Time and wind simply ran out on Tom Dolan and his solo round Ireland record attempt as he reached the finish line on Sunday afternoon in Dún Laoghaire.
Unexpectedly light headwinds for more than 24 hours while sailing round the north coast and into the North Channel between Scotland and Northern Ireland, left Dolan beating slowly upwind with periods fighting against a strong tide.
Requiring to maintain an average of more than 7.2 knots, the 36-year-old Irish sailor at one point was more than 70 nautical miles ahead when sailing fast up the west coast, on the heels of a moving weather trough. But as he rounded the north west corner he was struggling to stay fast enough as the breezes dropped away.
The solo skipper of the 10-metre Figaro Smurfit Kappa-Kingspan was targeting the record time of four days, one hour and 53 minutes, set in 2015 – only to fall several hours short.
It was a tired, disappointed but totally objective Dolan who arrived back in Dún Laoghaire.
“We expected light winds in the North because we knew that if we got caught by the weather front that it was going to be light so we always knew the window was tight”, he said.
“It was all based on staying in front of the front that was coming from the southwest. It was those unexpectedly light winds initially which put us just about 20 miles behind the planned timing at the Fastnet. It was the case of these 20 miles. If it had not been for that I would have stayed in front of the front. I was watching the weather.
“But I loved the course, I learned lots, it was great to put miles in the bank and it’s great training for La Solitaire du Figaro later in the year. And I will be back, it is definitely achievable and a great course.”