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Displaying items by tag: Tom Dolan

Clarisse Cremer, continually rising star of French women’s offshore sailing and a formidable performer in the Mini-Transat fleet’s Transgascogne Race at the end of July, is currently the leader in the 1350-mile Stage 1 of the Mini-Transat from La Rochelle to Las Palmas in the Canaries writes W M Nixon

At one stage Cremer had opened out a lead of 15 miles with less than 400 to go. But currently with 337 still to be sailed, Cremer at 5.7 knots in a nor’easter is seeing her lead being eroded by Erwan Le Draoulec, just three miles astern and logging 6.1 knots.

clarisse cremer2At one stage Cremer had opened out a lead of 15 miles

There are still many holes in the wind between the leaders and the finish, indeed an entire area of calm may yet settle between the fleet and the finish. Out to the westward, Ireland’s Tom Dolan has had some slippage from his placings yesterday, when he was up around the tenth to twelfth mark. He has dropped back to 16th, but currently is making a better 6.3 knots, and hoping to benefit from a different line of wind.

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The leaders of the Mini-Transat 2017 are now at the latitude of Lisbon, but well offshore in trying to keep in a line of the fading north to northeast wind writes W M Nixon.

The pace in this first 1350-mile stage (from La Rochelle to Las Palmas, Canaries) of the Mini-Transat 17 had become swift and purposeful as they carried the traditional strong northeast winds down past Cape Finisterre. Since then, last night saw Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan recover even more impressively from his setback at the start, which had found him in last place three hours after the race got under way.

His extraordinary upwards progress since, through a fleet of 56 in the Production Boat Class, saw him in tenth place for a while last night. But this morning it has stabilised at 11th as he takes a stab westward in the finely calculated business of tacking downwind in a fading breeze which provides the challenge of crossing an area of light breezes – or even calm – before he can avail of an area of fresher nor’easters which are flowing southwestwards from southern Portugal.

But the finish at Las Palmas is still 670 miles away from Dolan and his group, and it is becoming increasingly challenging for racing, with other areas of slack winds move across it.

At the moment Erwan Le Draoulec and Tanguy Broullec are neck and neck for the lead, with Clarisse Cremer third and Yannick Le Clech fourth. But with 630 miles for this leading cohort to cover to the finish, any predictions for them – and the entire fleet - are still somewhat premature.

Except, that is, for the half dozen boats which have temporarily dropped out after a succession of equipment failures. They are currently in various ports along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts, and out of the racing in Stage 1. But shore support teams have been arriving to get them race-ready again, and down to Las Palmas to be prepared for the main event.

This is the true 40th Anniversary Mini-Transat, from Las Palmas to Martinique in the Caribbean. The fleet will be back up to full strength for a start which is currently penciled in for November 1st. But it’s not set in stone, as the organisers wait for the current extra-vigorous hurricane season to work itself out on the west side of the Atlantic before they set the final date for early November

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A large area of lighter winds and calms currently developing around the Canary Islands may hamper the closing speeds of the Mini Transat fleet as they near the finish of their 1350-mile race from La Rochelle through this weekend and beyond writes W M Nixon.

But this morning the leaders are well offshore from Portugal, streaming towards the southwest in a good line of northeast winds. Inshore towards Portugal, however, lighter wind may emerge today, but the leading group out at sea are hoping to carry their brisk favourable winds well south before they have to consider how best to deal with the developing situation towards the finish.

Their slow progress out of the Bay of Biscay at the beginning of the week since Sunday’s start may make estimates of seven days to reach Las Palmas in the Canaries optimistic. But at the moment, leader Remi Aubrun is past the halfway stage, and is making 9.8 knots with 793 miles to go to the finish, while the consistent Erwan Le Draoulec in second is less than two miles astern at the same speed, with Yannick Le Clech third and Clarisse Cremer fourth.

