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Low winds, strong tides mean high risk, high stress Stage 2

Winner of Stage 1 of La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec which finished Thursday into beautiful Kinsale in his native Ireland, Tom Dolan has been keeping his feet on the ground despite becoming very much the hometown hero.

As the first Irish, or indeed north European, skipper to win a leg of the French solo offshore race in 25 years, 36 year old Dolan – who grew up on a farm in County Meath – smiled quietly, ‘Not bad for a mucksavage from upcountry’ referring to his early life looking after livestock in all weathers.

But after enjoying the moment at yesterday evening’s prizegiving in the Kinsale Yacht Club, Dolan was today right back down to business, preparing for Stage 2.

Dolan, the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan has a lead of just six minutes and 27 seconds over Swiss rival Nils Palimeri (Teamwork) and a handy 16 minutes over a posse of top Figaro racers led by 21 year old Basile Bourgnon (Edenred). And behind Bourgnon the ‘benjamin’ of the fleet (the French term for the youngest in a race) there are four pre race favourites who all finished with 40 seconds of Bourgnon after three days and 19 hours of racing.

Ironically the top two, Dolan and Palmieri, have been regular winners of the Vivi Trophy – presented by Kinsale based Marcus and Megan Hutchinson five years ago for to the top international, non-French finishers on each stage and overall.

After being promoted from second to first when rookie Benoit Tuduri was penalized 30 minutes for having weight stacked outside the guardwires, Dolan said today. “At first I was delighted with second place and now it feels a bit crazy but in fact for me there is not that much difference between the second and first. What I am most pleased about is that I sailed well, I stuck to my processes and controlled my emotions even when I was near the front and doing well.”

And so he says he still wants to be first across a stage finish line:

There is something special about crossing the line in first place and I still want to do that, seeing the whole fleet behind you. But this is far from an empty victory. It is very special on ‘home waters’. It is what I have dreamed of for the last nine months, or really since when I started out, winning a home leg into Kinsale, it is very special.”

He has been congratulated wherever he has been in Kinsale where La Solitaire has been hosted 21 times before,

" It has been mad here, everyone has been saying ‘well done Tom’. It is cool because Irish people really get behind sports success stories, so hopefully now there will be a few more sailing fans at home. Even friends of mine at home are talking about ‘stacking’ and all that. But what is important I had a good leg but now, good leg or bad leg, you have to concentrate on controlling the controllables and preparing well for the next leg.”

A light winds stage

The next stage, north into the Saint George’s Channel – either to Chicken Rock south of the Isle of Man (570 nautical miles) or to ODAS M2 weather buoy off Dun Laoghaire (510 miles) before turning south to a finish off Roscoff– promises to be contested in very light winds and with very strong spring tide coeffcients

Dolan cautions, “I don’t think the next leg is a leg you can win the Solitaire on, it is one you can lose it on, especially leaving on very, very strong Spring tides and at Anglesey you have to be very careful. There won’t be anyone called ‘Dolan’ going off on their own this time”

They said:

Loïs Berrehar (Skipper MACIF 2022):On paper, this second stage will be very open in terms of the choices of route, with light weather until Roscoff. You will have to be versatile, make do with what you have in terms of weather. I am already clear in my head about the start of the second stage. You must not lose concentration. I'm going to give it my all to aim for the podium! »

Chloé Le Bars (Brittany-CMB Océane Region): “The main difficulty will be deciding if or when to leave the group to try things, especially since it is never easy to sail in light winds, to play with the thermal wind , the night breeze and all these elements while we are all so tight and close in terms of space.”

Piers Copham, GBR, Les Voiles des Anges: “The first leg was not great but I learned and you get what you deserve. If you don’t train, you don’t sail then you don’t get a result. I am fine with that. I am just pleased to be here. Until someone offered me a good price for my Mini a month ago I was not doing this. I got double what I paid for it. There was a boat reserved with my name on it but I needed the money and here I am. I am here to learn. The objective, the bucket list, is the Vendée Globe in the colours of Les Voiles des Anges. So the last few months have been very much about looking for sponsors.”