Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan
The sailing community’s notable diversity is dependent on how you’re trying to analyse it writes W M Nixon. For many, it’s the community aspect, the shared love of boats and sailing and interacting with sea or lake, which is the sport’s greatest appeal. But for others, the greatest attraction is because it’s a competitive vehicle sport.
In fact, it could be argued that a useful indicator of where you fit into the complex sailing world is your place along the boats-to-people continuum. At one extreme, there are those for whom the boat and her equipment is everything. And at the other end of this boats-to-people line, there are those for whom the successful interaction of the crew, the people management side, is paramount – organising the boat and dealing with her technical problems is something for specialized members of the team.
Not so long ago, while cruising the Hebrides, we met up with one of the purest boat nuts I’ve ever encountered, even if he did offset this tendency by using his superbly-maintained boat for very interesting projects.
We liked the look of his 34ft cutter, and as we were in a sublimely beautiful anchorage where no-one was in a hurry to move on in the morning, we inveigled an invitation aboard and were bowled over by the quality of everything on his boat, the maintenance, and the careful way it had been thought through to make his cruising as comfortable and practical as possible.
For instance, he’d re-wired the boat completely by himself, and had done it in such a way that although everything seemed invisible and skilfully done, the simple opening of accessible locker doors in key areas revealed all the parts that needed to be easily reached.
It was a pure case of single-minded perfection, so much so that we were thinking of ways to entice him to Ireland some time to give our own boats the same treatment. But in his case, “single-minded” was the essence of it all. He’d once sailed alone in a Wayfarer from Scotland across the North Sea to Norway, but few knew of it because he did it for his own satisfaction – publicity wasn’t of interest to him.
And now, after we’d had coffee together, he was off across to Skye to climb in the Cuillins. On his own, of course, and using that perfect solo-sailed boat as a handy base camp. This was indeed a man who marched to the beat of a different drum. For our part, we were nipping across to Plockton on Loch Carron, a notably convivial place, to continue a cruise of sociable celebrations.
As far as we were concerned, this was cruising as it should be, and cruising lends itself to accommodating every level of direct or indirect boat technical involvement. However, cruising is a world in itself. But in racing, the fact of sailing being a vehicle sport immediately puts a wall between it and most other sports, particularly those stadium sports of greatest public interest.
So in trying to increase sailing’s public awareness, we quickly find people referencing Formula 1 car racing, and claiming that sailing will only find universal appeal if its major events are staged in the most spectacular boats available.
Certainly, this has long been the way of the America’s Cup. But that’s quite obviously a sailing spectacular for people to stare at in wonderment, rather than expect any sense or possibility of personal involvement.
However, the Olympics are different. Olympic sailing is arguably the kind of sailing we can do at club level but carried to the ultimate extremes of personal high performance. But is that necessarily the way that sailing should go? In a tech-obsessed era - a state we’ve arguably lived in since man chipped his first flint axe-head – there are those who would argue that the boats used in the Olympics should be at the furthest edge of technological development.
This is their point in arguing that today’s boats are getting in the way of developing sailing’s popularity. In a sense, they argue that by using popular everyday boats for a television spectacular like the Olympics, the powers-that-be are making the images decidedly humdrum for an audience steeped in technological wizardry.
It’s an approach which came to a head a month ago when, thanks to the remarkably high Irish representation in the committees of World Sailing – a priceless inheritance from the determinedly internationalist days of Dun Laoghaire’s Ken Ryan – we were among the first to be able to report the confirmation about the inclusion of an offshore racer (to be crewed by a woman and a man) in the lineup for the 2024 Olympics at Paris, when the sailing will be at Marseille.
The boat proposed will be between 6 and 10 metres overall, and non-foiling. With the course planned to have them at sea for three days and two nights, it will be the longest event in the Olympics, and all boats will be connected for sound and vision 24/7, so the human interest levels should be very high indeed.
This confirmation (at last) marked such a change to the Olympic sailing format that it provoked a considerable immediate reaction. But working on the policy that second thoughts are often best and usually less harmful, we persuaded some of our more outspoken reactors to tone it down a little with the promise that we’d keep them anonymous for the time being, and would publish after a reasonable interval.
However, now we’re in the buildup to Christmas when true sailors rely on the thought of the Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race to preserve their sanity in the midst of smothering seasonal cheer. So here’s something else altogether - shot from both barrels - to provide something similar:
“I am no doubtless connected with the ‘higher governance level’ of our beloved sport than yourself or others, but the ‘design’ brief of the intended boat for Paris 2024 Offshore event (quote:“…..boat which will be used, the length overall will be between 6 metres and 10 metres, definitely non-foiling, and currently talked of as sloop rig with spinnaker…”) shows, yet again, how out of touch World Sailing is with its own sport!