Ireland’s Tom Dolan has made a remarkable recovery from his setback at the start when – having been in the lead - he’d to re-trace his steps in exceptionally poor visibility to round a mandatory turning point. This very briefly had him back in last place in the 56-strong Production class, but he has now milled his way up to 14th, an astonishing achievement, and is currently battling with top star Pierre Chedeville.

As expected, though, the benefits of being first out of the Bay of Biscay to enjoy the strong favourable winds down towards Cape Finisterre ahead of all rivals gave the leading group an enormous boost, and they’re currently sitting on a lead of around 40 to 50 miles on the Dolan/Chedeville group.

But the possibility of erratic wind patterns over a wide area at the Canaries could upset the rankings. In times past, major events of the calibre of the Vendee Globe and the Volvo Ocean Race have seen major place changes while negotiating the passage through or round the islands, and the fact that the Mini Transat fleet have to reach a finish line in the heart of the islands further increases the challenge.

Meanwhile Mini Transat life continues to inter-act with the outside world. There was a sweet moment on Tuesday when the Mini Transat organisers contacted Tom Dolan’s girl-friend Karen to wish her a happy birthday and confirm that he was working his way up through the fleet in the trademark style of the “Flying Irishman” – l’Irlandais Volant.

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Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan and the other contenders in the leading group in the Mini Transat have finally been able to start exiting the Bay of Biscay at better speeds this morning as new east to nor’east winds have finally set in writes W M Nixon. And once they’ve finally emerged into the open Atlantic to shape a course down Spain’s west coast and on towards Portugal, speeds should become very impressive as the famed and favourable “Portuguese trades” do the business.

But talk of a “leading group” is a very loose term, for although there are dozens of the 56 competitors astern of Dolan – some of them very far indeed behind him – he in turn got on the wrong side of a gate mark and also the wrong side of a couple of shifts during the very frustrating beat from La Rochelle’s Sunday start. However, his regular sparring partners Erwan Le Draoulac and Clarisse Cremer, together with Remi Aubrun and Yannick Le Clech, seemed to know exactly when it was right to transfer to the to the north of the rhumb line in order to be first to avail of the long-forecast but slow-to-arrive change in wind direction.

mini transat guys2Let’s just get started….Erwan Le Draoulec, Francois Jambou and Tom Dolan in the pre-Mini Transat shoreside stage

As it is, Dolan had been doing very well in steadily working his way up through the fleet from a very frustrating first 24 hours. He’d been leading in the early stages, but after realizing in the very poor visibility that he’d missed that gate mark, he had to take the medicine and go a seriously long way back to have him re-start in 54th place. But then he put in some really hard work, and by Tuesday he was being recorded as around 12th to 14th overall in the Production Boat (Serie) Division, at distances of between 9 and 12 miles behind the leaders.

But last night, with the leading group in the area off the majestic Cabo Ortegal, the final and definitive wind change arrived. Yet it did so very unevenly, and stretched out the front runners, with the leaders being most favoured. This morning Erwan Le Draoulac and Remi Aubrun are neck and neck in the lead, crossing the bay off La Coruna, and making between 8 and 10 knots with Yannick Le Clech and Clarisse Cremer 2.1 and 3.3 miles behind respectively, but logging similar speeds.

This leading foursome have got very clear away, as fourth-placed Ambrogio Beccarria is all of 14 miles behind the two front runners. And this tendency to stretch the margins the further you go down the fleet is reflected in Tom Dolan’s location, for though he’s currently on 8.8 knots, and on track speeding past Cabo Ortegal well offshore, he’s lying 17th in class and is 30 miles behind the leaders.

Running hard in the Portuguese Trades is demanding of boats and sailors, but Tom Dolan has shown he can thrive in such sailing in times past – he’ll be looking forward to it. And now at least, the sun shines, and the horrible headwinds and miserable rain of the first day are a very faded memory.

