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After an intense first half of the season, comprising multiple back-to-back races on the calendar since March, accumulated fatigue was evident on the race course in the final race of the Le Havre Allmer Cup.

But Ireland’s Tom Dolan kept his head and remained focused on returning a solid 10th place on the short inshore course to secure third place overall, one of the best-ever overall event results for the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, gained at the last regatta before the season’s pinnacle La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec.

“I did what I had to do today, that is to say, keeping an eye on my main rivals and staying with them, and so in the end, I am very happy with third overall. But I am pretty exhausted and looking forward to a good rest.” Said Dolan on the dock in Le Havre. “The wind was light today and shifting around a lot so it was not easy but there were a few collisions, some spinnakers in the water which shows there is tiredness in the fleet.”

After a hard won second place on the long offshore race, which finished Wednesday, the product of a fantastic comeback through the top half of the fleet along the south coast of England and back across the Channel to the Le Havre finish line, Dolan returned a pair of solid scores in the top half of the fleet over Friday and Saturday to take third step on the podium.

“I have been here to race three times now, and it is not an easy place to sail, so I am quite satisfied. It proves I am where I want to be ahead of La Solitaire and now can take the time to rest and prepare myself with no stress.” He commented. “And the key thing is I have stayed consistent at each event, and that is what I wanted to achieve in this first half of the season”

He is now up to fourth place overall in the French Elite Solo Championship, a five-event series that concludes with La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec, which runs from mid-August to mid-September and starts off in Le Havre.

“I have made some good choices this year so far. Not doing too much winter training on the water has meant I have had enough energy. I have worked hard on my strength and conditioning – especially my upper body strength, which has made the difference. Burpees are free! But also sailing the Niji Transat on the Class 40 gave me a lot of food for thought, like different ways to sail fast downwind, sails and it has just given me a little extra confidence on the smaller boat.”

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Ireland's solo star Tom Dolan is delighted with second place in the Le Havre Allmer Cup, but what most pleases him is his consistency in the race.

Twelfth at the intermediate mark at Eddystone light, Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan made the breezy south coast of England work for him as he staged an excellent comeback to finish second on the 420 miles 6th edition of the Le Havre AllmerCup early this morning. Dolan brought his Smurfit Kappa Kingspan across the finish line at 0156hrs local time off Le Havre just 9 minutes behind French race winner Gaston Morvan.

It is Dolan's best-ever finish outside of La Solitaire du Figaro and proves he is in excellent form. He has achieved a regular string of top 5 and top 10 results this season ahead of La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec, which starts from Le Havre on 17 August and runs until 15 September.

Dolan, who has always been fast downwind in a big breeze, made good choices and high speeds travelling east back along the English coast towards the turning mark the west of the Isle of Wight, Needles Fairway.

Tom Dolan, who has always been fast downwind in a big breeze, made good choices in the Allmer Cup to finish second overall Photo: Afloat

But he made most places on the return leg back across the Channel to the French port where he actually made a debut in the Figaro class in August 2018. Back then he had to retire from his first ever leg of La Solitaire after a rigging failure.

As he sprayed Champagne over his boat, the dock, himself, and the small welcoming party in the wee hours of this morning, the contrast with his class debut was but a beautiful reminder of the Irish sailor's ascent up the ranks of the toughest solo one-design fleet in the world.

Dolan smiled this morning, "This proves the consistency I am looking for and have managed to hold on to all season. And so that is encouraging for La Solitaire du Figaro, which is, of course, a race that rewards regularity. I want to now transfer this regularity to the Solitaire. I have never sailed so well as I am now. I am peaking, I hope, at just the right time."

But, he acknowledges, "Now I am tired, just accumulated fatigue – wear and tear over the season - and now I need to get some good rest. I have two months off now but I have to make sure I don't lose anything, I don't want to take my eye off the ball. But meantime I need to get in my garden and cut the grass!"

