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Sole Irish Mini Transat sailor Thomas Dolan of County Meath starts his solo–sailing season tomorrow in a double–handed Lorient Bretagne Sud Mini race. 

Racing will get underway officially on Saturday 8 April at 11am, with the start of the 150 nautical mile (280 km) course. The first race of the season will help the Meath man clock up qualifying miles for the Mini Transat 2017.

Self taught Dolan will race with Breton, Francois Jambou, his sailing school colleague from Concarneau in this first race.

After a busy 2016 season, the Irish offshore sailor's plan is to focus on all the pre-season races in the Atlantic to be ready by October 1st from La Rochelle for the Transat.

Dolan's 2017 season consists of:

  • April- 2 races, one duo, one solo
  • May: one race, a 500 miles solo
  • June: 2 races, one solo, one duo (mini Fastnet)
  • July/ august: Solo transgascogne
  • October: Mini Transat
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It has been a successful season of mini racing for County Meath Solo sailor Tom Dolan, with two victories out of two solo races in the Atlantic mini–circuit. This combined with a sixth and fifth place finish in the two double–handed races has placed Dolan in third place on the general rankings and in a promising position to finish on the podium of the ‘Championnat France de course au large en solitaire’, the French solo sailing championship, a first for any Irishman if it can be achieved.

After a mediocre season in 2015 which culminated in the Mini transat, Dolan decided to stick it out and spent the winter preparing from scratch a new pogo 3 boat. The bet payed off and now the 'most Breton of the Irish', as he has become to be known by the local press, has set his sights on a podium on the big race of the season, Les Sables-Les Azores-Les sables. 2600 Miles from Vendee to the Azores and back.

The first of his victories, in the 500 mile “Mini en Mai” came as quite a surprise, as it was his first solo race on board the IRL 910. Dolan led from the onset and even though having a nine mile lead reduced to 0.3M he managed to hold out and cross the line just 10 minutes before his nearest rival, Pierre Chedville on board the 887 “blue orange games”.

The second race, the 220 “MAP trophy” was to prove a little more difficult to dominate, as many of the stars of the sport were present. Dolan managed to latch onto the leading group of 5 boats from the onset and the lead changed regularly until he managed to get ahead in the final hours, once again nipping ahead of Chedville onboard the 887.

Solo sailing has for many years been dominated by the French, and Dolan attributes his recent success to his integration into the French sailing world. “If you can’t beat them join them” is his spirit and it has taken him five years working and living in Brittany to get to where he is. He hopes that these victories will be a boost in his search for sponsorship and a place in the 2017 Mini Transat.

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With a mere 700–miles to go (equivalent to a Round Ireland race) Irish solo sailor Thomas Dolan nears landfall in his first Mini-Transat race. Consistent sailing from the County Meath debutante has seen him maintain his mid rank position in a high calibre 43–boat fleet. Leaders are expected into Iles De Guadeloupe within 24 hours and Dolan will not be too far behind. He is currently in 23rd place and has at times been as high as 17th in the transatlantic crossing. The consistent performance so far matches his top twenty placing in the first leg of the race into the Canary Islands a month ago.

For the leaders of the Mini Transat Iles De Guadeloupe, something has changed. The best part of the race lies in their wake and the land is getting imperceptibly closer. The horizon and the sky are filling with colour, while the trade winds are slowing down. With some of the prototypes just 24 hours away from the finish line, the battle is still going strong: the clear leader, Frederic Denis (Nautipark), has slowed down as the winds ease off. In his wake, they are attacking from all sides.

In the production boats, the battle between Ian Lipinski (Entreprises Innovantes) and Julien Pulve (Novintiss) is over: one went south, the other went north ... following different paths.

These are the last hours of the race. The very first competitors will enjoy their last sunrise on this Mini Transat Iles de Guadeloupe. For those chasing Frederic Denis (Nautipark) at the head of the fleet of prototypes for almost 10 days (over 11 days of racing), it's their last chance Thursday.