Tom dolan at start3After sunshine the day before, Sunday;s start was in dispiriting condtions. Tom Dolan (IRL 910) pacing with Jerome Lhermiette (FR 891)Race tracker here

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The weather played a sly hand on Sunday morning in the Bassin des Chalutiers and it has not been kind to Ireland's solo sailor Tom Dolan who is at the back of the pack aftter the first 14 hours of the 2017 Mini–Transat.

The persistent drizzle and low cloud did little to cheer those Mini sailors feeling the pressure as they cast off. Ultimately though, there was a sense of relief all round that they were finally getting going with their race, a moment they've been working towards for the past two years. After a lively start for the first few hours, it promises to be a fine crossing.

For all that, the first few miles of this Mini-Transat La Boulangère will be far from restful. With upwind conditions and rough seas with a substantial south-westerly swell, the solo sailors' stomachs are likely to be finding things tough this evening.

tom dolan transat startCounty Meath sailor Tom Dolan Photo: Oliver Blanchet/Facebook

Current predictions suggest that the upwind conditions should be succeeded by some boisterous downwind sailing as the fleet close on Cape Finisterre, according to Christian Dumard, the weather guru from Great Circle. Essentially, to the south of this headland, the Mini sailors can expect stronger winds in a corridor spanning around a hundred miles offshore of the coast of Galicia and Portugal. As such, the competitors will have to choose between distancing themselves from this corridor, by gaining headway to the west and potentially having to cover extra miles away from the direct route, or hunkering down in a bid to escape the worst of the wind up ahead. However, the solo sailors aren't there yet. Between now and the north-west tip of Spain, things could play out in a number of ways.

It was in a persistent drizzle that the fleet took today's start in a W to SW'ly wind of 10 to 15 knots. Almost perfect conditions then, save for the zero visibility in the squalls.

Three competitors are unfortunately having to make a stopover in La Rochelle to effect repairs. The first to announce his return was Fred Guerin (, whose hull was holed in a collision with Elodie Pedron (Manu Poki & les Biotecks), she too retracing her steps. Finally, Gwendal Pibot (Rossinante) announced that he would also be returning to the Port des Minimes after breaking his stay.

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Irish Sailing President Jack Roy was on hand in Bassin des Chalutiers, La Rochelle today to wish sole Irish entry Tom Dolan good luck in tomorrow's Mini Transat Race start.

An eve of race Irish reception with the Cultural & Sporting Attache from the Irish Embassy was held in the National Yacht Club sailor's honour. Roy was among a number of Irish sailors in France to wish the intrepid County Meath sailor the very best for his Transatlantic Race ambitions.  

Dolan's aim is a podium place, and he has been on that podium or near it in almost every race this past summer. But now it’s down to the moment of truth tomorrow, to race the 1,350 miles to Gran Canaria, about a week of sailing following which there’s a pause while they wait for the current very vigorous hurricane season to end, and then they race the 2,700 miles Transatlantic miles to Le Marin in Martinique.

Read Afloat's Mini Transat Race preview with a special focus on Tom Dolan by W M Nixon here.

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In the days when sailing was a seasonal sport, a few main pillar events dominated the international programme. The Sailing Olympics. The America’s Cup. The Fastnet Race. The Dragon Gold Cup. The Sydney-Hobart Race. The Whitbread Round the World Race. And maybe a few others – we all had our favourites writes W M Nixon.

There weren’t many of those key events. Yet in a more leisurely era of primitive communication, they were enough to be going along with, and people became accustomed to the long intervals between them, intervals when we could concentrate obsessively on our own local and national sailing at events which were of little interest to anyone else.

But the advent of the Internet has changed sailing as it has changed everything else. Instant 24/7 communication demands a fast-running stream of narrative with images to match. In this new environment, the former pillar events find they are just part of an endless tapestry, and they have to take their chances with everything else to gain attention.

Time was when the fundamental changing of boat types in the America’s Cup would have been a matter of major interest, blowing every other sailing headline off page and screen in a big way, and for a long time.

