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Ireland’s Tom Dolan proved his preparation for next month’s La Solitaire du Figaro is on course when he finished a very tough, testing Solo Concarneau Trophée Guy Cotten race in fifth place from 33 starters.

Exhausted after sleeping for just one snatched hour between Thursday afternoon’s start and crossing the finish line back in Concarneau at 15:44 hrs local French time this Saturday afternoon, Dolan was quietly content that his only solo race so far this season – and the last before La Solitaire - went well and most of all that his carefully planned strategy paid off.

“My face is burning with the constant barrage of seawater over these last 36 hours, it has been quite an extraordinary race.” Smiled 37-year-old Dolan from County Meath, “In Ireland, we are maybe used to getting four seasons in one day but this race had everything from no wind to 35 knots, burning sunshine to thunder and lightning and heavy hailstones and no visibility. So it was a difficult race to stay on top of and so it feels good to come away with a result.”

Smurfit Kappa- Kignspan skipper Dolan and French ace Gildas Mahé – who sailed together on the Transat en Double race earlier this season – sought the weather strategy advice from Marcel van Triest, one of the world’s leading racing meteo experts and his ideas paid off.

“Basically we broke away to the east to stay to the north of a weather trough for as long as possible and that paid for us. At about six hours before the finish, I started to feel confident I could make a good result when the wind changed as I expected it to and I was able to see the fleet under me.” Dolan reported.

Smurfit Kappa-Kingpsan was sixth at the Birvideaux mark early in the course and eighth at the most southerly turn. “These are kind of arbitrary positions because one minute you can be third and the next 11th the fleet is so close and the angles changing all the time on a race like that. And so I really did not watch where the others were, I sailed my own race according to what I could see on the water and in the clouds. Really I tried not to focus on the others at all and that works for me.” Tom Dolan concluded, “But for sure I made the right sail choices at the right time and seem to be fast enough.”

Fifth place in this fleet matches Dolan’s career best fifth on last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro.

Published in Tom Dolan

The organisers of The Race Around, Class 40’s official round-the-world race, have announced the establishment of a solo category running alongside the already announced double-handed fleet.

In a move that will spark memories of the highly successful ‘BOC Challenge’ and ‘Around Alone’ era, the organisers have also taken the opportunity to increase the number of entries from 25 to 35, inclusive of five wild cards.

The race is planned for 2023 starting from France.

Sam Holliday, Managing Director of, The Race Around said, “Since announcing The Race Around in late 2019 we’ve been blown away by the level of interest around the race and have taken the time to speak with a number of those looking to compete. It has become clear that the Class40 continues to boom and we have to take into account a growing trend of those wanting to compete in a global event that goes beyond the traditional reach of Class40. The Race Around therefore perfectly fills the void for those that have finished the Mini Transat and the Route du Rhum and perhaps have the following Vendée Globe cycle in their sights.”

The inclusion of the solo category has created a race with two trophies. The solo class will race for The Race Around Trophy with the double-handed fleet racing for The Race Around Cup.

Hugh Piggin, Co-founder, The Race Around said, “Upon making this decision our main thought has always been to provide a race that aligns with the ethos of an international Class, raced by both amateurs and professionals and The Race Around remains exactly that. The ability to choose the category that best suits the respective competitors will allow a varied and interesting mix between professionals seeking glory and seasoned amateurs looking for an adventure of a lifetime whilst racing alongside and against some of the sports established names.”

Further to the inclusion of a solo category, organisers are also delighted to have signed a long-term partnership agreement with Class40. This agreement will ensure The Race Around’s continued success beyond the first edition which will start in 2023. The partnership agreement details how the two organisations will work together to ensure members are provided with the best racing opportunities whilst also ensuring a greater level of technological collaboration with regard to safety, sustainability, event qualification and more.

The Race Around is looking to establish itself as one of the great ocean racesThe Race Around is looking to establish itself as one of the great ocean races

Halvard Mabire, President, Class 40 Association said, “We’re delighted to have signed a long-term partnership agreement between our two organisations. It is clear that The Race Around is looking to establish itself as one of the great ocean races and we, as a Class, are proud to work alongside them in a true partnership. The inclusion of a solo class allows us to dream once again of the golden era of the BOC Challenge and Around Alone, races in which the racing was tough, and adventure was real. Today’s announcement allows further opportunity for competitors to stay within the class and for partners and sponsors to gain exposure on a global platform whilst also providing seasoned amateurs the ability to complete a lifelong goal of circumnavigating the globe.”

More on this new race here

Published in Offshore
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A second son of the late solo circumnavigator Pat Lawless from Limerick has announced plans to follow in his father's wake and sail solo around the world.

Peter and his brother Pat, both based in County Kerry, are embarking on separate solo circumnavigation over the next two years emulating the world-girdling exploits of their father in 1997.

It's a feat that could see the siblings achieve the feat of being the first Irish sailors to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigations of the world.

