Dolan can get results in the Figaro 3 fleet but lack of funds forces him to cut corners
Mayo’s Joan Mulloy is convinced that 2020 will lead to better standings
Part of a fleet of single-handed sailors beginning a leg of the La Solitaire du Figaro. The series will have two Irish boats for the third successive season in 2020
Irish involvement in offshore racing appears to be in a buoyant state going by the busy season just closing, and the prospects for 2020 are looking strong. Yet results can be elusive at the cutting edge of sailing where financial resources dictate time on the water and thus performance.
Domestically coastal courses are now commonplace at regional regattas, and offshore series events such as the Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association have attracted good turnouts at club level.
The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s 605-mile Rolex Fastnet Race sells out its available entry list in a matter of minutes every two years, which bodes well for Wicklow Sailing Club’s biennial 705-mile Round Ireland Race next June.
Yet it is at the cutting edge of offshore racing in France where the challenge of building results is decided by funding and where the dilemma facing Irish sailors is best illustrated.
After years of occasional Irish interest the annual Solitaire du Figaro single-handed series will have two Irish boats for the third successive season in 2020 as Meath’s Tom Dolan on Smurfit Kappa and Mayo’s Joan Mulloy mix with the very best sailors in the offshore sailing world.
Dolan arguably has the edge in terms of performance in the new breed of Figaro 3 boats, regularly achieving results in the top half of the fleet of up to 40 boats. However, funding shortfalls have forced him to cut corners as something has to give.
“I’m lacking the budget for a preparateur [the shore-based assistant that readies the boat between races] so I’m doing everything myself,” Dolan told The Irish Times. “This means I’m tired at sea, and it leads to poor tactics.”
Currently competing in a training series around Brittany, Dolan will compete in fewer events and concentrate his resources around the Solitaire series itself.
“I’m not lacking in boat speed – I get plenty of positive feedback saying so – but sometimes I’m fast going in the wrong direction!” he joked.
Dolan will return to Ireland with his boat in mid-October to support the charity Sailing into Wellness as part of Mental Health Week. He will offer trips on board to sailors interested in the latest generation of foiling boats to raise funds for the charity.
Meanwhile, Mulloy has just sailed up the river Thames to meet the queen; or rather she was recreating the voyage sailed by her ancestor to promote sponsor Grace O’Malley Whiskey.
After a late start into this year’s Solitaire circuit, time on board undermined her results, and in two stages she timed-out, which she describes as gut-wrenching. The only consolation was she was not the only boat to do so.
However, those result belied her improving form towards the end of the circuit, and she is convinced that 2020 will lead to better standings. “It’s given me much more fuel for the fire and get back out there and perform. The results don’t reflect it, but I really improved towards the end.”
Her next race is the Transat Jacques Vabre with French sailor Alexia Barrier in what will possibly be the only fully female crew in the transatlantic race. “It’s a low-budget campaign so we’re not going to feature as it’s a really old boat, but there’ll be a race within a race against similar old boats.”
Yet the reality at the cutting edge of offshore racing means curtailing ambitions, and that means the single-handed Vendee Globe race in 2020 is not now going to happen for her.
“I’m okay with that decision now, but I’d say in November 2020, when the fleet sails off without me, I’ll be heartbroken. But the Vendee 2024 is still a goal that I’m determined to chase.”