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Lecture: “Back to the Rock-Fastnet '79” Launches Series at the Poolbeg Y&BC, Ringsend, Dublin

12th October 2019
Fastnet '79 Yacht Race Disaster: A Royal Navy helicopter rescues the crew of the yacht “Camargue” during the Atlantic storm in August 1979 Fastnet '79 Yacht Race Disaster: A Royal Navy helicopter rescues the crew of the yacht “Camargue” during the Atlantic storm in August 1979 Photo: Steve Pratt/Keystone/Hulton Archives/Getty Images.

Once again the Friends of Glenua launch their annual winter season of lectures with the 2019/20 programme held in Dublin at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club, Ringsend. 

“Back to the Rock- Fastnet '79” is the title of the opening lecture in aid of the RNLI. This it take place on Thursday 17th October (at 8pm) at the venue located on Pigeon House Rd, Dublin 4. There will be an entry contribution of €5 in aid of the RNLI.

The speaker is John O’Donnell who, as a teenager on the yacht ‘Sundowner’, survived the massive Atlantic storm which turned the 1979 Fastnet Yacht Race into the greatest yacht-racing disaster ever witnessed.

In spite of the biggest peacetime rescue effort at sea, 21 people died, and boats were dismasted, abandoned or sunk as the race became a fight to stay alive.

Forty years later O'Donnell remembers the storm. In his illustrated presentation, John will tell the story of ‘Fastnet 79’ from the different perspectives of those at sea, as well as those on land. As he says: “I was lucky to survive the Fastnet Yacht Race in 1979 and I’ve been lucky again in 2019 in finding so many people who would share their stories with me”.

“Back To The Rock” is a gripping and evocative adventure story of hurricane winds and waves the size of houses. It is also a story of fear and courage.

John O’Donnell is a writer and lawyer. His work has been published and broadcast widely. A collection of short stories “Almost The Same Blue” is forthcoming from Doire Press in 2020.

“Back to the Rock” is also the title of his RTE radio documentary on Fastnet '79. Co-produced with Tim Dennehy, it is now available via this podcast link. 

Published in Dublin Bay
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Dublin Bay

Dublin Bay on the east coast of Ireland stretches over seven kilometres, from Howth Head on its northern tip to Dalkey Island in the south. It's a place most Dubliners simply take for granted, and one of the capital's least visited places. But there's more going on out there than you'd imagine.

The biggest boating centre is at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on the Bay's south shore that is home to over 1,500 pleasure craft, four waterfront yacht clubs and Ireland's largest marina.

The bay is rather shallow with many sandbanks and rocky outcrops, and was notorious in the past for shipwrecks, especially when the wind was from the east. Until modern times, many ships and their passengers were lost along the treacherous coastline from Howth to Dun Laoghaire, less than a kilometre from shore. 

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south. North Bull Island is situated in the northwest part of the bay, where one of two major inshore sandbanks lie, and features a 5 km long sandy beach, Dollymount Strand, fronting an internationally recognised wildfowl reserve. Many of the rivers of Dublin reach the Irish Sea at Dublin Bay: the River Liffey, with the River Dodder flow received less than 1 km inland, River Tolka, and various smaller rivers and streams.

 

At A Glance – Dublin Bay

The Bay is a C-shaped inlet of the Irish Sea and is about 10 kilometres wide along its north-south base, and 7 km in length to its apex at the centre of the city of Dublin; stretching from Howth Head in the north to Dalkey Point in the south

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