Peter Lawless - solo voyage

Peter (52) will begin an eight-month voyage in August 2021, such timing that will mean he will be should be home before his older brother Pat departs for France and the start of the 2022 Golden Globe Race in September 2022.

In August Peter, who lives in Annascaul near Dingle, plans to sail solo, non-stop, unassisted around the world from Ireland back to Ireland via the five great capes, using a sextant and paper charts as his primary navigation tools.

Peter estimates the trip will take him approximately eight month's non-stop in the Rival 41, Waxwing, a standard production offshore cruising yacht that upgraded for the challenge. Check out his video below.

Peter Lawless on his Rival 41, WaxwingPeter Lawless on his Rival 41, Waxwing

As regular Afloat readers will recall, this will be the second circumnavigation for Waxwing. It was the boat used by Peter and Susan Gray two sailing adventurers of the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire who completed an eight-year trip around the world in the yacht in 2003.

Pat Lawless - Golden Globe 2022 Race entrant

As Afloat previously reported, Pat (66), from Ballyferriter, will be following Dublin sailor Gregor McGuckin, a competitor in the 2018 Golden Globe race, when he crosses the line of the 2022 race.

He aims to finish what McGuckin started in the 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe Race and become the first Irishman to complete a non-stop, unassisted solo circumnavigation of the world. 

Pat revealed the depths of his ambition when he told Afloat over the Christmas "I would not sail solo nonstop around the World, unless it was a race, that I had a fair hope of winning".

He says he is 'delighted' with his Saltram Saga 36, a 'safe and fast' boat, currently on the hard in Dingle Harbour, County Kerry.

Saltram Saga 36Pat Lawless's Saltram Saga 36 is craned out at Dingle Harbour in County Kerry. A lot of work done has been done to prepare the boat for the 20202 Golden Globe Race, but there is plenty left to do, says the Kerry skipper

Over the last six decades, Pat has amassed around 150,000km on the water between sailing and fishing. In the build-up to the GGR, Lawless is planning a voyage to Iceland this summer. 

"I will sail to the island of Jan Mayen in the Arctic next year, Going around Iceland on the way. Been over 25 years since I sailed there" he told Afloat.

"Hopefully, if COVID-19 permits I will sail around Ireland also, stopping in many ports," he adds.

Published in Solo Sailing

After its successful match racing webinar earlier this season, the National Yacht Club’s Under 25 and under 30 sections are now moving offshore for their next online session.

The NYCs very own Tom Dolan, who achieved the best ever Irish finish, fifth overall in the 2020 Solitaire du Figaro, will be joining the Dun Laoghaire Harbour sailors for an hour of questions in order to get to more about the life of a solo offshore sailor.

This webinar will focus on gaining an insight into solo offshore life, Toms do’s and don'ts when offshore, as well as his thoughts on the future of short-handed sailing in Ireland.

This webinar is open to all. Zoom details:

Published in Tom Dolan

As 33 potential Cape Horners prepare for the start of the 9th Vendée Globe solo non-stop round the world race from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 8, The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the mantle of maintaining an official register of those who have completed solo circumnavigations via the Three Great Capes – Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn.

The listing, which records 155 solo non-stop circumnavigators and a further 143 who have completed true circumnavigations around the three Capes with stops en route, has been compiled from listings maintained previously by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation back in 1969, historian DH ‘Nobby’ Clarke, The World Sailing Speed Record Council and information culled from books and the public domain.

Click here to review the IACH Register of Solo Circumnavigators

Commenting on the new Register, Sir Robin said today: "It seems totally appropriate that the IACH now becomes the holder of the list of solo circumnavigators passing south of the Three Great Capes. This is a valuable resource.”

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) being congratulated by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after winning the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Photo credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) being congratulated by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston after winning the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Photo credit: Christophe Favreau/PPL/GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede, the father figure of French solo sailing and a serial Cape Horner who has rounded the infamous Cape 10 times, the last time when leading the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race, agrees: “To list all the sailors who have turned around the world alone with or without stopovers has been a huge task. It is a very important part of the history of navigation and I hope a lot more names will be added over time.”

The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF.The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF. Photo: Jean-Marie LIOT / ALEA / MACIF

The current record for the fastest solo non-stop circumnavigation is held by Frenchman François Gabart with a time of 42 days 16h 40' 3" set in 2017 aboard the 30m trimaran Ultim MACIF. The time to beat for the current Vendée Globe monohull entrants is 74d 03h 36' set by fellow Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h in his IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire during the last race in 2017.

The oldest solo circumnavigator is Australian yachtsman Bill Hatfield who, at 79, completed a west-about route in his 11.58m monohull L'Eau Commotion in 2018 with a time of 414 days. The youngest is fellow Australian Jessica Watson who in 2010 at the age of 16, completed a non-stop solo Southern Hemisphere circumnavigation via the three Great Capes in her 10.23m yacht Ella's Pink Lady but failed to sail the full 21,600 orthodromic distance set by the WSSRC to claim a full circumnavigation.

