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The Vision for 2020: Tom Dolan aims high with Smurfit Kappa

by Tom Dolan Racing 10 Mar 2020 13:57 GMT 13-22 March 2020
Tom Dolan, the Irish skipper of Smurfit Kappa © Thomas Deregnieau

The 2020 season for the Figaro class is fast approaching with the Solo Maitre CoQ due to start in Les Sables d'Olonne, France on Monday.

Irish solo racer Tom Dolan is pleased to have a achieved a much more balanced, clearly focused build up seeking to make last year's weaknesses into strengths and return a set of consistent good results.

The Solo Maître Coq comprises two days of coastal courses followed by a two day offshore race and is an important warm up, a chance to benchmark against the fleet following the winter and early spring training period.

It is an opportunity to check the boat is perfect before April's demanding Transat AG2R from Concarneau to Saint Barths in the Caribbean. The pinnacle event of the season is once again La Solitaire du Figaro which takes place in September.

"One thing I have been working hard on is my personal preparation and management ashore and afloat." Dolan asserts, " Last year with the boat being new it was a bit of a mad scramble for everyone to find the time to train and to prep and optimise the boats. Maximising sailing time whilst requiring time to fix and optimise the systems, and remember it was all compressed by technical faults, all added up to a tiring, stressful season. Looking back that definitely impacted on my decision making and for sure making wrong decisions impacted much more on my season than any lack of boatspeed at any one time."

"I am just trying to be more disciplined on and off the water so I can put myself in the best position to make good decisions when they really count."

"So I am working from my programme as much as possible that makes things like safeguarding days off and not sliding into working on the computer and messing with the boat. Rest is vital and he has been taking time to learn from the meteo books and doing as much homework about the race courses, looking at different scenarios now so I feel prepared. I have just re-read all the information about the Vendée weather for example whereas this time last year I was worried about if blocks were in the right place."

Dolan has worked hard on his pre season preparation with his sailmaker Technique Voiles and feels he has made further gains. "It is a work in progress as it always is but with the cable-less gennakers I feel there is a definite gain but we will have to see against the whole fleet.

After the Transatlantic race he is planning to bring Smurfit Kappa to Ireland for six weeks to trial a some potential female sailors with a view to forming an Irish campaign for the two handed offshore class for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

"I have had a couple of women who are interested approach me and so we will do some sailing and see how we get on. But this period will also allow me to do some data analysis with an Irish company who are keen to help me generally on data and performance analysis."

The Transat AG2R will be a big test not just for the two co-skippers but for the Figaro Beneteau 3 boats which have never raced on such a long ocean passage.

"Keeping the boats dry below and stopping water coming in is the big test. There were problems enough on La Solitaire in the Celtic Sea so we really have been working on what can be done." He explains, "I am really looking forwards to racing hard two handed to be able to really push the boat. And there should be a chance for a good rest afterwards. La Solitaire is what matters and I want to be doing all I can to arrive at the start rested, focused and ready to put three good, solid legs together."

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