The IMOCA 60 Class is progressively shifting to foil (see Route du Rhum 2018) and the Mini 6.50 class rules now allow foils, wingsails and even kites, while the new America’s Cup boat won’t even have a keel but 2 foils (etc etc…there are many other examples). Thus the notion that ‘what the public wants to see in the Olympics are non-foiling monohulls of 6 to 10m LOA’ baffles me!!!
Paris won the 2024 Olympic Games. Sailing is one of the Olympic Sports. Olympic Sailing attracts very little spectators and/or much less TV audience than the ‘professionally organised circuits’ (Minis, Figaros, IMOCAs, big multihulls, Route du Rhum, Vendee Globe etc etc…).
The aim is to change this and for once, France as the organiser and for all sailing nations, may stand a chance to make some Olympic sailing look sexy! And as you mention, there already had been an attempt – scheduled for June 2018 – to preview a potential Olympic offshore race
Nicolas Hénard, President of the Federation Francaise de Voile, declared:
« …We are the nation of offshore sailing, we can’t afford to miss this (opportunity). This is why I am doing the forcing on this with the organisation of a showcase event in Marseilles in June (2018) in parallel with the finals of the Worlds Cup with five Figaro 3 on loan from Beneteau…”
Unfortunately, due to funding issues, this demo event was cancelled…but of course the demo support was the Figaro 3.
Staging a new Olympic discipline in 2024 on a boat that, though not yet selected, is already outdated in 2018 for the intended purpose is ludicrous.
This is even more so for the Figaro 2 as the article suggests, a boat launched in 2002 and classified on the Beneteau website itself under the heading ‘Heritage”
Also, my understanding is that, for an Olympic sailing event, boats have to be supplied (I guess new?!) by the organisers…hardly Figaro 2s then…
The reality is that:
• The Figaro Class and Circuit is the ‘only game in town’ worldwide for an ‘affordable’ (€210k ex. VAT including sails, electronics and safety equipment), one-design, short-handed, offshore racing class
• The Figaro Class is moving to foiling from 2019 onwards with the F3 because this is:
◦ What the competitors (read athletes for the Olympics) want!
◦ What the sport, as an offshore discipline, is at…right now, let alone in 2024
◦ What the viewing public demands
The current ’design brief’ of the World Sailing Equipment Committee for the new proposed event in Marseilles 2024 can only be explained by either
- A complete misunderstanding of the sport (really?) or
- Anything BUT a Beneteau Figaro 3 attitude resulting from pressure/lobbying from other National Sailing Federations or other boat manufacturers who do not have an ‘affordable’ one-design offshore sailing boat in production or even in draft (J Composite?) in an attempt to ‘not give an unfair advantage to French Figaro sailors starting on this support from March 2019!
- If there are doubts that a new boat like the Figaro 3 will be available in sufficient number, FYI, Beneteau is rolling out one new Figaro 3 per week as we speak! That’s further good news, So the question for World Sailing is:
- Do we specify the boat that’s required and expected (FYI, I do not have any interest whatsoever in Beneteau ?)?
- Do we specify another one for political reasons and launch a new discipline in 2024 on an outdated support?
As for my ‘dream team’: Tom Dolan (French offshore circuit ‘veteran’, inc. Figaro circuit) and Annalise Murphy (3 Olympic campaigns by 2020, Moth sailor, Volvo Ocean Race veteran etc, would bring this event very much alive if they were racing a Figaro 3, or perhaps even its 2024 development.”
Well, that’s telling it like it is – or might be. Instead of trying to minimise Olympic sailing’s vehicle sport aspect (which the 49er turns on its head anyway), World Sailing and the Paris/Marseille Olympics should go hell for leather for the most technologically-advanced yet economically-feasible boat possible.
It’s quite a challenge in itself. And if it seems a very long way from our agreeable meanderings about a perfect little cruising boat met with in the Hebrides, well, that’s the way it is – sailing is a very complex sport however you look at it.
2019 will be a year which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Figaro class, a class now recognised as the top level that there is in offshore sailing. And as Afloat.ie has been reporting from the Paris Boat Show, it's an exciting time for Irish involvement too.