History and membership criteria

All who complete a circumnavigation via Cape Horn are welcome to join the exclusive International Association of Cape Horners and claim an official certificate to commemorate their achievement.

The Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horniers was founded in 1936 by a group of French Master Mariners based in St Malo to form an exclusive, albeit dying bond, between those who had sailed round Cape Horn in square rigged sailing ships. Those are now history. The last commercial sailing ship voyage was in 1949 when the Pamir and Passat sailed from South Australia bound for Falmouth. In 1969, the British Chapter of the Association became the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) and amended the membership criteria to read: ‘To promote and strengthen the ties of comradeship which bind together the unique body of men and women who enjoy the distinction of having voyaged round Cape Horn under sail.’

Specifically, full membership, currently £20 per annum, is open to those who have rounded Cape Horn under sail as part of a non-stop passage of at least 3,000 nautical miles which passes above the latitude of 52° South in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and is completed without the use of engines for propulsion.

Associates are those with an interest in Cape Horn but whose experiences do not meet the full membership criteria. One of the latest Associates is Susie Goodall whose yacht was pitch-poled and dismasted 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn during the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race.

This modernising approach has opened membership to all those who have raced around Cape Horn in events like the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean races, Sir Chay Blyth’s Global Challenge events, the Jules Verne Challenge and solo events such as the BOC Challenge, Vendée Globe, Five Oceans and Golden Globe races. Membership is also open to the many who have cruised around the infamous Cape under sail.

“Sailing around Cape Horn, the Everest of ocean sailing, has always been a badge of honour. I commend anyone who has achieved this great feat to join the IACH”, says the Earl of Portsmouth, the Association’s President.

Published in Solo Sailing
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Dublin sailor Alan McMahon has published a book on his solo sailing adventures aboard a Hallberg Rassy 352 which he sailed across the Atlantic and back in 2018/19. 

'Sailing Away' is an autobiographical account of one man's 13-month adventure, sailing across the Atlantic from Europe to the Caribbean and back, single-handed. It is a story of breaking away from the shackles of the office to work remotely from the boat. Breaking away temporarily from family and friends and embracing the isolation of the ocean. The book is written in diary format with a day-by-day account of the experience of being a solo sailor.

The story starts in Dublin preparing the boat, a 35-foot Hallberg Rassy 352, before setting sail December 2018 from the Canary Islands. Alone at sea for three weeks, there were many high points as well as emotional lows. On arrival in the Caribbean, read about the life of a liveaboard sailor, sailing to nine exotic Caribbean islands and a near sinking when the boat ran into a fishing net. The return trip in May 2019 to Europe was via the Azores. A mid-Atlantic swim nearly left the author stranded, as the boat started to drift away. Another time during the night, he was thrown off balance and nearly overboard.

Sailing Away is an auto biographical account of one Dublin man's solo voyage across the Atlantic and backSailing Away is an autobiographical account of one Dublin man's solo voyage across the Atlantic and back

The Appendix section is packed with useful information and tips for anyone preparing for a major voyage.

The author is 47 years of age. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. Sailing the Atlantic is his second adventure; in 2003 he flew 25,000 miles around the world in the single-engine light aircraft, crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Flying was his passion until he made a switch to sailing in 2007. A complete novice to sailing he built his experience in incremental steps, starting by learning to sail on a small daysailor boat.

Published in Cruising
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When solo star Tom Dolan was told last Saturday evening that the exceptionally calm condition of the inner Bay of Biscay meant that the proposed final fourth stage of the Solitaire du Figaro 2020 would not be sailed, among the first things he did was to phone his longtime sailing friend Gerry Jones back home in Ireland. For that cancellation of the final stage confirmed the leaderboard on the results of the first three stages, and it resulted in the Meath sailor finishing the 2020 event at fifth overall as the best-placed non-French skipper since 1997.

It says much that, in the instant wave of euphoria and the wild party mood which swept over the leading dozen or so skippers in St Nazaire, Dolan's almost immediate instinct was to contact the sailing friend and mentor whom he'd met many years ago through Glenans Ireland in Baltimore, where Gerry Jones had recognised the young Meath man's enormous natural sailing talent.

Tom Dolan at a Pre-Race briefing during his early days in FranceTom Dolan at a Pre-Race briefing during his early days in France

It certainly wasn't a talent which you would have expected to emerge from Tom Dolan's background as the son of a farmer in that hidden part of north county Meath beyond the Boyne and the Blackwater. But one day his father happened to glimpse - in a Buy & Sell magazine - a classified ad with photo of a Miracle dinghy. It was a sort of enlarged up-graded Mirror which lacked the magic of the original and had totally failed to catch on in Ireland. Thus the price was for nothing, so a deal was done and the boat collected from Boyle in County Roscommon, and that weekend, Dolan Senior and his young son Tom were fulfilling the father's long-held dream of a little bit of sailing on the nearest decent-sized lake to home, which happens to be rather a classy one, as it's Lough Ramor.

