Tom Dolan: “Sometimes La Solitaire is a war, sometimes a dance, sometimes a chess match.”

Tom Dolan: “Sometimes La Solitaire is a war, sometimes a dance, sometimes a chess match.”

The annual French solo, multi stage one design offshore race, La Solitaire du Figaro is an incredible sporting challenge and this year’s edition, the 54th La Solitaire du Figaro Paprec which finished into Piriac-sur-Mer this morning was no exception. Although there were no major gales it was a long, Doldrums like calm at the finish of Stage 2 into Roscoff which shaped the final outcome of the race.

While escaping the shut down in the breeze at the finish, which lasted overnight and through the best part of the next morning, was beaten by the three French sailors who took the podium places today, it proved a cruel setback for Ireland’s Tom Dolan. After the skipper of Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan had made history by winning the opening stage into Kinsale from Caen, Dolan was one of the many left drifting on not one, but two tides off Roscoff, losing more than a dozen hours against the solo sailors who finished top three today, Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire), Basile Bourgnon (Edenred) and Lois Berrehar (Skipper MACIF 2022).

Dolan dropped to 17th overall and, despite a great final stage today – finishing eighth into Piriac-sur-Mer – ended his sixth La Solitaire du Figaro in 18th.


It was quite a race I felt good all the way through this stage and quite comfortable until very early this morning when I lost my temper when I caught something in my keel. It took me a while to realize it and the others passed me” said the sailor who grew up in County Meath and now lives in Concarneau.

He is disappointed with his final finish position which falls short of his 5th in 2020 7th in 2022, but he will always treasure the victory into Kinsale. “Winning and doing it at home in Ireland was an incredible moment, without doubt the best of my sporting career!”

Dolan’s race and that of others was ultimately lost at Saint David’s Head on the north west corner of Wales. He was among the leading group who went outside, west of the Smalls TSS and became becalmed in contrary tide.

It was just bad timing. At that time on the forecast we had there was no reason to go inshore but the boats behind did. ” Recalled the Irish skipper.
He finished a very creditable eighth into Piriac-sur-Mer this morning – losing Berrehar and Horeau in the final miles after he caught a rope round his keel – but weighted down by that Stage 2 finish, Dolan ends up 18th overall and wins the Vivi Trophy for the best international skipper.


Looking exhausted and spent, he was philosophical, “This stage felt long but it was shorter than the one before. It was intense, it was a real race that I really found cool. This Solitaire was a lot of hard work. And I’m quite happy with the way I sailed on the first stage, even if the second was a little bit cruel for me and many other sailors. I feel good, and I was quite comfortable with the boat, until this morning when I lost my temper when I caught something in the keel. It took me quite a while to realize that I had something on it, while the others were passing me.
Even in his deeply fatigued state, Dolan smiled, “I feel like I sailed well, I sailed the boat fast and made good decisions. With the information I had I would still make the same choices at Saint David’s and indeed I am pretty happy with all the choices I made. I don’t feel like I made mistakes or bad choices.

He quipped, “If I could, I would love to do this every month, haha! It’s so good, there’s nothing better. Sometimes it’s a war where you’re attached to the helm that you can’t let go, other times it’s a game of chess, and sometimes it’s a dance or at the slightest shift in the wind everything the world turns at the same time. It’s incredible and intense. I recommend to everyone, and I already want to come back next year.

Credit photo: Jean Louis Carli