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Tom Dolan reviews Leg 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro

by Tom Dolan Racing 20 Jun 18:36 BST
Tom Dolan finishes Leg 1 of the 50th La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro © Alexis Courcoux

Irish solo skipper Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa) started Stage 3 of La Solitaire URGO Le Figaro looking for a top ten finish as he sought to restore confidence in himself after two disappointing opening legs.

When he crossed the finish line in to Roscoff this evening to end the 420 nautical miles race in the English Channel, which took the 46 boat fleet to Hand Deep mark to the south of Plymouth and down to the north western tip of Brittany, Dolan realised that goal, taking eighth place. But the sailor from County Meath may lose his position if he is penalised tomorrow for using his engine momentarily to escape from rocks at Alderney after being driven on by the sluicing tides.

"I expect to maybe get a 25 minutes penalty. I don't really know. But at the time there was nothing else I could do. We were maybe ten minutes late to catch the tidal gate there but in the end we were being pushed around by the tide. Tanguy (Le Turquais, a fellow competitor) was beside me and he was driven on and could not get off. I was lucky to get out of there."

"But regardless of the penalty I am pleased with the result. I needed to restore my confidence and it did. I went around in the top ten almost all the way after a terrible start. So I feel better."

Three French sailors escaped at the notorious raz de Blanchard on Monday morning, just 21 hours after Sunday's start from Roscoff, and ran out a lead of 60 miles on the stricken pack who had to wait until the late afternoon and evening before they could make their own escape.

Dolan then chose to anchor before he picked up a new southerly breeze. He made the smart choice then to stay south of a Traffic Separation exclusion zone off the Cherbourg peninsula, a decision which got him back in to the top ten.

"The thing is actually if the course had been set in reverse we would have had a good race with breeze all the way around. I think the race officers were a bit stubborn trying to stick to the course they published originally." Said Dolan, "But then I came away with my best result of the race. In the end it is a bit like last year when I had two bad results and a good one"

That's the maddest thing I have ever been through. I had a terrible start as usual, a real Tom Dolan start, and the fleet were gone. There was no wind at the coast and I managed to skip around them and get into the top 10 and then I got all excited saying 'I am doing well, I am doing well. I missed the tide at Alderney by no more than ten minutes, I would say. If there had not been that general recall at the start I would have got through and then there was a whole load of us ended up in this washing machine. The tide was pushing us back and the wind was taking us forwards and Tanguy and I got sucked into this thing. The boat was hopping off the rocks and so I turned on the engine to get out. Tanguy ended up getting stuck. After that I had to put my head back together and I was going to give up, I said 'what am I doing here, the whole fleet got through and I thought this us useless. But I thought I might as well keep going. And then luckily, or not, most of the fleet tried to go around the TSS to the north but the ridge of high pressure was moving north, so I anchored and I got this weird sea breeze,a night breeze along the coast of Alderney and managed to crawl west. Then the wind came in from the west and I was back in the top ten again. I was in the top ten again and from there it was a battle of wills to stay there. It was a mad race. I have never had so many ups and downs in the one race."

He concluded, "This was the same as the Solitaire last year, two terrible first legs and then a good third one, dragged me back from the brinks of giving up sailing and going back to delivering pizza or whatever. It is a mad sport."

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