But we’ve comfortably taken in our stride the recent gradually-released information that sailing’s peak event - the oldest international sporting challenge in the world - is reverting to mono-hulls, after three editions of supposedly setting the world a-fire with hyper-fast catamarans.

americas cup2So, farewell then, catamarans in the America’s Cup……Oracle unsuccessfully defended against Emirates New Zealand in Bermuda in June.

Here and there, devoted pot-stirrers found it difficult to provoke anyone to break sweat over the matter. Maybe in the core of the America’s Cup community – if there is such a thing – there was a weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. But among the rest of us, there was sublime indifference. We knew there’d be time enough to consider the new boats as the outlines of the next challenge became more clearly defined. And if there’s litigation in the meantime, that will be entertainment. Meanwhile, there’s a busy Autumn programme of major international events, several of which have a significant Irish interest, and that’s where our attention is focused.

Currently, the top story still has to be the confirmation of Annalise Murphy as a crewmember aboard the Volvo Ocean Racer Turn The Tide On Plastic. The sense of excitement when she was mentioned as a “probable” was tempered by the fact that she’d sustained that knee injury during a crazy capsize in the last race on her way to becoming the International Moth Women’s World Champion, and we’d to wait for total recovery from it before the Volvo World Race chapter in her life could properly begin.

annalise on foiling moth3Game for anything. Annalise Murphy giving her all on the foiling Moth, in which she is now Women’s World Champion.

Quite what her sports physio Mark McCabe had to say about the injury is probably unprintable, for a point made about her campaign towards the Olympic Silver Medal was that it was his guidance and skill which kept her injury-free at crucial stages in training and during the Olympic campaign.

We should all have a Mark McCabe for everyday life. But for now, the Olympics seem so yesterday in the Annalise story, for what she has undertaken may be sailing, but it certainly isn’t sailing as she has known it for so many years with a Laser Radial.

But despite that capsize, clearly she could hack it with the special demands of a foiling Moth, so now she is now re-shaping her enthusiasm, basic athleticism and special sailing skills to serve a team cause. And as of this morning, it has to be the most interesting single story in Irish sailing, particularly now that the Volvo 65s and their teams are gathered in Alicante, with the entire fleet being lifted out on Monday for the final meticulous checks.

There’s a special edge to it, for this year’s race - which starts on October 22nd - will see a much greater emphasis on the Southern Ocean. So as we move steadily towards the Centenary in 2023 of the beginning of Conor O’Brien’s pioneering of the global southern route for yachts with his Irish-built 42ft Saoirse, it’s more than appropriate that there’s a significant Irish presence in the developing Volvo setup, where the Alicante Volvo Race Village will open on 11th October, and the In-Port Race will be staged on Saturday October 14th.

conor obrien4Conor O’Brien, pioneer for yachts in the Southern Ocean on the Cape Horn route.

saoirse plans5A very different sort of boat from today’s Volvo 65. The traditonal-style 42ft gaff ketch Saoirse, built in Baltimore in 1922, proved remarkably successful at running fast yet safely in the Southern Ocean. Conor O’Brien designed a rig that relied on a squaresail on the mainmast, setting a triangular studding sail and topsail

King of it all for Ireland has to be Damian Foxall, who has raced or broken records round the world so often he has probably lost count, but this time he’s on the strength of Team Vestas. For Foxall, the link to Conor O’Brien is particularly special, as Damian hails from Derrynane in far southwest Kerry, and Derrynane was Conor O’Brien’s favourite port – you can see his signature in the Visitors’ Book in that superb watering hole so beloved of voyagers, Bridie Keating’s pub.

damian foxall6Damian Foxall in virtually unrivalled in his Volvo Ocean Race experience

derrynane harbour7Derrynane in Kerry – Conor O’Brien’s favourite anchorage, and Damian Foxall’s home port

But if Damian is King, Annalise is Queen, for even among the hugely talented Volvo crews, an Olympic Silver Medal – or any Olympic Medal for that matter - is rare enough. Indeed, it’s so rare that part of the fascination of the Annalise/Turn the Tide on Plastic linkup will be in how they work out together.