Tom's first command – the Miracle dinghy was a rarity in Ireland.Tom's first command – the Miracle dinghy was a rarity in Ireland

Where it all began – Lough Ramor in the middle of IrelandWhere it all began – Lough Ramor in the middle of Ireland

Knowing how much Irish farmers value the tradition of the family farm passing to the next generation, it's doubtful if that little boat would have ever seen Dolan family ownership if the father had foreseen its ultimate outcome. For young Tom was hooked by this first very experimental introduction to sailing, and instead of spending the key years of his life in his 20s and early 30s in learning the lore of working the land, his home place has become Concarneau in Brittany, and he has been learning the salty ways of the ocean and the coast in the pressure-cooker world of French solo and dual sailing at the top level of the MiniTransat and Figaro Solo circuses.

As a young Irish person from a non-sailing background, he was in one of the later cohorts to find their way into our oddly-inaccessible sport through the Glenans Ireland set up in Baltimore, rather than through the more established route of family and friends. The Glenans business model was ultimately based on the frugal conditions which existed in late 1940s France, which transferred very well to the austerity of Ireland in the 1970s and '80s. But the advent of the Celtic Tiger and the ready availability of package holidays to sunshine-guaranteed sailing schools greatly reduced the appeal of Glenans in Ireland.

However, by the time its Baltimore operations were moving towards a close, Tom Dolan had found this means of vibrant self-expression through sailing and tuition with Glenan Ireland and was ready to spread his wings in a broader setting. And in Gerry Jones, he had met someone with a true talent scout's eye for sailing ability, a generous-hearted man who had a foot in both the established sailing world and in Glenans, and someone moreover who recognized and understood the growing determination of the young Meathman to take this sailing game just as far as he could.

Concarneau in Brittany. Tom Dolan's new home port is a characterful old place with a highly-developed modern marine industry. Concarneau in Brittany. Tom Folan's new home port is a characterful old place with a highly-developed modern marine industry.

So by 2011 aged 24, Tom had taken the step of moving to France to make his way in the small and very specialised industry which has developed around solo and short-handed racing, eventually settling in one of its most congenial centres at Concarneau in Brittany. He knew that he was already significantly older than many of the young Turks under the age of 20 who were establishing their mark through various sailing academies and specialised bursary schemes. But equally any overview of the French sailing scene showed some continuing stars who were much older than himself. And anyway, this was what he wanted to do, his determination never faltered even if, for the first year or so, Brittany in the depth of winter could seem a lonely enough place.

But enthusiasm and energy soon provides its own company, and his willingness to work hard and get involved meant that at times he could get into a boat maintenance and preparation programme that sometimes resulted in the loan of the boat to compete as a skipper in his own right in one of the lower-profile events.

This was mostly being done in events in and around the MiniTransat programme, the race across the Atlantic every four years for highly-developed 6.5-metre boats which can often prove embarrassingly fast when set in competition with much larger more orthodox craft. Even when sailing a loaned Pogo 2 in a Mini event, Tom was making his mark, such that he soon acquired the moniker of L'Irlandais Volante - the Flying Irishman – and this was further emphasised when he finally bought his own new Pogo 3 in 2015.

The Flying Irishman - this vid shows Tom at his best, carving his way through the fleet with the new boat

It all looks very complete and well-resourced, but he acquired the boat in the most basic form possible using limited funds built around a small inheritance – "I bet the farm" he quipped at the time – and finished her himself while making income from a Sailing Academy he was running in Concarneau with his close sailing buddy Francois Jambou.

Life was acquiring a more stabilised form and a settled Concarneau base as Tom and Karen Charles Boiteux set up home together. But while the sailing fundamentals were there, with the countdown to the 2017 Mini-Transat underway, good results were coming in during various preliminary events, yet a really solid main sponsor was still needed.

Thus although the new boat appeared in races during 2016 with various sponsorship logos on the sails, they were for small amounts, and in the entry lists she was unequivocally-named as "Still Seeking Sponsor". But one of those sponsors was Irish-based packaging giant Smurfit Kappa, in a trial deal negotiated through its Paris unit, and by 2017 this had been firmed up to become a main sponsorship for the up-coming Mini Transat, while encouraging support was coming from another direction in the form of Jack Roy, the newly-elected President of Irish Sailing, who made a point of being in La Rochelle for the start of the race with its 50-plus fleet at the end of September.

Tom Dolan and Irish Sailing President Jack Roy in La Rochelle in September 2017 before the start of the Mini TransatTom Dolan and Irish Sailing President Jack Roy in La Rochelle in September 2017 before the start of the Mini Transat

Although by this stage Tom was building up a personal support team around himself, the mental stress was still enormous, and in the early stages of the race, he made some very unnecessary mistakes for which he continued to chide himself when a psychologically better-prepared sailor would have long since moved on. But as the race progressed his sheer talent began to show through, and by the time the final leg Transatlantic to St Lucia was well underway, he was on top form, very much in contention and well placed in the top ten such that in the final stages he looked like being fourth.

