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.
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.