Annalise carries the flag for Ireland’s east coast in Alicante, while Justin Slattery will do it for the south if he turns up, as Damian Foxall expects. Others from Ireland include James O’Mahoney who’s also with Team Vestas, where Thomas John McMaw is Senior Project Manager to keep up the green jersey count, as too does VOR event contractor John Donnelly.

But as our colleague Tom MacSweeney pointed out on on Monday, it is Kerry which packs the punch in Alicante, as Brian Carlin of Tralee leads the team of OBRs (On-Board Reporters) who will be embedded on each boat, while Lucy Hunt who runs the Sea Synergy Awareness Centre at Waterville (it’s just over the mountain pass from Derrynane) is Sustainability Education Manager for this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, and will co-ordinate a schools programme.

volvo village8A long way from Derrynane….the Volvo Village at Alicante

However, for those who like to be up to speed with all in the main international sailing stories with Irish interest, some time soon there’ll be the Student Yachting Worlds in Marseilles, where UCD led by Will Byrne will be challenging for a trophy which Ireland has won in times past. Originally we were told it would be in September, but when students are running the show themselves, there’s freeform organization and timing, and the most recent date we see is still Marseilles, but not until October 17th to 22nd.

So the top up-coming interest is in La Rochelle towards the end of September, with the fleet gathered for the two-stage 4050 mile Mini-Transat (there’s a stop in the Canaries), with the race starting on Sunday October 1st. Ireland’s Tom Dolan with IRL 910 is currently fourth in the world rankings in the Mini Transat Production Boat Class, so he’s in with a good shout for a podium place. And we’re all behind him, with Irish Sailing President Jack Roy and Ireland’s Sports and Cultural Attaché in France the Guests of Honour at Tom’s party in La Rochelle at noon on Saturday September 30th.

tom dolan boat9Ireland’s Tom Dolan, currently fourth in the world rankings. His supporters will be gathering in La Rochelle in the week leading up to Sunday October 1st to wish him well when he starts the Mini-Transat, with the main party on Saturday September 30th.

Then in October, in addition to the Volvo World Race start and the Student Yachting Worlds, there’s the Rolex Middle Sea Race from Malta on Saturday October 21st, just the day before the Volvo gets going across in Spain. But there’s always lots of Irish interest in this annual Mediterranean classic, with the winning Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino last year being navigated by our own Ian Moore, while this year there’s added spice with the possible inclusion of the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thomson and Nin O’Leary hoping they’ll find conditions better suited to their very specialised flying machine than they did in the Fastnet Race back in August.

mascalzone latino10The Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino being navigated by Ian Moore to overall victory in the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2016. Photo Rolex

For those who look on into November, the Transat Jacques Vabre gets going from Le Havre on November 5th with a preponderance of IMOCA 60s, but for operational reasons Hugo Boss is not expected be among them. However, what’s clear is that the international programme is now non-stop, for by November we’ll be getting advance info on the Sydney-Hobart Race on 26th December 2017, which is the saving of Christmas for many of us.

autumn league howth11When cruisers battle for it - racing the Autumn League at Howth. Photo: W M Nixon

Meanwhile this morning in Douarnenez in Brittany the Figaro Fastnet Solo gets under way, and Autumn Leagues start to flex their muscles in Ireland, with Howth’s series starting today and running for six weekends, so the topline action continues at home and abroad in an unending stream.

There’s an old Arab saying which goes: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on”. It could reasonably be said of world sailing that there may indeed be dogs barking, but the purposeful rattling of camel harnesses is now virtually continuous.