The golden anniversary will be marked by an updating of the boat and following 15 years in service, the Beneteau Figaro 2 will be replaced by the super modern foiling Figaro 3. This levelling of the playing field has attracted almost many of the biggest names in sailing such as Frank Cammas, Michel Desjoyeaux, Armel Le cléac'h and Loïck Peyron.
To guarantee sporting equality each skipper was attributed their boat by drawing numbers out of a bowl during a lottery draw which turned out to be quite a glamorous occasion. Tom Dolan, along with Joan Mulloy, were supported with an Irish contingent which included Jack Roy, president of Irish Sailing.
Olympics in sight
"I bagged number 8 which is good, the Chinese say it’s a lucky one" the young Meath man grinned. "now it's time to get to work and find the necessary finance for the next few years. It's great to be able to start fresh with a new boat against the biggest names in the sport, but as you can imagine it's a big financial investment which means borrowing the price of a fine house over a number of years, but it's like any business, you won't get far unless you take the odd risk. Right now I need to find 80K"
Dolan also talked about his future. “For now I really want to concentrate on the Figaro class for a number of years and arrive at a point where I can perform consistently alongside the best as I did during phases this year. This is key in preparing for a spot on the Irish boat in the 2024 Olympic Offshore Event, there is no better school.”
Tom Dolan of Ireland had his hectic first year on the Figaro circuit during 2018 celebrated at the Paris International Boat Show over the weekend when he was on the podium for the National Championship Offshore awards writes W M Nixon.
The Meath man took third overall in the rookie division following his success in the Two-handed Transatlantic Race at the beginning of the season, and then in the Figaro series itself in September, he was well up the rankings overall with his boat Smurfit-Kappa, despite having to pull out of the first leg after a rigging spreader became detached. Once back in the race for the next three stages, he showed some very promising bursts of speed, and was at his best in the difficult stage from Portosin in Northwest Spain across the Bay of Biscay to St Gilles.
Among those in Paris in support of his achievement in being the first Irish sailor to make this particular podium was Irish Sailing President Jack Roy.
Tom Dolan’s series of talks on his remarkable 2018 offshore season continues in Dublin at the National Yacht Club tomorrow evening, Tuesday 27 November.
Tomorrow night promises more of the same, plus valuable insights into the world of offshore sailing.
Tom — who is in the running for 2018 Irish Sailor of the Year — will review the highlights of his 2018 season, including his performance in the Transat AG2R and his first participation in the challenging Figaro du Solitaire, and outline his plans for 2019 and beyond.
The versatile skipper promises video clips from this year’s racing season combined with plenty of weather and sailing tips.
And he will also try to give some helpful insights into the world of offshore sailing, with the aim of helping younger or aspiring helms.
Places are limited for the first two talks, at the Royal Cork and National Yacht Club (on Tuesday 27 November), and demand is expected to be high. There will be a small entry fee at both events in aid of Focus Ireland.
Details on future talks will be released in the coming weeks.
There were highs, lows, thrills and spills – but Tom Dolan has emerged from his first season in the ultra-competitive Beneteau Figaro class with his head held high as third overall rookie.
Despite only taking charge of his racing boat Smurfit Kappa a few weeks before racing it across the Atlantic in February, Dolan went on to string together an impressive set of results throughout 2018.
That put him firmly on the podium of the French Offshore Racing Championship in the rookie division for newcomers, an achievement few sailors can claim.
Such a finish in a class respected and feared for the calibre of its sailors is no mean feat – and after a short break to rest and recuperate the 31-year-old skipper is already looking ahead to 2019.
“It’s been a big year,” said Dolan, who hails from Kells in County Meath but lives in Concarneau, Brittany.
“I got chucked in at the deep end – I got the boat in February, went straight into a transatlantic race then straight from there into the Figaro season, so I had very little time to learn the new boat.”
Dolan came to the class from the Mini 6.50 circuit, where he raced 21ft ‘pocket rocket’ boats. At 32ft, the Beneteau Figaro is almost a third bigger – and significantly more powerful.
“It is a very different way of sailing to the Mini 6.50 and I had to adapt quickly,” Dolan said.
Adapt quickly he did, and by April Dolan was blasting his way across the Atlantic in the Transat AG2R La Mondiale with co-skipper Tanguy Bouroullec.
An impressive 11th proved Dolan had what it takes to compete on such a cutthroat circuit, and so he set his sights on the season finale – the iconic Solitaire du Figaro – backed by eco-packaging giant Smurfit Kappa.
Starting the race as the top-ranked rookie Dolan was among the favourites for the newcomers’ title, but disaster struck an hour after the start when part of his rigging broke and he was forced to retire from the first of four legs.