Ranking on 12th November at 15:00 (TU+1):

1. Julien Pulve, Novintiss: 403 nm to finish
2. Ian Lipinski, Entreprises Innovantes, 2.3 nm to leader
3. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal, 83.8
4. Edouard Golbery, Les Enfants du Canal, 129.1
5. Armand de Jacquelot, We Van, 145.5

1. Frederic Denis, Nautipark, 142.1 nm to finish
2. Michele Zambelli, Illumia, 53.7 nm to leader
3. Luke Berry, Association Rêves, 68.5
4. Clement Bouyssou, Le Bon Agent - Bougeons l'Immobilier, 90.7
5. Axel Trehin, Aleph Racing, 109.9

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It's almost certain that trade winds should accompany the Ireland's Thomas Dolan and the Mini Transat fleet right up until their arrival in Pointe-a-Pitre. There is no longer much difference in speeds between north and south, and everyone is moving at a good pace towards the finish line. Dolan remains a consistent 21st in his 44th boat fleet.

In the prototypes, Frederic Denis (Nautipark) holds the lead, while in the series boats, Julien Pulve (Novintiss) comes up, for the first time in the race, to snatch the lead position from Ian Lipinski (Entreprises Innovantes). On the other side of the Atlantic, Francois Jambou (Concevoir et Construire) has started off again.

For the first time since the start, the men in the north have reached speeds that can compete with those on the southern route. Chris Lükerman (CA Technologies) finally went above 10 knots.

Positions on 8th November at 15 :00pm (TU+1)

1. Frederic Denis, Nautipark, 993.6 nm from finish
2. Ludovic Mechin, Microvitae, 34.0 nm to leader
3. Axel Trehin, Aleph Racing, 38.6
4. Clement Bouyssou, Le Bon Agent 0 Bougeons l'Immobilier, 43.1
5. Michele Zambelli, Illumia, 47.3

1. Julien Pulve, Novintiss, 1149.9 miles from the finish line
2. Ian Lipinski, Entreprises Innovantes, 2.2 nm to leader
3. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal, 81.1
4. Edouard Golbery, Les Enfants du Canal, 83
5. Edwin Thibon, Coeur Fidele, 98.1

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Turning west, like most of the fleet, Ireland's debutante entry in the Mini Transat lies in 24th place this morning with a daunting Atlantic crossing ahead of him. County Meath's Thomas Dolan is in a mid–fleet position in his 44–boat fleet and keen to repeat his first stage top twenty performance

mini transat course

Lying 24th in his fleet, Dolan's position is marked in red

Following the retirement of Davy Beaudart, it is Radek Kowalczyk's turn to throw in the towel after having to abandon his brand new Calbud.

It is a harsh blow for the Polish sailor. Radek was innovative in his concept of having the prototype be built in series, hoping to encourage new vocations and inspire sailors of less fortunate means to dive into the prototype experience, allowing each to fix and fiddle with his own boat from a common basis.

In 2011, Radek completed his first participation in the Mini Transat, on an old prototype, fired by the promise of returning on a much more powerful boat. He had to wait until 2015 to fulfil his dreams, but the adventure will not see completion. The Mini Transat Iles de Guadeloupe loses a particularly endearing, unassuming sailor.

As expected, the fleet has started to turn west before reaching the Cape Verde archipelago. However, the skippers are facing a true dilemma. The wind is still stronger in the south and everyone is confronted by the same question: how far are they going to lengthen the route?

Ranking 3rd November at 18h (TU+1)

Prototypes (Ranking Eurovia Cegelec)
1. Frederic Denis, Nautipark, 2195 nm to finish
2. Jean-Baptiste Daramy, Chocolats Paries, 41 nm to leader
3. Michele Zambelli, Illumia, 48
4. Ludovic Mechin, Microvitae, 53
5. Clement Bouyssou, Le Bon Agent - Bougeons l'Immobilier, 56

Series (Ranking Ocean Bio-Actif)
1. Ian Lipinski, Entreprises Innovantes, 2257 nm to finish
2. Benoit Hantzperg, YCA Dhumeaux Secours Populaire, 7 nm to leader
3. Julien Pulve, Novintiss, 8
4. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal, 45
5. Dimitri Simons,, 54

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County Meath solo sailor Thomas Dolan lies in 27th place from 44 starters in the early stages of the Mini–Transat race sailing tonight off the Mauritanian coast. It's a drop of some 17 places from this morning's tenth place for Dolan but still very early days in this transatlantic race with the fleet still bunched together after the weekend start.