Published in W M Nixon

There have been several Irish offshore racing sailors who have been making national and world headlines for some years now, but in recent weeks and months the wave of new enthusiasm for the big ticket events has surged to fresh heights.

One of the stories underlying all this is the potential for a specialist marine industry base in Cork Harbour serving the continuous needs of the most advanced racing machines, and providing a launch pad for global campaigns. The idea has been around for some time now, but as reported in as long ago as April 1st 2015, while the goodwill may be there, a firm decision is still awaited.

Local minister Simon Coveney has since moved on from the Marine to other Government departments. His present very senior role in representing Ireland through the Department of Foreign Affairs in decidedly turbulent times will mean that the needs of something so difficult to gauge for significant political and economic benefits will scarcely be top priority.

Yet for the many leading Irish sailors – both men and women – who have launched themselves into the decidedly uncertain world of top level professional competition, the problem of resources and facilities to keep the show on the road is always present, and frequently at crisis levels. W M Nixon wonders how there is going to be enough in the sponsorship pot – both nationally and globally – to help them all fulfill their dreams.

On Tuesday, received confirmation of a “virtual press conference” in Cork, in other words a clearcut announcement that Nin O’Leary’s co-skippering of the IMOCA 60 Hugo Boss with Alex Thompson was going to move on to a full-blooded Vendee Globe campaign by O’Leary himself, possibly with a new boat.

coveney thomson hosford2The then Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson, and Stewart Hosford at the announcement in Cork in 2015 of a possible international offshore racing hub on Haulbowline Island.

In the meantime, the word on the waterfront is that the two skippers may do the two-handed Barcelona World Race 2018 in the current boat. But beyond that, the campaign plan for the charismatic O’Leary, mentored by Thomson and orchestrated by Stewart Hosford, is rumoured to be the building up of enough resources to keep this boat, yet also build a new one.

This is because the boat is still almost state-of-the-art, she has some features still absent in other boats, and could be serious opposition in someone else’s hands. Thus the ideal scenario is to maintain control of their current technology and design, while moving on to the next stage of development with an even more advanced boat for the Vendee Globe in 2020.

nin oleary3Nin O’Leary – a charismatic figure for Ireland’s younger sailors

We’re talking mega-bucks here, and the relationship with Hugo Boss has been very fruitful, but the elephant in the room - which hasn’t been mentioned yet - is how long will the Hugo Boss sponsorship continue?

This may all become clearer within the next ten days, as Thomson, O’Leary and Hugo Boss are headed for Ireland, with Cork in their sights on Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th August, and then they’re in Dun Laoghaire for a very public appearance on Wednesday August 30th, and staying until the Friday, September 1st for the ongoing launch of their new brand Ireland Ocean Racing.

This puts them top of the billboards. But we mustn’t let it blind us to the hopes of other campaigners, and on Thursday of this week, Tom Dolan made his final public appearance in Ireland before returning to France for the countdown towards the start of the Mini Transat 2017 from La Rochelle at the beginning of October.

tom dolan boat4Although Tom Dolan has some sponsorship for IRL 910, there is still a shortfall in funding for the Mini Transat 2017 which starts at the beginning of October from La Rochelle

tom dolan and friends5Tom Dolan (right) and fellow skippers in the Mini 650 class at Concarneau. The camaraderie and mutual help among the sailors contributes to France’s dominant position in short-handed sailing

Although Tom has some support backers whose logos appear on his sails, he makes no bones about his overall situation, as his Pogo 3, IRL 910, currently enters races under the name of “Still Seeking a Sponsor”. Whether his presentation in the National YC on Thursday will turn on any money taps in Ireland remains to be seen, the fact is that it’s in France he makes most impact. But in Dun Laoghaire, his burning enthusiasm left an abiding impression, for although his chosen life-path may be more exciting than running the small family farm in Meath, there are times when it’s a massive struggle.

