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The Fastnet Race Losses of 1979 to be Remembered in Cowes Forty Years On

26th June 2019
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The Fastnet Race memorial service notice issued by the RORC The Fastnet Race memorial service notice issued by the RORC

The atmosphere in Cowes in the days leading up to the start of the Fastnet Race inevitably provides a heightening sense of anticipation and tension writes W M Nixon. And for 2019’s race on Saturday, August 3rd, there is an added intensity of emotion, as it marks the 40th Anniversary of the storm-struck race of 1979 which resulted in a total of 19 deaths.

In solemn acknowledgement of this, and in memory of those lost – some of whose former shipmates will be sailing in this year’s race – a special 40th Anniversary Service will be held the evening before the race in the “Sailors’ Church” in Cowes, Holy Trinity Parish Church, which overlooks the Royal Yacht Squadron starting line from which the Fastnet fleet traditionally starts its race westward.

squadron castle holy trinity2The Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes with Holy Trinity Church beyond

To be held on Friday, August 2nd at 1800 hrs, the service will be in the church which has the Memorial to those lost in August 1979, while there’s another Memorial Stone on Cape Clear Island, the nearest land to the Fastnet Rock itself.

There will be other memorial ceremonies in Baltimore and West Cork. But it’s highly appropriate that the sequence of remembering and honouring those lost should begin where this fateful event, which they had so keenly anticipated as a great sea adventure, finally got underway in the time-honoured flurry of excitement forty long years ago.

fastnet memorial3The 1979 Fastnet memorial in Holy Trinity. David Sheahan and Gerald Winks – lost from the Half Tonner Grimalkin – were both originally from Ireland
Fastnet cape clear memorial4The Cape Clear Memorial stone is an eloquent reminder that the nearby Fastnet Rock is very much of West Cork

Published in Fastnet, RORC
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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