Published on 19/06/2019
British and Irish friends and rivals Will Harris and Tom Dolan had a great match race to the finish line of Stage 3, Dolan in eighth place pipping Harris by just ten seconds after 400 miles and three days and four hours of racing.
Dolan however, now faces a jury decision as to the penalty he expects for using his engine to get away from the rocks in the tidal race at Alderney. “The keel must have hit twenty times,” Dolan recalled. “Tanguy got stuck and I was so lucky not to. I expect to get a penalty, maybe 25 minutes or something like that, but what else could I do?”
Dolan, whose career best before today was his ninth in the third leg last year, continued: “That’s the maddest thing I have ever been through. I had a terrible start as usual, a real Tom Dolan start, and the fleet were gone. There was no wind at the coast and I managed to skip around them and get into the top 10 and then I got all excited saying, ‘I am doing well, I am doing well.’
“I missed the tide at Alderney by no more than ten minutes, I would say. If there had not been that general recall at the start I would have got through and then there was a whole load of us ended up in this washing machine. The tide was pushing us back and the wind was taking us forwards and Tanguy and I got sucked into this thing. The boat was hopping off the rocks and so I turned on the engine to get out. Tanguy ended up getting stuck.
“After that I had to put my head back together and I was going to give up, I said ‘what am I doing here’, the whole fleet got through and I thought this is useless. But I thought I might as well keep going. And then luckily, or not, most of the fleet tried to go around the TSS to the north but the ridge of high pressure was moving north, so I anchored and I got this weird sea breeze, a night breeze along the coast of Alderney and managed to crawl west. Then the wind came in from the west and I was back in the top ten again. From there it was a battle of wills to stay there. It was a mad race. I have never had so many ups and downs in the one race. That was the hardest race I have ever done. This was the same as the Solitaire last year; two terrible first legs and then a good third one which dragged me back from the brinks of giving up sailing and going back to delivering pizza or whatever. It is a mad sport.”
As for Will Harris, who was top rookie in 2016 on his only La Solitaire so far when he finished sixth on the last stage, he admitted the final sprint had put a smile on his face, a welcome relief at the end of an incredible up and down stage.
“That was the most frustrating leg I have ever done. The fact that there were three boats that reached Alderney only ten minutes before I did and then they were 60 miles ahead and could then cruise around… I was happy to come back in the end and finish in the top 10.
“After Alderney the fleet really was back together and then there was another big choice at the DST, most of the fleet went north and I was for going with the fleet. Then I had a proper sit down and look at the routing and decided this is not the way to go. I turned around and end up paying, putting myself in dead last, and I am really happy that I made that call myself and did not just follow the fleet, and now come in here with a few places gained.
“A top ten was the aim and I have got that. By going south, we knew the wind would fill in from the south first and we were sailing a shorter route. I decided to sail back on myself and sailed back past the last placed boat of that group. I was pretty terrified but it was not until 24 hours later that we had the result and were ahead. It was pretty wild. And then last night there was no wind and we were drifting about. So I am glad we are in. It has been pretty tiring. And it was great to have that race with Tom coming in. The whole race has been so all over the place, that was the best bit of actual boat on boat racing I have done. It really did put a smile on my face. It is good for the battle for the Vivi Trophy.”
Finishing 29thtoday Alan Roberts (Seacat Services) now tops the challenge for the Vivi Tropy as the top international, non French sailor after three stages. He lies 14thwhile Justine Mettraux (TeamWork) was on course to finish 38ththis evening.
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