Looking back at what he did right….and wrong, he explains: "Along the south coast of England, I was good. I had good speed downwind and a couple of good gybes, and then, crossing the Channel, played the tide and the wind a bit and made more gains. There was a good 26-27 knots approaching The Needles, it was pretty fruity and good fun. I seemed to be able to sail lower and faster. I've thought of a couple of little things since sailing on the Class40, which have transferred into the Figaro."

After being third on the first leg, he and the top group lost miles on a strategic choice which did not play their way: "I started well, and there was a lead group sailed to the South West out going to Guernsey looking for a wind shift, which didn't come until later. All the boats behind went north, and there was a big split in the fleet, so there was a bit of a mistake there. We kind of all influenced each other. At that point, I was something like seven miles behind Gaston (Morvan, who won) and nine behind the leader at that time. So a lot of the group I was with then never managed to come back."

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Ireland’s Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Paul Morvan this morning finished a gruelling 740 miles long offshore race for the Trophée Banque Populaire Grand Ouest in seventh place from a star-studded field containing some of the most successful French solo Figaro racers of the last ten years.

Having started Saturday lunchtime off Concarneau, the intense, double-handed course was designed to take the duos close to their limits with regular marks to round or pass all the way up to the Iles de Chaussée in the bay NE of Saint Malo – which was the most northerly turning mark - and the Ile de Ré north of Les Sables d’Olonne.

After five days racing the Franco-Irish duo, sailing Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan finished just 19 minutes behind winners Élodie Bonafous and Corentin Horeau. Horeau is the winner of the 2023 La Solitaire du Figaro.

The pair were always in the leading peloton on a race which was conducted at an incredibly high level. After three days, there was less than one mile between the top ten duos.

Tom Dolan and Paul Morvan on the 740 nautical miles Trophée Banque Populaire long offshore pictured above on Thursday 23rd May, Concarneau, Brittany Photo: Fred OlivierTom Dolan and Paul Morvan on the 740 nautical miles Trophée Banque Populaire long offshore pictured above on Thursday 23rd May, Concarneau, Brittany Photo: Fred Olivier

“It was the kind of race I love.” the red-eyed exhausted Irish skipper enthused this morning after finishing back into Concarneau “There were attacks on all sides constantly. It was really a great race in contact, boat for boat throughout, with, at times, some slightly mind-blowing twists and turns, like under the Île de Ré bridge where the top ten passed in the space of a minute. It was really a very amazing course! “, summarised the Irish skipper of the Beneteau Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa- Kingspan. “It was full on all the time, so many things to manage. Currents, rocks, weed, local effects... there were plenty of traps, not to mention the changes in the weather.”

He said, “ We never gave up and no one in the leading group did at all. It was crazy, after four days of racing, to find ourselves all stuck together. It gave everyone a big shot of adrenaline. We had to play hard, work round the clock and tack or gybe every few minutes to gain a meter here or a meter there. No one has ever made the slightest mistake. It really was a constant battle”

Dolan continued, “It’s always good to be racing up front. It was a great race very similar to a round of Solitaire du Figaro. I am very happy that it was raced double-handed because there were a host of compulsory marks and virtual marks, a multitude of sections to manage, sometimes in the rocks and so it was full on. We slept very little because it was often during the night that things were going on and we had to be vigilant, particularly because of the wind shifts.”

He explained, “ After the Ile de Ré, we saw that a difference of 50 meters between two boats was likely to make the difference and generate significant lateral leverage. With Paul, who I really learned to be a little more patient than I can be in certain situations, we did quite well. We also showed that we had good speed.”

Grand Prix racing is underway on Saturday.

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At 735 nautical miles long, the Banque Populaire Grand Ouest Trophy race, which starts Saturday at 1300hrs local time, is one of the most extended offshore courses of the 2024 season for Ireland’s Tom Dolan.

For the double-handed course, which will take four to five days, Dolan will resume his partnership with the young French co-skipper Paul Morvan, whom he sailed with on the Laura Vergne Trophy race earlier in the season, finishing in fourth place.

