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I’ve known solo sailor Tom Dolan for a few years, impressed by his determination and positive attitude in pursuit of his aim to reach the top of international offshore yacht racing. France is amongst the toughest possible places to attempt that. Sailing is one of the nation’s top sports. France is one of the world’s great sailing destinations

As he says about himself: “From a young age in my native County Meath, farming was my experience.”  A change came at the age of  9, on a lake close to his home –  he first took to the water in a little wooden dinghy. “My father bought it for a few hundred. He fixed it up and we went sailing. There was baling twine tied to the boat.”

Sailing is not a major sport in Ireland and didn’t become a major part of his life for several years. In one of my interviews with him, he told how his interest was reawakened by volunteering with the French sail training group, Glenans, which then had a base at Baltimore in West Cork. An opportunity to train professionally at the Glenans base in Concarneau, Western Brittany, followed.

He left for France in 2009 and is now  based in that mecca of sailing, has learned French and become referred to as “L’Irlandais Volant -the Flying Irishman.”

“I had to leave and move to France.” That happened in his early 20s. “In sailing circles, I wasn’t a member of a yacht or racing club. It was difficult to fit in.

It’s been tough, but Tom has sailed over 50,000 nautical miles, including several Atlantic crossings, racing, training, delivering boats. In 2016 he became the first Irish person to win a major solo race in France, breaking years of local dominance. In 2017 he was 5th overall and moved onto the toughest, biggest and most-reported sailing race in France, the Solitaire du Figaro, named from the major French newspaper. In 2020, his third season in the Figaro class, he won the VIVI Trophy for the first non-French skipper and was named Irish Sailor of the Year.

His present boat, the Beneteau Figaro 3 Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan, named after his premier sponsors, is out of the water at present for winter maintenance and tuning for next season.

At the Paris Boat Show this month he was named amongst the top ten overall French sailors for achieving seventh place in the  2022 French Elite Offshore Racing Championships, the highest-placed non-French sailor -“L’Irlandais Volant -the Flying Irishman.”

NEWSMAKER is my choice of a person or organisation for achievements made in the maritime sector,

Tom MacSweeney

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