A long, comprehensive spring season of training and preparation comes to an end Tuesday as Irish solo offshore sailor Tom Dolan takes on the first major solo race of the 2022 season. The Solo Maître Coq is the traditional curtain raiser, the opening event of the season long French Elite Offshore Championship and it has attracted a strong field of 33 entries.
The format has changed this year, reversing the order of events, so that the 340nm long offshore race is now first, starting Tuesday, followed by two shorter days of racing. Dolan completed his last training block three weeks ago now – intensive sessions, fine tuning boat-on-boat racing skills, starting and manoeuvring at mark rounding – and then raced the Plastimo Lorient Mini 650 two handed Mini650 class race with the up and coming Japanese skipper Federico Sampei, Dolan now says he is itching to be back racing solo on his Figaro Beneteau 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, not least to put all his learning and training improvements into action on the race course.
“I think I can safely say I feel like I have never been better prepared for a race. Training has gone well and I feel quite confident based on what I have seen and learned through the winter.” Said Dolan on Sunday on the famous Vendée Globe race dock Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic coast.
“I feel I have really worked on my weak points through this winter and my all round game has improved. We did the speed work earlier in the winter and it has been less of a fixation and I have really been working on getting off the start line well and making better starts into the races as that is what let me down too much last year.” The Irish skipper summarises.
Tuesday’s 340-mile race between Belle-Ile, Ile de Ré and Ile de Yeu is followed by coastal courses of around thirty miles out of Les Sables d’Olonne. At three days before the start the weather situation looks complicated as the different weather forecasting models do not agree with one another.
“We will just have to take it is it comes. I have done this course four times I think and so you get to know it a bit. But while I am confident in the work I have done and don’t feel there is anything I could have done more, it is always important to get out there and validate what you have been doing. And it is important to me to make a good start the season to come away with a decent result.” Smiles Dolan who had to withdraw from this race with an injured ankle in late March last year.
He is pleased the long offshore race starts this year’s programme: “I’m always more comfortable on the long race than on the coastal ones. This will give me time to warm up! I am objective and just want a fair result as this Solo Maître CoQ has not been good for me before. The first time I kind of had a bit of a mental blow up and the second time I hurt my ankle. This time, I want to finish well and finish happy with what I did on the water,” he concludes.
“Most of all at this stage it is about going out and executing and building confidence so I feel at my best going into La Solitaire du Figaro.”
Follow the race here: https://www.solomaitrecoq.com/cartographie