A sustained wind, getting their bearings on board after a three-week stopover, a chaotic sea… conditions were favourable for some minor breakages for the fleet. Many solo racers have already planned a pit stop. Favourites as candidates for adventure, not everyone reacts the same way: the key is mental stamina coupled with the ambitions that everyone has for this race.

Tom doing well this morning in 10th position..

Posted by Tom Dolan - Mini Transat 2015 on Sunday, 1 November 2015

It is kind of recurrent law: as long as the conditions are a bit tough, each race start (or leg start for the Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe) results in minor breakage. When in the middle of the Atlantic, the question of choice does not arise, but the situation changes when a stopover becomes possible. The first of the competitors to return to shore was Frederick port Mesel (Double Trouble), who headed back to Arrecife seriously doubtful about the interest in continuing after breaking one of his rudders. The enthusiasm of his relatives and the encouragement of his buddies who stayed in Lanzarote convinced him to set off again with a brand new morale.

Scheduled turnarounds… or not
Others have diverted to Fuerteventura, such as Davy Beaudart (Flexirub), who suffered a tear in his medium spinnaker, and Nacho Postigo (Vamos Vamos), a broken rudder. For Davy, it is a harsh blow. The Lorient skipper has been forced to retire due its technical issues. Nacho Postigo, for his part, has really been biting the bullet. The string of setbacks he has overcome since the start of the race, have made him a touch philosophical. They will both announce their intentions to the race direction in the coming hours.

For some, misfortune persists. Maxime Eveillard (Heli Strategy) tore his mainsail on the first night and plans on doing a stopover in on one of the Canary Islands. Yann Claverie (MAP Product) is also en route to Gran Canaria. Others chose not to be daunted by the events and decided to forge ahead, even handicapped. Roland Ventura (Fondation Planiol), despite a loose gooseneck and a torn 5 code, has chosen to continue his race. He will be repairing it on the Atlantic. This is also what Pierre-Marie Bazin (Voiles des Anges) decided. With a broken push rod, damaged tiller, he decided to carry on to deliver to his boat across the Atlantic. When one is an agent of a humanitarian project as strong as his, it is a kind of moral duty not to give up the fight.

Battle on the route south
Ahead of the fleet, the leaders continue to push hard along the Mauritanian coast. The wind eased a little and averages drop in the beginning of night. They are closer to 10 knots than the 15-16 knots prevailing at the start. On a southerly route, Benedict Hantzperg (YCA Dhumeaux Secours Populaire) is still leading the way, while some racers already seem to be reassessing their route along the great circle, like Olivier Taillard (Alternative Sailing - Kerhis) or the Russian Yuri Firsov (Magnum Sports), aiming for the podium of the series boats.

In prototype, there is close competition between Clément Bouyssou (Le Bon Agent – Bougeons l’Immobilier), Frédéric Denis (Nautipark), Simon Koster (Eight Cube), Ludovic Méchin (Microvitae) and Luke Berry (Association Rêves). Davy Beaudart’s pit stop inevitably has inevitably whetted the appetites.

After the 20-25 knots during the night, the trade wind dropped to 12 knots, accompanied by sunny skies. Dream conditions, just like we read about in tales of travels... The Mini Transat îles de Guadeloupe clearly has many dreams yet to offer to its contenders.

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The Mini Transat Îles de Guadeloupe competitors – including Ireland's Thomas Dolan – set off to conquer the Atlantic Ocean yesterday with a sustained northeasterly wind and rough seas.

'The red rocket and I will head off for what will be the biggest adventure of our lives' wrote debutante Dolan on social media prior to his departure.

The County Meath sailor will sail just over 2500 miles completely alone except for the 60 odd fellow competitors who, he says, over the last few months have become 'more of a family than anything'. 

