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Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan set for Transgascogne Race start

by Will Carson 30 Jul 10:00 BST 30 July 2017
Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan ahead of the Transgascogne Race © Christophe Breschi / www.breschi-photo-video.com

Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan has his sights set firmly on a podium finish in the last race of the Mini Class SeL'ries before the big season finale – a 4,000-mile epic across the Atlantic alone on his 21ft racing yacht.

The 30-year-old from Kells, County Meath, goes into the 600-mile Transgascogne Race, beginning today, as one of the favourites for victory having notched up a string of impressive results so far this season.

Three podium finishes in five races has rocketed Dolan into fourth place overall in the season standings with only the Transgascogne Race, from Les Sables d'Olonne in France to Aviles in northern Spain, to go before the Mini Transat in October.

The Transat is considered one of the world's most gruelling yacht races, and has been a training ground for some of the offshore sailing's most famous athletes.

Dolan, who is now based in the Breton port of Concarneau, will go head to head with around 25 other sailors in the Transgascogne.

The race is split into two legs. The first, at 345 miles, takes the fleet from Les Sables d'Olonne around the small island of Belle Ile then south through the Bay of Biscay to Aviles in Spain's Asturias region. The second is a 245-mile direct sprint from Aviles back to Les Sables.

Although much shorter than the Transat, the Transgascogne has historically been seen as an indicator of how the season finale could finish.

"This is the sixth and last race before the Mini Transat, so it really is important," said Dolan, the only Irishman in a fleet dominated by French sailors. "This race is a real indicator of where I stand among the competition ahead of the Transat. In 2015 the podium of the Transgascogne was identical to that of the Transat so it's vital I do well. It's the last test we have against each other before the big one."

Third place finishes in the Pornichet Select in April and the Mini Fastnet in June, plus a second in the Mini En Mai, have put Dolan in good stead going into the Transgascogne.

A win here would be the ideal result going into the Transat, but Dolan's main focus is a podium finish.

"I led the first two races of the season going into the last few hours, and in the last two races I've managed to recover from bad starts to get good results," said Dolan, nicknamed L'Irlandais Volant by his French rivals. "I'd love to win this race because it would be the perfect boost going into the Transat. Whatever happens, I'll be disappointed if I don't finish on the podium."

Dolan's progress in the race can be tracked at transgascogne.geovoile.com/2017/tracker.

Dolan is sponsored by Smurfit Kappa Dubarry, Ding, Cellastab, Techniques Voiles, Renostyle, Studio des Schizographes, Petite Bistro and Concarneau.