But when Smurfit Kappa came into port, she was sixth. It was an excellent placing, but where had she slipped from fourth? The skipper was in a thoughtful mood, but finally, he revealed that in driving flat out in a classic trade-wind squall, Smurfit Kappa had pitch-poled and Tom found himself in the ocean, looking up at the keel of his inverted boat.

If you're going to pitch-pole, you wouldn't expect a rig of this relative size to survive the experience, yet Tom Dolan showed it was possible in the Atlantic in 2017.If you're going to pitch-pole, you wouldn't expect a rig of this relative size to survive the experience, yet Tom Dolan showed it was possible in the Atlantic in 2017.

Never before had a Mini-Transat boat pitch-poled and come up with her rig intact. Yet The Flying Irishman established a first yet again. Everything was still there and more or less intact as the little boat shook herself upright like a dog emerging from a river, and Tom hauled himself back on board to get things back on track. Although a couple of places had been lost when the somewhat subdued skipper came into port, his name and the boat's name were fully established as serious contenders, and it was time to move on to the exalted heights of the Figaro Solo.

There was much Irish experience and precedent to draw on, as it was in the Figaro that Damian Foxall first took centre stage on the global offshore sailing scene, and since then Marcus Hutchinson had developed his "Figaro Academy" which provided an entrée to this quintessentially French event for young sailors from other countries who accepted that while it may indeed have been very French, it was the only show in town at that level anywhere in the world.

Thus the Hutchinson clientele came from several countries, and young David Kenefick from Cork was among them for a couple of successful years. But with Hutchinson's involvement in the French offshore scene expanding to include the management of IMOCA 60s for events like the Vendee Globe, it was getting quite crowded up there for Irish sailors on the peak of top-level professional offshore racing.

Yet in this fast-moving world, Tom Dolan and Smurfit Kappa got themselves a Figaro 2 for that marque's last main series in 2018, and the Dolan career stayed well on track with the first prize for top rookie, with the awards due to be handed out at the Paris Boat Show in December, when the new foiling Beneteau Figaro 3 would be unveiled.

For now, the main target had become the Golden Jubilee of the Figaro Solitaire in June 2019, when the fleet would take in Ireland with a gala visit to Kinsale. So there was a very definite buzz in the air when the new-look foiling Beneteau 3s were unveiled at that Paris Show, with Irish Sailing's Jack and Rosemary Roy's reassuring presence in evidence to back up Figaro aspirants Tom Dolan and Joan Mulloy.

Joan Mulloy, Jack Roy and Tom Dolan and the Paris Boat Show, December 2018. Photo: Rosemary RoyJoan Mulloy, Jack Roy and Tom Dolan and the Paris Boat Show, December 2018. Photo: Rosemary Roy

But while Mulloy was very much a Figaro beginner at that time, and has since stood down from front-line competition after starting a family, Tom Dolan was seen as the developing force of proven achievement and significant potential, something which was underlined with his award of the 2018 Rookie Prize at the ceremony in the show.

Awards for Tom Dolan in the 2018 Figaro Solo at the Paris Boat ShowAwards for Tom Dolan in the 2018 Figaro Solo at the Paris Boat Show

Yet everything in 2019 seemed to conspire against more Dolan success in that season. For sure, there some events of high achievement, but the pressure of getting the fleet of brand new Figaros race-ready for the big event provided a host of manufacturing teething problems to which Tom's boat seemed even more prone than most. And though, when everything was in place and functioning properly, in steady sailing conditions he was clearly back to his old self as l'Irlandais Volant, it was a disappointing Figaro Solitaire, and he finished 25th overall.

But being Tom Dolan, he bounced back, albeit after some coruscating self-analysis which was published in July 2019 in in response to the question: What was your own debrief after La Solitaire, and how does that affect your strategy for next year?

"When I was ahead I seemed to be as good as the best, and when I was behind I was terrible, as bad as the worst. So I want to get my head sorted out a bit. I am planning to work with a very good sports psychologist in Dublin who works with the Irish Olympic team. I saw her a bit last year, but this year time ran away with work on the boat and training and everything. The psychological side of it fell by the wayside. I did not put that side of it high enough on my list of priorities. I imagine the things I need to work are basic: Decision making, and how I can look after and manage myself better.

How to break the pattern of doing badly when you are losing. That's in the head, isn't it? I maybe concentrated too much on finding speed, and I did find it. And that's great if you are going fast in the right direction. But if you are going fast in the wrong direction……"

In due course, 2020 was approached in a much better frame of mind. But as the New Year turned, it became increasingly clear that the pandemic-facing world might have bigger problems to deal with than the state of mind of professional athletes. Yet in the end, it all does revert to the personal, and for Tom Dolan as for others in his situation, it was a matter of maintaining the healthiest possible attitude as the French sailing authorities grappled with ways of providing some sort of sport while complying with regulations, no easy matter in a country in which the shoreside aspect of major sailing events is often on an even bigger scale that the event itself.