Tom is one of several Irish international offshore wannabees and established skippers who have made a point of having the cup of coffee with Marcus Hutchinson. Hutchinson has transformed himself from being a young sailor who first learned his craft in Howth into an international sailing campaign management figure who maintains his Irish connections through Kinsale, yet is now a key presence at the French-led cutting edge of specialist offshore programmes.

Marcus hutchinson6Marcus Hutchinson is first Port of Call for anyone seriously contemplating a short-handed offshore campaign

It’s rumoured that in Brittany he has access to a large warehouse full of IMOCA 60s and Open 40s and whatnot. What we do know for sure is that he was very much the background force in Paul Meilhat’s stunning victory in the IMOCA 60 SMA in the recent Rolex Fastnet Race, a neatly-read campaign whose success was highlighted by the inescapable fact that Hugo Boss finished eighth out of the nine IMOCA 60s competing.

SMA with her dagger boards was optimized for windward work, whereas Hugo Boss with her foils most emphatically wasn’t. But while those in the know are aware of this, Joe Public simply sees the final results and takes it from there.

sma fastnet7The Marcus Hutchinson-managed SMA was convincing winner of the IMOCA 60 Class in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2017. Photo: Carlo Borlenghi

Marcus Hutchinson’s deep well of sound advice is available to those who seek him out, and he is generous with his knowledge and sensible thoughts. Talking to yesterday morning, he made the point that of the current wave of French superstars in the bigger boats, many have done the Figaro Solo at least a dozen times, and he reckons that setting out to take on the Vendee Globe straight from a career – however successful – in fully-crewed boats, is akin to taking on Everest solo without first trying a few smaller mountains on your own.

The list of those specialist sailors from Ireland who have made a point of seeking advice and assistance at some stage from Marcus Hutchinson is both impressive and fascinating, as it includes Damian Foxall, Justin Slattery, Enda O'Coineen, David Kenefick, Joan Mulloy, Sean McCarter, Tom Dolan and most recently Conor Fogerty.

joan mulloy8Joan Mulloy of Westport in County Mayo has secured a Figaro through Marcus Hutchinson, but still requires sponsorship

david kenefick9David Kenefick of Cork is another solo sailor who was guided into the Figaro Class by Marcus Hutchinson

And a salient fact which emerges in talking to some of them is the thought that while the Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss campaign was impressive, its central ethos of being stand-alone was ultimately counter-productive.

Two of the lone skippers mentioned above went so far as to say that if the Hugo Boss campaign had been prepared to mix it a bit more with the strongholds of French single-handed sailing in Brittany, then they would have won the Vendee Globe instead of coming second.

That’s undoutedly one for the speculation mill. But it gets a certain reinforcement from a statement this week from Nin O’Leary, to the effect that moving the base from Portsmouth to Cork would have the beneficial result of making the major French centres seem more accessible, as there’s almost a feeling of being trapped in the Eastern Solent, whereas in Cork it’s open water – and open thinking - all the way to Ushant and beyond.

This desire for open water and open thinking is spreading. One of the most interesting news items of recent weeks was that Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy hoped to secure a berth aboard Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65 for the up-coming Volvo World Race. Unfortunately the knee injury Murphy exacerbated with a spectacular capsize at the conclusion of becoming the International Moth Women’s World Champion 2017 on Lake Garda has put that idea on hold, but this shift of interest from the grind of Olympic training on a tedious four year cycle to the more stimulating world of big-time offshore stuff, with maior events coming up in rapid succession, reflects a discernible pattern of changing public awareness.

turn the tide on plastic10The new Volvo 65 Turn the Tide on Plastic. Olympic Silver Medallist Annalise Murphy had to defer taking up a berth on Dee Caffari’s Volvo 65 because of a knee injury sustained during a capsize in the Moth Worlds at Lake Garda

So Olympic sailing, ever mindful of the need to continue to attract public attention by whatever means, is going to include a test offshore series, probably for two person boats, in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

This is of particular interest to any Irish sailor desperately seeking sponsorship, for the reality is that on our island, there are only half a dozen sports – if that - which are big enough to make an impact on their own. The minority sports - sailing included - only figure significantly in public awareness if they come up in the Olympic searchlight.

