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The Fastnet Yacht Race & Recalling the 1979 Force 10 Storm (PODCAST)

18th February 2021
Ten Irish entries are among the record 400 registrations for the race around Ireland's Fastnet Rock in August Ten Irish entries are among the record 400 registrations for the race around Ireland's Fastnet Rock in August Credit: RORC/Kurt Arrigo

Bow to bow, they stretch five kilometres – that's how the Rolex Fastnet yacht race organisers have welcomed the record entry for this summer’s race, which will have a new finish in Cherbourg, France.

Some ten Irish entries are among the record 400 registrations for what Afloat has described as one of the most competitive Fastnet races in years.

The 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race starts on August 8thThe 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race starts on August 8th Photo: Kurt Ariigo/Rolex

Fastnet Race 1979 Recalled

It’s only 16 months, but may seem like 16 years, since the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Fastnet race was marked with a lunch – yes, remember those - hosted by Howth Yacht Club.

Surviving representatives of all 18 Irish yachts in the 1979 race were invited to the first such reunion, many of whom still had frightening memories of the Force 10 storm that claimed 15 lives, sinking 5 yachts - with 136 sailors rescued by the emergency services.

Almost 3,000 competitors and spectators were sailing the 605 nautical mile course from the Isle of Wight to the Fastnet lighthouse and back to Plymouth when conditions changed dramatically on the night of August 13th, 1979.

The ferocity of the storm had not been forecast in time, and there was minimal communication and no satellite technology on the yachts — with even the best equipped yachts unable to deal with 50-60 knot winds.

A Royal Navy helicopter rescues the crew of the yacht Camargue during the August 1979 Fastnet Race Photo: courtesy RTEA Royal Navy helicopter rescues the crew of the yacht Camargue during the August 1979 Fastnet Race Photo: courtesy RTE

Kevin Burke, who had been on board Rapparee, and his navigator John Marrow, and their partners Angela and Caroline, recalled the events and aftermath for an interview first broadcast on RTÉ Seascapes.

Former Naval Service commodore John Kavanagh, who was on board the LÉ Deirdre for the rescue effort, along with sailor and RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot Donal McClement and Michael O’Leary also shared their memories.

You can listen on this week’s Wavelengths podcast here

Published in Wavelength Podcast
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

Email The Author

Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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Afloat's Wavelengths Podcast with Lorna Siggins

Weekly dispatches from the Irish coast with journalist Lorna Siggins, talking to people in the maritime sphere. Topics range from marine science and research to renewable energy, fishing, aquaculture, archaeology, history, music and more...

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