New boat, full sponsorship – Tom Dolan gets to grips with the foiling Figaro 3 New boat, full sponsorship – Tom Dolan gets to grips with the foiling Figaro 3

With the Figaro put back to September, in July the Drheam Cup starting 18th July from Cherbourg and going round Brittany to La Trinite sur Mer offered an interesting challenge for standard offshore racers and the Figaro fleet racing both solo and double-handed. Apart from learning how to handle COVID-19 compliance ashore and afloat, it was very educational for the large mixed fleet in that the clear overall winner on the water was Figaro solo sailor Sam Goodchild racing Leyton which - for those who hadn't previously experienced it - was a very telling introduction to the stratospherically high standard of modern Figaro racing.

Covid-proofed…..Tom Dolan (right) and Francois Jambou racing to second in class in the big-fleet Drheam Cup from Cherbourg to La Trinite in JulyCovid-proofed…..Tom Dolan (right) and Francois Jambou racing to second in class in the big-fleet Drheam Cup from Cherbourg to La Trinite in July.

Tom Dolan for his part had teamed up with old shipmate Francois Jambou to race double-handed, and they took second in division, but now the challenge was to stay in tune and keep fit through times of uncertainty and frustration until the Figaro Solitaire got underway from St Brieuc in the middle of the North Brittany coast at the end of August, with the first stage 642 miles round the Fastnet Rock and back to St Brieuc.

Every stage was covered in detail on here so now we can take the broader view of noting that while Tom Dolan was once again showing that he could be one of the fastest boats in the fleet, in 2020's edition he was spending more time making that speed in the right place and in the right direction.

In other words, he was a serious contender throughout, and it was hugely reassuring to note that when in subsequent stages he might find himself down the fleet, there was something remorseless about the way Smurfit Kappa chose the right tactical options and steadily milled her way into the leading group.

The four stages of the Figaro Solitaire, September 2020.The four stages of the Figaro Solitaire, September 2020

The most difficult stage was what proved to be the final one, 512 miles from Dunkerque down the English Channel and round west Brittany through the many islands inside Ushant and on to St Nazaire in Loire-Atlantique. Anyone who has cruised in that tide-riven maze of rocks and islands inside Ushant will wonder how on earth a fleet of 35 solo sailors could seriously race in light airs and misty conditions in such waters. Yet they did it, some did it very well indeed, and Tom Dolan was one of them, confirming himself into a good fifth overall when the first three stages were tallied in St Nazaire.

And that's where it ended. Difficult and all as it is to believe with the weather Western Europe has been experiencing since then, a week ago in St Nazaire the Figaro Solitaire organisers were looking at 36 hours of total calm right over the period they hoped to stage their final 183-mile "sprint". At first, they proposed a shortened course, but as the freakish weather became even flatter, it would have been a lottery if they'd managed a finish, and everything pointed to the decision last Saturday night, which led to that euphoric phone call to Dublin and the good news for Gerry Jones.

A solo skipper in harmony with his boat – Tom Dolan finished the 2020 Figaro in tune with ship and seaA solo skipper in harmony with his boat – Tom Dolan finished the 2020 Figaro in tune with ship and sea

So now the show is on the road more firmly than ever, with a delighted Smurfit Kappa looking forward to continuing with the Dolan campaign through 2021's Figaro Solitaire. And who knows what lies beyond that, with a crew of mixed gender in an offshore racing boat scheduled for inclusion in the 2024 Olympics, and Tom Dolan demonstrably an Irish offshore sailor of proven standard.

Certainly, it was something for thought when Sailing on Saturday was talking with Tom on Thursday, and he has already had some approaches from potential co-skippers. He was acutely aware that decisions made in the next few months could affect his sailing for years. But even so, the top item this week has been sleep and more sleep. Tom Dolan has been sleeping for Ireland since Monday. And he sure has earned it after more than a year of frustration, rounded out by three weeks of intense concentration and ferocious sleep deprivation.

But before hitting the scratcher, there was the prize-giving, and as Marcus and Meagan Hutchinson presented the Vivi Cup (named after their vintage 30 Square Metre) a couple of years ago as the prize for the top non-French contender in the Figaro Solitaire, this provided the opportunity for the Man from Meath to do his thing, and here it is:

Marcus & Meagan Hutchinson's classic 30 Square Metre Vivi gives her name to the trophy for the top non-French performer in the FigaroA boat about as different from a Figaro 3 as you can get – Marcus & Meagan Hutchinson's classic 30 Square Metre Vivi gives her name to the trophy for the top non-French performer in the Figaro – in 2019 it was Alan Roberts, in 2020 the winner is Tom Dolan

Published in Tom Dolan

Approaching his 60th birthday, Cork Harbour sailor Peter Murray was looking for a boat he could easily sail single-handed when he came across the eight-metre sportsboat' Wild Honey' in County Wicklow

My first sight of Wild Honey was on her road-trailer in a little boatyard at the bottom of a leafy boreen in County Wicklow. Designed as an out-and-out sports-boat by her owner Simon Greenwood of Wicklow, she was for sale while he concentrated on other projects. Surveys were arranged and a deal was done, and I found I had become the new owner of an uncompromising 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedar and weighing less than a ton fully rigged.