Undeterred, Dolan fought his way back in the remaining three legs to secure third overall in the rookie division.
“Third rookie in the Solitaire du Figaro is a good end to the year,” Dolan said. “It could have been much worse, with the damage I sustained in the first leg. Yes, one leg went a bit pear-shaped, but I managed to make it up with the other three legs. It means I get a little something at the prize giving, and that’s nice. I learned a lot this year and I’m happy it was a success. It’s left me wanting more.”
Prior to the 2019 season kicking off, Dolan has been imparting his knowledge to the Concarneau-based sailors following in his Mini 6.50 footsteps.
He will also be recounting his adventures to audiences in Ireland, at Royal Cork Yacht Club on November 20, the National Yacht Club in Dublin on November 27 and Poolbeg Yacht Club in spring next year, as well as giving motivational talks to businesses.
“Since the end of the race I’ve managed to get in a good bit of rest,” Dolan said.
“I took a week or two off and then I did some work coaching and training. Up until Christmas, I’m coaching the group up in Concarneau who are preparing for the next Mini Transat. I’ll also be talking about my adventures over the past few years in Cork and Dublin and I’ll also be doing some motivational speaking.”
2019 holds more excitement for Dolan including a stacked racing calendar in a new boat.
Tom Dolan is shortlisted for the Irish Sailor of the Year Award, read more in WMN Nixon's preview here
Tom Dolan of County Meath racing Smurfit Kappa took the coveted Top Rookie spot after a worthwhile little breeze finally spread in over the calm-bedevilled Figaro fleet last night as they raced Stage 3 from Northwest Spain, bringing leader Sebastien Simon towards the finish at Saint Gilles at 0540 hrs local time this morning.
For a boat with the speed potential of a Figaro 2, the winner's time of just under 3 days and 16 hours for a 410–mile stage is slow and challenging going, and keeping up the pace single-handed through four nights at sea was a ferocious test.
After playing cat-and-mouse with the fleet for most of yesterday with frustrating breezes and the threat of total calm, the wind Gods finally relented last night. The final 50 miles were in a basically nor’east breeze which brought the leader Sebastien Simon towards the final turn at Ile d’Yeu at 0315 hrs at up to 7 knots, but local light spots at the island saw his speed drop back at times to 4 knots. However, his rate of progress picked up again in the final leg to Saint-Gilles, and now with sheets freed it was a matter of staying between the next boat and the line for the concluding two and a half hours to the finish.
The pre-Ile d’Yeu buildup to this procession had seen Ireland’s Tom Dolan in 9th, but where Sebastien Simon had judged the long close-haul to the north point of Ile d’Yeu to perfection, many other hadn’t been able to, and had to take a short tack to get round the island turn. One of these was Tom Dolan, and he slipped from 9th to 11th. But by maintaining this position in the straight line race to the finish, he came in at 11th as Top Rookie by a comfortable margin, a position which was confirmed with enthusiastic acclaim when he crossed the line with an elapsed time of 3 days 16 hours and 12 minutes – in other words, about a quarter of an hour astern of Sebastien Simon.
Meawhile Ireland’s other entry - and also a Rookie – is Joan Mulloy of Mayo racing Taste the Atlantic. Though she finished at 06:37:38 well up with the main group, the pace is so intense that this gave her 31st overall. At the Figaro level, having five boats astern of you at the finish is a real achievement, and Mulloy has impressed with her determination and dedication.
Race tracker here
It’s a cruel scenario, the final wind-lacking 70–miles of Stage 3 of the Solo URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain across the Bay of Biscay to Saint-Gilles in the northwest of France’s Vendee region writes W M Nixon. We may feel the pain for Ireland’s Tom Dolan. He was looking at fifth place with Smurfit Kappa at one brief stage during the small hours of this morning. But then he lost the pace to slip back to 14th. Now, however, he is looking better. On a nice angle in a private breeze, for the moment there’s hope.
But overnight leader Thierry Chabagny’s fall from grace has been pretty well total during this Tuesday of Tribulations. The 46-year-old veteran of 17 Figaros has only once got on the podium after taking a stage place in the 2006 race. Yet he keeps coming back for more. For long enough it looked as though he could just possibly dream of a stage win. Even his opponents hoped for it. But currently he’s at 25th, out on his own to the north of the fleet, and with options closing as they crawl towards the turn at the Ile d’Yeu, the chances of getting back in the hunt lessen by the hour.
