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Fastnet Storm 1979: Today is the Most Poignant in Remembering the Sequence of the Tragedy

15th August 2019
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The Watson 47 lifeboat The Robert, heroine of the 1979 Fastnet Storm, as she is today - restored by Jeff Houlgrave The Watson 47 lifeboat The Robert, heroine of the 1979 Fastnet Storm, as she is today - restored by Jeff Houlgrave

It was the 15th August 1979 by the time the full horror of the effects of the Fastnet Race storm had become apparent writes W M Nixon, and today is the most quietly poignant in 2019’s sequence of recollection and commemoration. It is a sequence which began with the Memorial Service in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes on the evening of Friday 2nd August before the 2019 Fastnet Race got under way at noon next day, and it will conclude with a Service of Commemoration on Cape Clear this coming Sunday, with the restored Baltimore RNLI Lifeboat of 1979’s heroic rescues, the Watson 47 The Robert which has been restored by Jeff Houlgrave, the most honoured craft among those visiting the island.

At Afloat.ie in recent weeks, we have covered the Fastnet events of forty years ago in considerable and developing detail. But today is one for quiet contemplation. We salute long-serving Cox’n Kieran Cotter and his crew of Baltimore lifeboat who put in the longest service of any of the rescue organisations, we salute all others involved in the large and complex international rescue operation, and we remember the 19 who were lost their lives, and their families and friends and shipmates.

Most poignant of all is that four of those who died were only accompanying the Fastnet Race. Such was the special nature of the race that some sailing enthusiasts felt sufficiently rewarded by simply sailing in the vicinity of the fleet, and they were to pay with their lives for their their fascination with this extraordinary event. All 19 names are commemorated in a plaque in Holy Trinity Church in Cowes, and a Memorial Stone on Cape Clear. They are remembered today, and they will be remembered again on Cape Clear with a special height of emotion within sight of the Fastnet Rock on Sunday.

kieran cotter2 Kieran Cotter, longtime Cox’n of the Baltimore Lifeboat

Published in Fastnet
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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