Wild Honey - an 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedarWild Honey - an 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedar

Having previously owned a series of small racing yachts, I had taken a break from sailing for several years after I became self-employed. Now, with my 60th birthday approaching, and with it the prospect of having a bit more time on my hands, I was looking for a small yacht for leisure sailing on those fine summer evenings when all sailors fret at being ashore. I didn’t wish to be dependent on crew and one of my foremost requirements was for a boat I could easily sail single-handed. Because she would be kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power - but it had to be an arrangement that didn’t involve wrestling with an outboard motor over the transom.

Because Wild Honey was kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power Because Wild Honey was kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power

I was originally attracted by the new-generation of small day-sailers that had just begun to appear in the Mediterranean and on the lakes of Central Europe. These little yachts, sleek and elegant, and influenced by Italian yacht-designers Luca Benta and Luca Bassani (of ‘Wally’ fame), were frequently described as small “gentleman’s (or gentlewoman’s) day-sailers”, designed for pure sailing pleasure. The only glitch, I soon found out, was that these small sailing Ferraris came with Ferrari-like prices - so the idea of a “project” began to form. My first plan was to pick up an old 1720 sportsboat and convert it to what I had in mind. Then I heard of a little yacht ashore on the East Coast which might prove an even better starting point.

And that’s how I found myself, one October day in 2012, in a boatyard at the bottom of that leafy boreen in County Wicklow.

After Simon delivered Wild Honey to Cork, the serious planning and sourcing of equipment and materials began, and work was immediately started on removing all the deck-equipment and carrying out the alterations to the coachroof and down below needed to accommodate the rerouting and concealment of the sail-controls.

I had decided that the deck was to be clean and kept clear of all the control lines, and that these would be carried beneath the coachroof along two new watertight channels before emerging just ahead of the two sheet winches. A single-sheet self-tacking system was devised for the jib with a below-deck ‘Facnor’ furler mated to a ‘Bartels’ aluminium head-foil. To accommodate the furler and furler-lines below deck it was necessary to fix the original retractable articulating bowsprit laterally and to reduce its length slightly. This entailed redesigning the bow area, changing the forward chainplate arrangement, and straightening the bow-profile. The re-profiled bow had the added aesthetic benefit of giving Wild Honey a more modern looking plumb-bow. The shorter bow-sprit would still retract, but would now be fitted with a furler and torque-line for ‘top-down’ furling an asymmetric spinnaker or code ’0’ foresail. Like all the sail controls, the furler lines would be led below deck and out of sight.

A teak-laid deck was always an integral part of the plan to give the boat a “Wally”-like appearance. However, the time involved in preparing and shaping teak strips led me to look at alternatives. Eventually, I discovered an imitation teak product made in Sweden by “Flexiteek” whose appearance and texture make it virtually indistinguishable from the real thing - even at close inspection. I selected the colour-option that had the silver-grey look teak gets after exposure to the elements. One of the most exacting jobs in the entire operation was making the templates to enable the Flexiteek agent to fabricate the traditional herring-bone patterned decking. For this job, I had the indispensable assistance of an artist friend who showed me how to cut and shape the cardboard templates that would go to the Flexiteek agent. The time spent on getting it right was well worth it because when the decking came back it fitted perfectly, and it was a relatively easy - if rather messy - job to fit. However, when laid and cured, it was possible, just like real teak, to clean off the excess caulking with a power-sander.

Once the coachroof and bow alterations had been completed, and all the holes and hollows faired, and before the teak-decking was laid, Wild Honey was sent to the paint-shop for a complete re-spray. The original light blue paint-job had faded badly and the boat needed smartening-up. I decided to paint the hull and spars a very dark navy-blue which I hoped would best complement the new teak decking.

When the boat returned from the paint-shop all shiny and elegant, we laid the decking using synthetic black caulking supplied by the agent. We then began the work in planning the sail-control systems and placing and securing the deck-fittings. We were concerned about the compressibility of the Flexiteek under load, so the decking had to be cut out directly underneath all the deck fittings, and hard pads fabricated to match the cut-outs before we secured the sheet-winches, pad-eyes, mainsheet track, and stanchions.

I had originally intended to construct a well in the aft-deck for the small outboard motor. However, early in the project, I decided on a more ambitious solution to the auxiliary power question and one more in keeping with the character of the project by installing electric inboard propulsion. Research on the web led me to the Lynch Motor Company in Devon who make a series of small and powerful electric ‘pancake’ motors and control-systems suitable for marine applications. Further enquiries established that the marine-equipment company, Silettes, could supply a suitable sail-drive leg and a mating-flange. The motor I fitted is rated at about 4 HP, driving a 35mm’ ‘Gori’ folding prop, all of which is more than adequate to drive a small light-displacement yacht. Two deep-cycle AGM batteries, arranged ‘in series’, supply the required 24 volts.