Most of the skippers have preferred to play it safe, given the weather conditions (wind of 25 knots on average) and the fact that the boats were loaded to cross the Atlantic. On the pontoons prior to the start, the emotion was palpable.

The last minutes ashore are never simple for solo sailors. All are split between the desire to start racing as quickly as possible and the mixture of apprehension and slight guilt for leaving loved ones ashore. Modest or expansive, each in their own way was trying to dispel the difficulty of the moment in order to concentrate on the race.

Jean-Baptiste Daramy (Chocolates Paries):
'It feels good to leave, I could not wait. I don’t know yet what sail I'm going to put up, we will have to be careful for the first few hours of the race'.

Vincent Grison (Roll My Chicken):
'I looked on the Transat Jacques Vabre website, it is likely we cross paths with the Class40. It would be fun that I meet Sam Manuard who is the architect of my boat, we would have something to chat about on the Atlantic'.

Ian Lipinski (Entreprises Innovantes):
'I'm fine, I feel good. I have some leeway, which should allow me to make a cautious start. One thing is for sure - if some of the competitors start the race in top gear, I won’t take the risk to follow and suffer breakage'.

Davy Beaudart (Flexirub):
“Things are good, everything is ready. Naturally there is a little more tension, because crossing the Atlantic is no small matter. I will especially try to sail properly, which is the best way to enjoy oneself”.

Victor Turpin (Generations Ocean):
'I am still a little stressed, it must show on my face. But I cannot wait to go. It is going to be pretty windy for the first few days and we know we have to leave quickly, because the others are going to leave quickly. What to do - rush in or safeguard the boat? We will see'.

Nikki Curwen (Go Ape! Live Life Adventurously):
'I am a little stressed but excited at the prospect of crossing the Atlantic. I have been dreaming about it for three years... '

Yury Firsov (Magnum Sport):
'I feel good, I am ready to go. The weather is good; everything is ready. I am heading south like everyone else before heading west'.

Chris Lukerman (Ca Technologies):
'I am ok. I am a little nervous because of the wind, which is strong for the first hours of the race. But it really is time to go. We will be able to glide along as we had hoped”.

Jan Heinze (Lonestar):
'I am happy to leave after all these days spent ashore and the number of years to prepare this project. I am proud to be here. My father and my coach are here, but the rest of my family will be at the finish in Guadeloupe'.

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Ireland's Thomas Dolan arrived into Lanzarote this morning taking a top twenty position in his 44–boat fleet, a very credible finish for the County Meath solo sailor in the first leg of his first Mini–Transat.

The pontoon reserved for the Mini Transat iles de Guadeloupe in Lanzarote is gradually filling up. The prototypes have taken up most of the spaces, with only two series boats arriving into port so far.

Although quarter of the fleet had arrived in Lanzarote, the battle was still fierce amongst those in the series boats for the best finishing positions (and this was the majority of sailors still at sea)

For all the competitors, these are the last hours at sea, the blessed hours, according to the conversations that some have been able to have with the National marine patrol boat, the PSP Flamant. When he was barely in sight of the coast of the Canaries, Armand de Jacquelot said that he couldn't wait to take off again on the second stage on 31st October.

First five to finish:

Prototypes ( Eurovia Cegelec class):
1. Davy Beaudart - Flexirub
2. Axel Trehin - Aleph Racing
3. Frederic Denis - Nautipark
4. Luke Berry, Association Reves
5. Ludovic Mechin, Microvitae

Series (Ocean Bio-Actif class)
1. Ian Lipinski, Entreprise Innovantes
2. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal
3. Charly Fernbach, Henaff le Fauffiffon
4. Julien Pulve, Novintiss
5. Patrick Girod, Nescens

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Steady overnight sailing off the coast of Portugal from rookie Thomas Dolan sees the sole Irish entry in the Mini–Transat race stay in the top 20 overall. The County Meath sailor who features in this morning's Irish Times Sailing Column is currently in 19th place, dropping back one place.

Davy Beaudart (Flexirub) and Ian Lipinski (Entreprises Innovantes) had been tipped as race favourites. To date, they have not proved the predictions wrong.

