1979 Fastnet race

The 1979 Fastnet race was the twenty-eighth Fastnet race, a yachting race competition held since 1925, generally every two years. In 1979, it was the climax of the five-race Admiral's Cup competition, as it had been since 1957.

Storms during the race wreaked havoc on over 306 yachts taking part in the biennial race, resulting in 15 fatalities. Emergency services and civilian vessels from around the west side of the English Channel were summoned to aid what was the largest rescue operation in peace-time. Those involved included naval ships, lifeboats, commercial boats, and helicopters.

Build-up

The 605-mile race started on 11 August 1979. By 13 August, winds were reported at Force 6, with gusts of Force 7. Forecasters were predicting winds of Force 8. The leading boat, "Kialoa", was on course to break the Fastnet record set eight years earlier. However, the headlines the following day were not about its success.

The disaster and rescue mission

Over 13–14 August, 25 of the 306 yachts taking part were sunk or disabled due to high winds and "mountainous seas". The Daily Telegraph (15 August, 1979, p. 1) described the situation, where "Royal Navy ships, RAF Nimrod jets, helicopters, lifeboats, a Dutch warship and other craft picked up 125 yachtsmen whose boats had been caught in force 11 violent storm strength gusts midway between Land's End and Fastnet." The effort also included tugs, trawlers, and tankers. Rescue efforts began after 6:30 am on 14 August, once the winds had dropped to strong gale Force 9.

Finish line

There was an accusation that because the race was not officially called off soon enough, some competitors were lost at sea because they kept on racing "for the honor of the race" instead of running for a port.

The corrected-time winner was the yacht Tenacious, designed by Sparkman & Stephens, owned and skippered by Ted Turner.

The winner on elapsed time in the race was the 77-foot SV "Condor" which gained around 90 minutes on the leader at the Fastnet rock, the SV "Kialoa". Jim Kilroy of the "Kialoa" had broken his ribs and there was damage to the yacht's runners. The "Condor" broke the existing Fastnet record by nearly eight hours (71h25m23s).

Vessels that did not finish

69 yachts did not finish, listed here. Of those, 23 were lost or abandoned, the rest retired.

Main source: "Daily Telegraph", p. 3, 16 August, 1979.

* SV "Accanito" of France, broken rudder. Towed.
* SV "Allamader". Abandoned.
* SV "Alpha II"
* SV "Amanda Kulu"
* SV "Andiano Robin"
* SV "Angustura"
* SV "Animal"
* SV "Ariadne". Abandoned. *
* SV "Arkadina"
* SV "Asteries"
* SV "Battle Cry"
* SV "Billy Bones". Abandoned.
* SV "Blue Dolphin"
* SV "Bonaventure" of Britain. Abandoned.
* SV "Cabadah Ocean Wave Option"
* SV "Callirhaex 3". Abandoned.
* SV "Camargue" of Britain. Abandoned.
* SV "Casse Tete"
* SV "Charioteer" of Britain. Sunk.
* SV "Corker"
* SV "Crazy Horse"
* SV "Detente"
* SV "Double O Two"
* SV "Enia"
* SV "Fiestina Tertia". (Abandoned.) *
* SV "Finndabar". (Abandoned.)
* SV "Gan". Abandoned.
* SV "Gekko"
* SV "Golden Apple" of Ireland, disabled. Abandoned. Crew rescued by helicopter.
* SV "Golden Leigh"
* SV "Good Intentions"
* SV "Grimalkin". Abandoned and subsequently recovered. Read John Rousmaniere's 'Fastnet, Force 10' & Nick Ward's 'Left for Dead'.
* SV "Gringo". Reported as 'believed sunk'.
* SV "Hestral". (Abandoned.)
* SV "Hoodlum"
* SV "Impetuous"
* SV "Juggernaut"
* SV "Kestel". Abandoned.
* SV "Korsar"
* SV "La Barbarelle"
* SV "Little Ella"
* SV "Magic" of Britain. Sunk.
* SV "Maligawa III". Abandoned.
* SV "Marionette VII"
* SV "Mexxanini"
* SV "Morning Cloud" of Britain, broken rudder.
* SV "Morning Glory"
* SV "Mulligatawny"
* SV "Mutine"
* SV "Pachena"
* SV "Pegasus"
* SV "Pepsi" of England
* SV "Pepsi" of Holland
* SV "Pinball Wizard"
* SV "Polar Bear" of Britain. Sunk. Crew rescued.
* SV "Regardless" of Ireland, broken rudder. Towed by lifeboat.
* SV "Samurai II"
* SV "Scaldis"
* SV "Scaramouche". (Abandoned.)
* SV "Schuttevaer" of Holland
* SV "Sinndkabar"
* SV "Skat"
* SV "Sophia"
* SV "Tam O'Shanter"
* SV "Tarantula" of France
* SV "Trophy". Abandoned.
* SV "Tiderace IV". Abandoned.
* SV "Wild Goose" of Singapore
* SV "Yachtman" of Spain
* SV "Zap"Also
* SV "Mulligatawny" (not competing)

Craft that assisted the rescue mission

Over 4000 people aided in the rescue efforts. The Royal Navy coordinated efforts with the success of finding around 80 vessels and rescuing 136 crew members.

Key contributors to the rescue:

Royal Navy

* HMS "Anglesey", minesweeper
* HMS "Broadsword", frigate
* HMS "Dasher", yacht
* HMS "Sultan", yacht
* One other RN vessel
* RFA Tidespring, fast fleet tanker of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
* Eight Royal Navy helicopters from RNAS Culdrose and RNAS Prestwick, including Sea Kings, Lynx helicopters and Wessex helicopters
* Four Nimrods from RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall

Dutch Navy

* HNLMS "Overijssel", destroyer

Irish Navy

Entire service.

Lifeboats

* Baltimore lifeboat
* St Mary's Lifeboat

References

* Fairchild, Tony (1979) Kiaola heads for Fastnet record "Daily Telegraph", p. 26, 14 August, 1979.
* Rais, Guy and Bramwell, Christopher (1979) 10 die in yacht race havoc "Daily Telegraph", p. 1 & 32, 15 August, 1979.
* Fairchild, Tony (1979) Killer wind gives Condor record "Daily Telegraph", p. 29, 15 August, 1979.
* Fairchild, Tony (1979) Fastnet may be limited to fewer Yachts "Daily Telegraph", p. 3, 16 August, 1979.
* Roy, Amit (1979) Last of the Fastnet race yachts found "Daily Telegraph", p. 1, 17 August, 1979.
* Wettern, Desmond (1979) Fastnet race rescue operation involved 4,000 people "Daily Telegraph", p. 2, 20 August 1979.
* Rousmaniere, John (1980) "Fastnet, Force 10: The Deadliest Storm in the History of Modern Sailing"

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/14/newsid_3886000/3886877.stm BBC News] - "Freak storm hits yacht race"
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/archivehour/pip/t5r2a/] - BBC Radio 4 Archive Hour offers a one hour documentary about the fatal 1979 Fastnet Race. Presented by journalist and sailor David Lomax.
* [http://www.rorc.org/admiralscup/history/1979/default.html The Royal Ocean Racing Club's official history of the 1979 Admiral's Cup]
* [http://www.nelsonsboats.co.uk/photos.html Photographs of the sea conditions]


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