Rising star and respected veteran team up for Sardinha Cup bid

Offshore racer Tom Dolan and ocean sailor Damian Foxall to sail new class of boat

 

One of Ireland’s rising stars in offshore racing has joined forces with another of the world’s most successful ocean sailors for a cutting-edge campaign later this month.

After his debut on the legendary Figaro single-handed circuit in France last year, Meath’s Tom Dolan has a latest-generation boat that boasts “foils” for added performance as the new season beckons.

And, to help him step up a gear, veteran ocean sailor Damian Foxall from Kerry has teamed up with Dolan for the opening series that starts in a fortnight’s time.

That event is the Sardinha Cup, running until mid-April, and involves a series of short offshore and inshore courses where 30 of the new 10-metre boats will be in close quarters action, sailed by just two people.

As it is a new class of boat, the learning curve is certain to be steep for all involved.

For Foxall, now a 10-times round-the-world race sailor (that includes two race victories plus several notable records), he is returning to his roots in professional sailing.

‘Like riding a bike’

“It’s been 20 years since my last Figaro but apart from a being a bit rusty it’s like riding a bike,” Foxall told The Irish Times. “With a new boat and a double-handed race at the start, it’s an ideal time for me as we’re between Volvo Ocean Race cycles.” (It’s now known as The Ocean Race. )

Dolan himself was third-placed Figaro series “rookie2 overall in 2018, an achievement that might even have been improved were it not for gear failure, while Foxall won the coveted award 20 years ago.

Last year was also notable in the French single-handed series for not just one Irish boat taking part, but a second, as Joan Mulloy also debuted there.

Like Dolan, she also has secured one of the new Figaro 3 generation boats for the coming season.

However, Dolan is clearly looking for an edge by adding Foxall’s experience at a crucial development stage in the new boat.

With almost 40 of the new boats now launched, few have had much time on the water, with the exception of the earliest campaigners, such as Charles Caudrelier, who secured the first boat.

The next three weeks involve as much sailing as possible, working on manoeuvres

Dolan and Foxall have been training in mostly light to medium winds amongst a group of 10 other boats in a coaching group, and the duo are pleased with their performance to date.

Too strong

But heavy conditions remain untested and this week’s weather has been too strong for them to venture out from their Breton training base.

“The next three weeks involve as much sailing as possible, working on manoeuvres and making them as automatic as possible with just two people,” Dolan said. “”The boat is almost ready, just safety gear to sort.”

Dolan’s prospects have been boosted by a three-year sponsorship commitment from Smurfit Kappa, which means his sights are firmly set on an ambitious Vendee Globe programme eventually.

But for the coming event, coming so early in the process of learning a new boat, Dolan is making few predictions for his performance, though he’d gladly take a top-10 result.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the early-bird entries deadline for the annual ICRA National Championships passes on Friday. Strong interest is already reported for the event hosted by the Royal St George Yacht Club from June 7th to 9th.

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