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A new season begins for Ireland's Tom Dolan

by Tom Dolan Racing 7 Mar 19:34 GMT
La Solitaire du Figaro © Alexis Courcoux

A comprehensive sail testing programme completed in January and longer periods of intensive pre-season training races should mean Irish solo sailor Tom Dolan is well equipped to stake his claim to regular podium places over the course of the Figaro Bénéteau season in France.

The seven month racing season starts next weekend with the curtain raising Solo Maître CoQ in Les Sables d'Olonne.

"I certainly feel good and have established myself well up in the fleet in training. I feel like I am sailing better than ever before but until you go racing you never really know if you have made the gains or the others are not as sharp yet." smiles Dolan, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan who has just returned to France and his programme after a short break with family and friends at home in his native Ireland.

"I had the boat launched in the water in early January - as early as I ever have - and did a week of sail testing with Incidences Sails and a couple of the top French guys, Alexis Loison and Jules Delpech, and that was very interesting. It was enough to give lots of confidence in their new technology and shapes and get the sails ordered very early."

With his training group out of Lorient, Brittany Dolan has spent many hours refining boat handling and short course starts and tactics, much more so than previously when the pre-season preparations focused on straight line speed testing.

"The thing is actually the more racing you do the more you learn when you are fast and slow relative to the fleet and so we think it is time better spent. Now I am just itching to go racing for real."

The Solo Maître CoQ has proven something of a bogey event for Dolan. In the past. Three editions ago he lost focus when his strategy did not work initially and he made some rash, wrong choices, two editions ago he twisted his ankle and had to retire and last year he blew up a sail, so he is very much hoping this is his year to finish on the podium and his bad luck has run in threes.

"Actually I am quietly confident, ready to go and deal with what comes my way. I am definitely one of the older and more experienced guys now and feel I have proven myself. There is quite a bit of turnover now in the Figaro fleet, I am among the best and I feel I am in good shape." Dolan asserts.

His season will pivot around five major events on his programme: the Solo Maître CoQ (from March 9 to 19), the Laura Vergne Trophy as a prelude to the Spi Ouest -France Banque Populaire Grand-Ouest (from April 1 to 2), the Tour de Bretagne (from June 29 to July 9), the Solo Guy Cotten (from July 23 to 30) all leading up to the season's pinnacle the Solitaire du Figaro (from August 19 to September 17).

The course for the 2023 La Solitaire du Figaro has been recently published and includes first stage from Caen to Kinsale in Ireland. The second leg goes north into the Irish Sea to a mark at the Isle of Man. All three stages are well over 600 miles in length usually meaning four nights at sea.

"It's an interesting course, I always seem to be able to do well going to the Fastnet and round the area I know well but you never know. But for sure I am looking forwards to going back to Kinsale." he enthuses. "It's definitely a stage I'd love to win."

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