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Rookie Benoît Tuduri wins into Kinsale, Ireland’s Dolan second, rookie Simon third.

French rookie Benoît Tuduri (CAPSO – En Cavale) made a dream start to his Figaro class offshore racing career when he took victory on the 610 miles Stage 1 of the 54th La Solitaire du Figaro, finishing into Kinsale, Ireland at 07:02:25hrs local time this morning. He finished 16 minutes and 21 seconds ahead of Ireland’s homecoming hero Tom Dolan (Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan) whose second place is his best stage finish on this his sixth La Solitaire du Figaro.

Benoît Tuduri (CAPSO – En Cavale) photo Alex Courcoux

Tuduri, 29, races and trains with the tiny Team Vendée Formation out of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and despite this being his first year on La Solitare du Figaro, maintains the Vendée group’s impressive recent record of Stage 1 wins, Xavier Macaire – who helps coach Tuduri – won the first stage in 2020 and 2021. The elapsed time for Tuduri is 3 days 19 hours 00 minutes. It makes it the second year in a row that the Stage 1 has been won by a rookie following Davy Beaudart’s triumph into Port La Foret last June.

"I don't realize what I have done, it has not even begun to sink in. I was so focused on getting across the finish line that I was not thinking about what I have done. This is only my fourth solo race and the very first Solitaire stage of my life. It's really something. I dedicate this win to all the kids who came to see me at start in Caen and to all my partners who trust me.” Said Tuduri who co founded a sail training and corporate regatta organisation company near his native Montpellier, “I took a bit of time to get going. I am a bit of a diesel engine. And in the Figaro I know you never give up. I hesitated a lot about going north of the Scillies, I figured if it was down to speed I would have ended up in the group. This was my first time at the Fastnet It has a special flavor because it a legendary place. It was dark and raining. I saw the Fastnet when I passed 20 meters from the rock but it was a very nice, mystical moment. I only had two people in sight behind me at the AIS. I had a small lead but I felt it was comfortable. I even rested at the end of the night without too much problem. The boat was moving, everything was sorted. it was going well. In Figaro, it's rare to be so far ahead of second. I thank Race Direction for the course which is truly exceptional. It was great, with lots of things going on.”

Tom Dolan Photo Alexis Courcoux

Dolan, who admits legs to Kinsale and round the Fastnet bring on more pressure and

nerves, sailed an excellent first leg after a modest start out of Caen last Sunday. Taking the initiative to stay east and pass north of the Scillies he led during Tuesday’s ascent of the Celtic Sea and rounded the Fastnet in the small hours of this morning in fourth position.

He passed Swiss rival Nils Palmieri (Teamwork) and French rookie Julie Simon (DOUZE) on the spinnaker reach to the finish line by staying offshore. Dolan wins the Vivi Trophy for the best international, non-French skipper.

“I always feel more pressure on this leg ‘home’ to Ireland, it messes with your head because I want to do well. So there is a lot of relief. A lot. Earlier in the year when I found the race was coming to Kinsale I was immediately getting a bit nervous because there it is coming to my ‘home’. I was worried and the last time we raced in here I did terrible.” Smiled an exhausted Dolan.

Of his decision to stay east he said, “I had this huge wind shift to the left and tacked and was pointing at the Fastnet. I stacked the stuff, tidied the boat a bit and said to myself ‘right, who will be the first to tack but no one did. And of course it was night so I could not see anyone. I had a second thought to go back but it made no sense. And the tide was perfect for me. “

“It was great coming in this morning, there were loads of people out to welcome me which was really touching.”

Julie Simon Photo Alexis Courcoux

Julie Simon, like Tuduri a first-timer on the race, takes the third step on the podium, some 21 minutes after the winner and three minutes after the ‘Flying Irishman’ as 36 year old Dolan is known in France where he lives. Simon, 26, mixes her sail racing with a full time job and is a native of La Baule on the Loire Atlantic coast. She comes to La Solitaire after three seasons in the Mini 650 class. She, like Dolan and Tuduri, all of the top five stayed to the right, closer to the rhumb line. Best of the main peloton is Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) who finished sixth, 14 minutes and 28 seconds after Dolan.

Simon said “I could never imagined this happening. It is exceptional. My goal was really just to have a good stage, ideally to be in the top half. And I was in the group. The option was a little crazy. I did not see anyone from the Scillies. Then I knew I was in the top three. And from there it was about pushing hard. I did not even see the Fastnet. We made a final sprint in the dark which was not easy. But you have to have faith in your choices, and here we are, two rookies on the podium.”

Updates to come