“It looks quite light and flukey so that it will be interesting. Certainly, the first 48 hours up to the Iles de Chausée look light and flukey. It will be important to be well positioned up there because it will stretch open after that.” Explained Dolan as he and Morvan prepared the Figaro Beneteau Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan.

The course takes the fleet out of Concarneau—where the Irish skipper lives now—up the Brittany coast to turn at the Iles de Chaussée, a set of small rocky islets just to the west, offshore of Granville, NE of Saint-Malo and Mont St Michel.

The 735 nautical miles long the Banque Populaire Grand Ouest Trophy race courseThe 735 nautical miles long the Banque Populaire Grand Ouest Trophy race course

“Paul and I are ready to go. We know that we will not sleep much because there will be so much going on, lots of stop-starts, especially in the Channel.” Dolan adds, “The first part of the course promises to be particularly challenging as we will be working between the thermal breeze and the synoptic wind, which will make it interesting to the Channel Islands.”.

Morvan, whose background has been in ILCA 7 Olympic class dinghy racing, enthuses, “Tom and I complement each other perfectly. We have full confidence in each other. We are solid together.”

“Paul brings an extra layer of confidence; he is strong on starting and boat-on-boat racing, and I think together we are a good team.” Concludes Dolan, who is looking to better the eighth overall he placed last time with Brit Alan Roberts.

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Irish sailor Tom Dolan has once again proven his worth among the best offshore racers in the world with an impressive sixth-place finish in the Solo Maître Coq. The gruelling 390-mile solo offshore race, which finished in Les Sables d'Olonne in France's Vendée region, saw Dolan secure a solid fifth place, thereby cementing his sixth-place overall finish in the event. 

Dolan, skipper of Smurfit Kappa – Kingspan, has shown that he is comfortable racing with the best of the best offshore, matching his sixth-placed overall position from last year's event. Speaking about the race, Dolan said, "It was a great race. There was stuff going on all the time, especially in terms of choice of courses. I really enjoyed it!" 

Tom Dolan - surfing at over 30 knots in the 2024 Solo Maître Coq Race Photo: Vincent OlivaudTom Dolan - surfing in over 30 knots of wind in the 2024 Solo Maître Coq Race Photo: Vincent Olivaud

The 21st Solo Maître CoQ is a race that Dolan has clearly enjoyed, as he reflected on the challenging and thrilling moments during the race. "It was a good race, especially on the section between mark in the middle of the Bay of Biscay and the finish. We had some surfs at over 30 knots, under gennaker. It was really, really hard, especially since the wind was super unstable. We were literally glued to the helm with the sheet in our hands taking waves of ocean in our faces. We certainly had enough salt! But the whole race seemed to flash by!"

Despite giving up a little in the last few miles, Dolan remained proud of his performance and is looking forward to future events. "It feels really good to play in front! The Solo Guy Cotten in mid-March was not very satisfying because I ripped a sail, but I know that as soon as the legs lengthen out a little, I am clearly more at ease," said Dolan, who will now enjoy some well-deserved rest at home in Concarneau following an intense spell that included the Solo Maître Coq and the Niji40 Class40 Transatlantic race.

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Irish offshore solo sailor Tom Dolan is currently sitting in 14th place (results downloadable below as a pdf) from 34 starters at the Solo Maître CoQ Figaro circuit event in France’s Vendée region.

Dolan expressed his 'frustration' after the second race of the event had to be abandoned after six hours of racing due to a drop in breeze.

Despite the setback, Dolan is happy with his performance in the first race, where he 'gained more places than he lost'.

“It’s annoying to have spent so much time fighting it out on the water and to end up with no score to carry forward. That is very frustrating, even in the grater scheme of things if the race only had a coefficient of 1,”

The skipper of Smurfit Kappa – Kingspan is known for his offshore skills and is optimistic about the course set for this year's event, which places the fleet racing in the middle of the Bay of Biscay.

The offshore race component of the event, spanning 390 miles, is set to take place on Thursday, with the race expected to finish between mid-morning and mid-afternoon on Sunday.