Wild Honey's battery and engine arrangement

The motor is capable of driving the boat at up to 5 kts depending on sea-conditions and has an endurance at 2/3rds power of about an hour and a half. Endurance isn’t an issue anyhow because the motor is normally only needed to get on and off the marina. The engine, batteries, control-system, saildrive and prop, weigh under 90 kg - far less than a small diesel and its ancillaries. One advantage of an electric motor in addition to silent operation is that it is completely vibration-free, which means the sail-drive unit on which the engine sits can be bolted directly to the hull without the necessity of the elaborate vibration-damping system required with diesel propulsion.

Wild Honey has a flexible, ‘walk-on’ solar cell array on the coachroof between the hatch and the mast. This is perfectly adequate for charge-maintenance and to recharge the batteries after a brief use of the motor. But after any prolonged use, the built-in shore-charger is needed to restore the batteries to full charge.

The final job was to reprofile the very narrow keel and increase the chord by about 30% to make the boat more forgiving to steer in very light conditions without significantly affecting her all-around performance.

The work to convert a very extreme racing sports-boat into an elegant day-sailer was carried out during the spring and summer of 2014, and Wild Honey in her new incarnation was launched at Crosshaven Boatyard in September of the same year. She immediately proved to be a joy to sail, requiring only the gentlest of breeze to get her moving, yet she is equally well able to stand up to her full sail in a stiff breeze. Like a traditional yacht, she depends on her very high ballast-ratio for stability, rather than beam and bodies on the rail. Her narrow hull also gives her an easy motion in a sea, and the lightness of a racing-dinghy on the helm - even when well-heeled. She is also as pretty as anything, drawing admiring comment, and has become a bit of a conversation-piece on the marina.

 All sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand All sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand

With all sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand, a furling self-tacking-jib, fully-battened mainsail with boom-strut and lazy-guys to make sail hoisting and handling simple, and an electric motor for getting on and off the marina, Wild Honey has proved the ideal little yacht for unstressed single-handed sailing in any conditions a “gentleperson” might wish to be out on the water in. She has been the perfect excuse to escape a little early from the office on those balmy summer evenings. I admit I’ve even done the odd race!

Wild Honey - SpecificationsWild Honey - Specifications

Published in Cork Harbour
Tagged under

As reported in on 1st September here, fifteen-year-old solo sailor Timothy Long from Buckinghamshire is fundraising for the Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust by sailing solo around Britain, a distance of approximately 1600 miles.

In his Hunter Impala 28 'Alchemy' he called at Bangor Marina on his way south from the Clyde and left for his home port of Southampton on 4th September stopping off in Ardglass on the south Down coast before heading for Holyhead.

He arrived at Holyhead on Sunday 6th September after 15 hours at sea. Timothy said "Arriving here felt like a real milestone as crossing the Irish Sea has been something that I have had on my mind for a while! It wasn't a whole load of fun either although it started off well and we were averaging 5.5 knots, the sea state quite quickly became confused and choppy to the point where we were only doing 2.5 kts which was incredibly frustrating. However, we had a pretty cool encounter with a pod of 20 Dolphins which was absolutely brilliant and was the highlight of the day!"

Having had to delay his departure from Holyhead by about 18 hours due to adverse weather, he arrived in Pwllheli Marina in North Western Wales on Friday (11th) which he says was frustrating as it meant he had to sail through the night.

He continued "The passage to Pwllheli started off quite bumpy with big standing waves, which of course feel even bigger in the dark".

Timothy will head off tomorrow for Fishguard, then Milford Haven but he needs a weather window to cross the Bristol Channel. At this stage he has raised £4500 of the £5000 target.

Published in Solo Sailing
Tagged under

While Ireland is battered by the multiple surges of Storm Ellen, the irrepressible Pat Lawless of Ballyferriter on the Dingle Peninsula is riding it out on the southern fringes of the huge weather system, halfway home from the Azores in his robust Saltram Saga 36.

His boat Iniscealtra is a modern variant on the classic Colin Archer concept, and Pat is building up ocean miles towards participation in the 2022 Golden Globe Race.

The word from the far southwest of Ireland is that he’d been looking for something approaching real Southern Ocean weather in the North Atlantic, and It looks as though the south side of Storm Ellen has obliged. For now, we’re told that all is well on board as the Ballyferriter man rides it out under bare poles aboard Iniscealtra, named after the renowned holy island on Lough Derg.

Pat Lawless aboard IniscealtraPat Lawless aboard IniscealtraWhile the winds halfway between the Azores and Ireland may not be as severe as some of those experienced in Ireland in the last 18 hours, Iniscealtra has still been experiencing full Atlantic gales

Published in Solo Sailing
Tagged under
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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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