Several competitors have now joined the walking wounded from the first stage. Fidel Turienzo (Satanas) is getting ready to stop in to one of the ports on the Portuguese coast between Sines and Lisbon to repair his damaged mast. Guillermo Canardo (Peor Para El Sol) should also stop in Porto. Some of the other competitiors are still holed up in ports, such as Pilar Pasanau (Peter Punk) in La Coruna, Jonas Gerckens(Netwerk) in Peniche and Aymeric Blin (Le Marin des Alpes) in Sada.

Some of the competitors are doing well, Despite their lack of experience : Edouard Golbery (Les Enfants du Canal) and Mathieu Bourdais (Tous au Large) who are racing in the Series class, both with very little Mini Circuit racing under their belts, currently lie in 9th and 10th place respectively in the provisional standings. 

In other Irish offshore solo sailing news, Lough Swilly skipper Sean McCarter has launched a 2020 bid for the Vendee Globe Race 

Top Five Positions on 24 th September at 18 :00 (TU+2) :

Prototypes ( Eurovia Cegelec class) :
1. Davy Beaudart, Flexirub, 353,7 miles to leg finish
2. Frederic Denis, Nautipark, 48.7 nm to leader
3. Axel Trehin, Aleph Racing, 50.0 nm
4. Ludovic Mechin, Microvitae, 54.0 nm
5. Luke Berry, Association Rêves, 54.6 nm

Series ( Ocean Bio-Actif class)
1. Ian Lipinski, Entreprises Innovantes, 439.0 milles to leg finish
2. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal, 19.2 nm to leader
3. Julien Pulve, Novintiss, 38.2 nm
4. Charly Fernbach, Henaff le Fauffiffon, 41.8 nm
5. Patrick Girod, Nescens, 50,.9 nm

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With a strong following wind off the coast of Portugal, Ireland's sole entry in the Mini–Transat race made a gain overnight in his mid-fleet position. County Meath's Thomas Dolan lies 18th overall from 44 starters in the solo race and 100 miles off the overall leader.

The Minis 'bowled' along the Portuguese coast, with the same worry in each person's mind: the best way to attack, whilst also keeping the boat under control. In this constant game, it's experience that makes the difference.

It's not by chance that, with a few exceptions, the old hands of the Mini circuit are in the leading places in this first stage of the Mini Transat Iles de Guadeloupe. At the moment, the ig guys are justifying their reputations and they are all in contention to vie for the best positions. Davy Beaudart (Flexirub), who has been the race favourite, is keeping hold of his place with gusto, and fighting off the attacks by the furious trio of Axel Trehin (Aleph Racing), Frederic Denis (Nautipark) and Ludovic Mechin (Microvitae). Amongst these three, some sort of gentleman's agreement has come about: instead of each of them fighting all the time, they are taking it in turns to rest and attack. This isn't just an altruistic thing, as it also lets them use their boats to full potential, whilst decreasing the risk of breakages.

The possibility of breakages is of course always with them, and there have already been two demastings (Gilles Avril et Andrea Pendibene) and several other competitors, such as Carlos Lizancos have thrown in the towel, or made a stop for repairs.

Positions on 23rd September at 3pm (TU+ 2)

Prototypes ( Eurovia Cegelec class)
1. Davy Beaudart, Flexirub, 597 nm to the finish
2. Frederic Denis, Nautipark, 31.9 nm to leader
3. Axel Trehin, Aleph Racing, 33 .3 nm
4. Ludovic Mechin, Microvitae, 37.5 nm
5. Clement Bouyssou, Le Bon Agent Bougeons l'immobilier, 38.3 nm

Series (Ocean Bio-Actif class)
1. Ian Lipinski, Entreprise(s) Innovante(s), 661 to the finish
2. Benoit Hantzperg, YCA Dhumeaux - Secours Populaire, 2.9 nm
3. Tanguy Le Turquais, Terreal, 14.8 nnm
4. Julien Pulve, Novintiss, 23.0 nm
5. Charly Fernbach, Le Fauffiffon Henaff, 50.1 nm

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