Dolan is confident about the race and is looking forward to some challenging upwind conditions.

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From Tuesday until Saturday Irish solo skipper Tom Dolan will compete out of Les Sables d’Olonne in the Solo Maître CoQ, the second of five events counting for the 2024 French Elite Offshore Racing Championship.

“The crewed transatlantic race was a great experience for me. It was really re-energizing. It was a real breath of fresh air, but here I am, super happy to be back on my own boat now, even if it seems very small to me!” grins Dolan.

Racing starts Tuesday at 1100hrs local time out of the famous Vendée marina.

“I’m ready, even though my legs are still a little weak after so much time on the boat. Conditions look fairly calm for the first two days, but with a lot to play for. It promises to be interesting,” says Dolan.

There are two coastal courses of around twenty miles Thursday’s 390-mile offshore race on the Bay of Biscay.

“My objective is to make good starts especially as it looks set to be light and there is a lot to be lost over these first two races. And there does seem to be a risk of the racing being a bit follow my leader with few strategic options.” Says Dolan who finished sixth overall last year.

“The idea is obviously to be able to do better this year,” he concludes.

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Irish skipper Tom Dolan is gearing up for his next challenge, the Solo Maître CoQ race, after finishing fourth in the new 3,430 miles Niji40 Class40 race between Belle-Ile-en-Mer, France and Marie-Galante Gaudeloupe. The 21st edition of the Solo Maître CoQ will see Dolan racing solo again after competing in a crew of three for the Class40 race. The event is part of the 2024 French Elite Offshore Racing Championship and will consist of two coastal races out of Les Sables d'Olonne in the Vendée region, followed by a 340-mile offshore race between Belle-Ile and the islands of Ré and Yeu.

Dolan and his crew worked hard to build a lead through the early days of the Class40 race, however, damage to their main halyard and a carbon 'bone' stopper meant they had to sail with a deeply reefed mainsail, causing them to lose miles to their rivals. After a four-hour repair stop in the lee of the Azores, they found themselves almost 300 miles behind the leaders and were unable to make up the deficit.

Despite the setback, Dolan enjoyed racing as a trio, which gave him several areas to work on for the future, particularly sailing on a larger boat and managing heavier loads and manoeuvres. He also set some impressive average speeds on the scow-styled Class40, similar to those of the 60-foot IMOCAs of the pre-hydro-foiling generation.

Looking ahead to the Solo Maître CoQ, Dolan is optimistic despite some past difficulties at the event. He is pleased with the changes to the format of the long race, which will now have a more open course and longer days and shorter, milder nights.

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Irish offshore solo racer Tom Dolan is taking advantage of a break in the Figaro circuit to participate in a new crewed Class40 race - the Niji 40. Dolan is a key member of a three-strong international crew, skippered by top Figaro racer Gildas Mahé. The team, which also includes young Spanish racer Pep Costa, will compete in a 3,430 nautical mile Transatlantic course from the French Atlantic coast to reach Marie-Galante off the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

Starting on April 7th, Dolan and his team expect the passage to take around 13 to 14 days. They will race the Class 40 Amarris at the request of its usual skipper, who has to remain on land on paternity leave. Dolan's objective is to win, and he believes that the team and boat are capable of delivering, even though a transatlantic race always has surprises in store.

According to Dolan, the boat is good reaching, especially tight reaching. The three sailors have experience in the class, and Dolan and Mahé, in particular, have experience with the boat, Amarris, a Lift V2 which Mahé raced across the Atlantic on the Transat Jacques Vabre and Dolan sailed back from Martinique to France. 

Dolan is excited about the opportunity to expand his racing horizons and improve his skills in a different class. He believes that racing outside of the Figaro class gives him a new perspective and experience, a different way of looking at things, and different strategies and ways to set up a boat.