That Olympic searchlight in turn encourages others to get involved, thereby stretching the cloak of sponsorship ever thinner. So it will be some time, if ever, before we see a joint approach to the challenge of raising sponsorship for this branch of sailing. And Heaven knows, but it’s difficult enough to get an effective short-handed sailing campaign of international standard up to speed without the endless worry of finding the money. Yet that’s the way it is. But if you really do find the challenge irresistible,’s advice is to make arrangements to have a cup of coffee with Marcus Hutchinson before you do anything else.

Published in W M Nixon

The arrival earlier than expected of a fresh nor’wester in the Bay of Biscay in the final approaches to Les Sables d’Olonne at the finish of Stage 2 of Transgascogne 2017 last night put paid to Ireland’s Tom Dolan’s chances of a podium position for IRL 910 in the Mini 650 Class writes W M Nixon.

During the day yesterday, Dolan had taken full advantage of the veering northeast to east wind, which became fresher in his part of the course. At one stage, he had his boat Still Seeking a Sponsor leading the northern group by more than six miles. If these wind conditions had persisted as long as expected, he could have placed himself into an unassailable position between the northern group and the finish line by the time the nor’westerlies spread in.

But it was not be. Far out on the northern wing, Erwan le Draoulec and Clarisse Cremer - after being virtually becalmed for a while – found themselves being swept along for the final 20 miles at speeds of 8 knots plus. As for Tom Dolan, in a position which was now to lee, it was all he could do to get above six knots while still laying the finish line, and his problem became that of staying in third place ahead of Germain Kerlevo, who was approaching the finish to the north of him, coming rapidly in from astern along the Rhumb Line.

At the finish, Le Draoulec was twenty minutes ahead of Clarisse Cremer, which means she still wins the Trasngascogne 2017 on aggregate, as her sensational breakaway win of an hour ahead of le Draoulec at Aviles gives her a very comfortable time cushion. However, le Draoulec is firmly in second overall as his one hour margin over third-placed-at-Aviles Germain Kerlevo made his second overall very soundly based.

But with conditions in the new nor’wester now dominating the final miles, Kerlevo swept through to finish fourth twenty minutes ahead of Dolan, placing the Irishman fourth overall in the 53-strong fleet. Tom Dolan is still seen very popularly as “The Flying Irishman” and very much a boat to beat in the tight-knight Mini 650 community. But a podium place at this part of the campaign towards the Mini-Transat start at the beginning of October would have been a useful bonus at this stage of the programme.

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With just 19 miles to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne tonight, Ireland’s solo sailor Tom Dolan is currently leading the Mini 650 Class in Stage 2 of the Transgascogne 2017 from Aviles in northwest Spain writes W M Nixon. But his position is being rapidly eroded by a new nor’west breeze which has spread in to favour Erwan le Draoulec and Clarissa Cremer, who are well to the north of the rhumb line.

By the time harbour is reached, it is likely that Dolan’s biggest challenge will be to keep himself in third place, and thus finish third overall with a podium place when the times for the two legs are totalled. Cremer is carrying an advantage of two hours, and Le Draoulac of one hour, as a result of the extremely flukey finish of the outward leg, when Dolan missed third place by just one second.

All three leading boats are laying the line, but Cremer and Le Draoulec are sailing freer and faster, and everything points to them being in the lead at the finish. Thus unless there’s a total reversal of fortune, Dolan’s main objective is rapidly becoming that of staying ahead of Pierre Chedeville (currently 1.5 miles directly astern of him), and Germain Kerlevo, who holds a windward berth but is recorded as three miles further from the finish.

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Page 9 of 13

The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.


The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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