That said, there’ll be many hours when unicorn events may occur, judging by any of the weather predictions which all agree on light breezes or none at all, with the possibility of zephyr-like direct headwinds in the night. Spinnaker skills, untested on this leg thus far, may not be needed until Ile d’Yeu is astern. Meanwhile, at Saint-Gilles the Mayor, Francois Blanchet, has officially opened the Race Village, which will be heaving with conviviality for the next six days, as the final 165-mile sprint stage starts and ends at Saint-Gillles before the overall winner is declared.
It emerges that His Worship the Mayor is a former sailing journalist. What were we saying about unicorn events? If a sailing journalist can become the First Citizen of a coastal township, then all things are possible…….
We go into Night 4 with the highly-tipped Sebastien Simon back in the lead, but he’s at less than three knots, and there are a dozen boats within five miles of him, some of them currently going faster. Even as we’ve been writing this and wondering how we’d look in a Mayoral Chain of Office, Tom Dolan has got back up to 11th. But alas the gallant Joan Mulloy, having staved off the Scottish challenge for 300 miles, has now been passed by Alan Roberts who is 29th, while the Maid of Mayo is 31st.
Race tracker here
With a hundred miles still to race this morning to the finish at Saint Gilles Croix de Vie on France’s Biscay coast, the shortened 410 miles Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Figaro 2018 from northwest Spain is even more of an endurance test of light wind skills and patience than was anticipated when the 36 boats finally started – after delay by total morning calm - at 1343 hrs on Saturday afternoon writes W M Nixon.
Back then, it was anticipated that it might take as long as 72 hours to complete the leg. But having come through light winds and fog off the northwest corner of Spain, while they may have been rewarded with some reasonable windward sailing on Sunday, it was in the knowledge that a slack high pressure area sat in the northeastly part of the Bay of Biscay like a giant spider’s web, yesterday making it an area of ever more flukey and often lighter winds from forward of the beam the nearer they got to the finish.
At an early stage of the long cross-Biscay transit, a small group led by Thierry Chabagny (Bretagne CMB Performance) which broke away to north of the fleet were doing best, and until this morning Chabagny was overall leader. But the experienced favourites in the tight-knit southern group – which includes Ireland's Tom Dolan in Smurfit Kappa – were playing the long game, and this morning they have seen Chabagny’s lead steadily whittled away until now it has evaporated, taken by Sebastien Simon.
Currently, star of the southern show, Sebastien Simon (Bretagne CMB Performance) showed a sudden burst of extra speed early this morning to put a two mile gap between himself and the rest, who are so tightly packed that Tom Dolan – currently shown as 12th – is only four miles astern. Such gaps can open and close remarkably quickly as local breezes briefly freshen and then fade, and during the past 24 hours Dolan has seen himself up in 5th place, while mostly he has been between 8th and 11th.
As they slowly near the French coast through today, late summer onshore sea breezes may become another factor in the final stages, as the Bay of Biscay is currently well clear to the south of the Jetstream which is currently making Ireland’s weather so Autumnal. Off the French coast by contrast, summer continues as the localised high pressure system seems to have life in it for a while yet.
While Tom Dolan has the stimulus of being among the leaders, 14 miles further back Joan Mulloy of Mayo in Taste the Atlantic may be placed at 30th overall, but she has seen herself in distinguished company during this long battle, and currently she is ahead of both the highly-regarded Scottish sailor Alan Roberts, and his fellow-challenger Hugh Brayshaw.
Race tracker here
Ireland’s Tom Dolan has seen his position move between 7th and 12th this morning as he features frequently in the Top Ten with the Solitaire URGO Figaro fleet racing in difficult headwinds across the southern Bay of Biscay from Northwest Spain to St Gilles in France writes W M Nixon. An area of slack higher pressure in the middle of the Bay has seen all but two of the fleet hold to the east of the base course line in the hope of finding firmer breezes indicated closer to the coast of North Spain. But at the moment it is one of the two boats which have struck out to the north, Thierry Chabagny’s Gedimat, which is shown as current leader of Stage 3.
Chabagny (who still has 231 miles to sail to the finish) and the group packed tightly around Dolan (currently in tenth) are moving at much the same speed of around 6.5 knots hard on the wind. But the predictions are that the often unpredictable mid-Biscay waters will see Chabigny losing wind power, yet it really is anyone’s guess.
Ireland’s other entry Joan Mulloy currently lies 32nd after a long and often frustrating night – like most of the fleet she is to the east of the baseline, currently sailing on starboard tack at 5.8 knots.
Race tracker here