With three days before the start, the exact weather pattern for the first few days on the Bay of Biscay is not completely clear, but Dolan is expecting big winds and seas. He anticipates that there will be a bit of low pressure coming in, which will bring quite a lot of wind. They will be upwind for a bit, which is good for their boat, which is good on tight angles. The course will be quite open, as the only waypoint is the Azores, so it opens up the northern route more than some courses, where the waypoint you have to leave to starboard is down at the Canaries or Madeira, for example, and that makes the course shorter.

Dolan is confident about the upcoming race and is looking forward to the challenge. The team is hoping for a successful and safe journey across the Atlantic.

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Irish sailor Tom Dolan and his French co-skipper Paul Morvan secured a commendable fourth-place finish in the Laura Vergne Trophy following a 270-mile offshore race that ended on Monday.

Dolan and Morvan, who sailed Dolan’s Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, held their own in the early and middle stages of the race, which took place off the Breton coast between the Isle de Yeu and the Glénan islands. Despite a strong offshore route option, the duo played it safe and opted to control their position, finishing the race in sixth place.

Dolan was quick to praise his young co-skipper, who has an Olympic classes background, for his contributions during the race. The next challenge for Dolan will be the new Niji40 race across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe, which is set to start on April 7.

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Ireland's Sailor of the Year Awards

Created in 1996, the Afloat Sailor of the Year Awards represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene.

Since it began 25 years ago, the awards have recognised over 500 monthly award winners in the pages of Ireland's sailing magazine Afloat, and these have been made to both amateur and professional sailors. The first-ever Sailor of the Year was dinghy sailor Mark Lyttle, a race winner at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

And since then it's gone on to read like a who's who of Irish sailing.

The national award is specially designed to salute the achievements of Ireland's sailing's elite. After two decades the awards has developed into a premier awards ceremony for water sports.

The overall national award will be announced each January to the person who, in the judges' opinion, achieved the most notable results in, or made the most significant contribution to, Irish sailing in the previous year.

A review of the first 25 years of the Irish Sailor the Year Awards is here

Irish Sailor of the Year Award FAQs

The Irish Sailor of the Year Awards is a scheme designed by Afloat magazine to represent all that is praiseworthy, innovative and groundbreaking in the Irish sailing scene..

The Irish Sailor of the Year Awards began in 1996.

The awards are administered by Afloat, Ireland's boating magazine.

  • 1996 Mark Lyttle
  • 1997 Tom Roche
  • 1998 Tom Fitzpatrick & David McHugh
  • 1999 Mark Mansfield
  • 2000 David Burrows
  • 2001 Maria Coleman
  • 2002 Eric Lisson
  • 2003 Noel Butler & Stephen Campion
  • 2004 Eamonn Crosbie
  • 2005 Paddy Barry & Jarlath Cunnane
  • 2006 Justin Slattery
  • 2007 Ger O'Rourke
  • 2008 Damian Foxall
  • 2009 Mark Mills
  • 2010 Anthony O'Leary
  • 2011 George Kenefick
  • 2012 Annalise Murphy
  • 2013 David Kenefick
  • 2014 Anthony O'Leary
  • 2015 Liam Shanahan
  • 2016 Annalise Murphy
  • 2017 Conor Fogerty
  • 2018 Robert Dickson & Sean Waddilove
  • 2019 Paul O'Higgins

Yes. The boating public and maritime community can have their say to help guide judges in deciding who should be crowned Ireland's Sailor of the Year by using an Afloat online poll). The judges welcome the traditional huge level of public interest in helping them make their decision but firmly retain their right to make the ultimate decision for the final choice while taking voting trends into account. By voting for your favourite nominee, you are creating additional awareness of their nomination and highlighting their success.

Anthony O'Leary of Crosshaven and Annalise Murphy of Dun Laoghaire are the only contenders to be Afloat.ie "Sailors of the Year" twice – himself in 2010 and 2014, and herself in 2012 and 2016.

In its 25 year history, there have been wins for 15, offshore or IRC achievements, nine dinghy and one designs accomplishments and one for adventure sailing.

Annually, generally in January or February of the following year.

In 2003 Her Royal Highness Princess Anne presented the Awards.

©Afloat 2020

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