest before the first long race of the season, Dolan previews the course: “It’s going to be full-on and complex. On the first section, it might be a bit of swings and roundabouts with light winds and currents. By the Birvideaux light (at the Bay of Quiberon) it should be a bit tougher with strong wind and seas before becoming again very random near the end of the course depending on how the timings are. I think the elastic band will extend and compress a whole bunch of times. So you have to be right on it, in the group from the start to finish, and with your eyes open and not miss a thing, especially over the first few miles on the Ile de Ré side. The positive thing is that this range of conditions and course will allow us to validate a whole lot of things, " concludes the Irish sailor who is pitching to finish in the Top 10 of the offshore which has a coefficient of 3 towards the overall standings.

The offshore starts 1300hrs Thursday and should usually finish lunchtime Saturday.

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Tom Dolan finished seventh and just seven minutes and five seconds behind Alan Roberts, the winner of the first inshore race of the 2021 Solo Maitre Coq.

Dolan is racing in the foiling Figaro Beneteau 3 class of 29 entries. Conditions for the first race at Port Olona, Les Sables d'Olonne were unstable with variations in force and direction.

The National Yacht Club said afterwards that he managed to stick to his strategy and 'to be in the right place at the right time'. 

The Solo Maître CoQ, the first event of the five that form the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship. starts with short, inshore races Monday and Tuesday, a lay day Wednesday before a 340 nautical miles offshore race from Thursday to Saturday.

“The goal this week is to dust off the cobwebs and validate what we have been doing. The main pinnacles are the Transat Concarneau Saint Barths in May and La Solitaire du Figaro August-September, so, although I want a good result here – as much because this has been a bit of a ‘black cat event (ed note, in France the black cat is seen as unlucky) – it is not a dealbreaker,” Dolan asserts.

“I feel like I have had a good balance through the winter and spring and am really ready to go racing now. I have done the work I wanted to do and in training I have been going well so I am quite confident, but, hey let’s wait and see!”

Racing continues this morning with a second inshore race starting at 11am.

Check out his pre-race vid below

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It is with a mix of hard-earned confidence and early season nerves that Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan starts his 2021 racing season on Monday in Les Sables d’Olonne. France on the annual Solo Maître CoQ race series.

Since finishing sixth overall on Smurfit Kappa on the French Elite Offshore Championship in 2020, Dolan has worked hard and smart through the back end of last season and the early spring to try and ensure he has taken all the necessary steps to improve further on last year’s successes.

After the race season closed he worked late into the Autumn speed testing and two boat tuning with French ace Gildas Mahé and a small group from Technique Voile sails. Together they effectively deconstructed many of the ideas that were prevailing in the Figaro Beneteau 3 class and revalidated them for themselves, notably looking at flatter sail profiles so developing equal or more power but with less drag.

More recently Dolan has sailed long hours on the water working with his Lorient Grand Large training group especially on perfecting super smooth and effective boat-on-boat work, manoeuvres starts and mark roundings – the short inshore courses have often been his weakness.

At the same time he has been doing what a lot of what he calls ‘geekery’, in essence work on the computer – collecting and crunching data from all kinds of past Figaro Beneteau 3 racing and training - to further refine the ‘polars’ for his Smurfit Kappa, that is the computer-generated target speeds and angles for optimum performance.

“I am definitely ready to go now. I have never felt so ready at the start of a season and I feel like I have got the balance of working hard and resting just right.” Dolan smiled on arrival in Les Sables d’Olonne where the Vendée Globe started in November and finished between late January and March 5th. He added,

“I did a lot of training at the back end of last season and that was good because not only was it valuable you know that is banked for this season and I start this season knowing that we did that and have complete confidence in our set up but have now been able to work on the weaknesses, starts and short, intense inshore races, so that I really feel like I have made a lot of progress since the end of last season, and have not had to put the boat in the water too early. So I feel fresh, super motivated, confident in what we have done and learned, but nervous!”

The Solo Maître CoQ, the first event of the five that form the French Elite Offshore Racing Championship. starts with short, inshore races Monday and Tuesday, a lay day Wednesday before a 340 nautical miles offshore race from Thursday to Saturday.

“The goal this week is to dust off the cobwebs and validate what we have been doing. The main pinnacles are the Transat Concarneau Saint Barths in May and La Solitaire du Figaro August-September, so, although I want a good result here – as much because this has been a bit of a ‘black cat event (ed note, in France the black cat is seen as unlucky) – it is not a dealbreaker,” Dolan asserts,

“I feel like I have had a good balance through the winter and spring and am really ready to go racing now. I have done the work I wanted to do and in training I have been going well so I am quite confident, but, hey let’s wait and see!”


Solo Maître CoQ, Programme

Monday, March 22, 9h00 Skippers briefing
11h00 Start of the 1st race

Tuesday 23 March 9h00 Skippers briefing
11h00 Start of the 2nd race

Wednesday, March 24 Day OFF

Thursday, March 25 9h00 Skippers briefing
13h00 Start of the offshore race

Saturday, March 27 Finish of the offshore race

Sunday, March 28 Prizegiving at 11:30 a.m.

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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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