Fastnet, Force 10
January 5, 2013 2:58 PM   Subscribe

The Fastnet Race is a biennial sailing race from Cowes to Fastnet Rock to Plymouth, in England. In 1979, it was the venue for one of the most famous storms and greatest disasters in yacht-racing history.

There were 15 deaths, and one man left for dead as his crewmates got into a liferaft.
According to the race inquiry, 70 per cent of the entrants faced Force 11 or above with winds of 55 knot or more and waves of 30 feet or more. Many faced waves of more than 40 feet. Close to half the boats reported a knock-down to horizontal or almost horizontal, a third reported that their boat rolled beyond horizontal. Most terrible of all, one eighth of the fleet were capsized entirely and dismasted.
The boats most affected by the storm were the 35' and under group, as the larger boats has enough speed to get out of the way of the storm.

Tenacious, Ted Turner's yacht, was the winner on corrected time. Turner: "The '79 race had the roughest conditions I can remember when actually racing".(PDF)

Here's an interview with two J30 skippers in the race. The BBC has an hour-long recreation of the race. The findings resulted in increased safety standard for offshore races.

The definitive account is John Rousmaniere's Fastnet Force 10

The "force" referred to is the Beaufort scale.
posted by the man of twists and turns (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that the Fastnet Race is named after a rock instead of some dumb-ass sponsor.
posted by box at 3:24 PM on January 5, 2013

I stayed on Cape Clear years ago and you could see Fastnet in the distance. Just the trip from Baltimore to Clear was bad enough (the weather was unusually rough for some reason). I cannot imagine sailing that entire route! That is some seriously cantankerous water.

I like sailing, but when I read about stuff like this (the race that is), I place an even a higher value on dirt, grass, grazing farm animals and trees than ever.
posted by lampshade at 4:51 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's amazing any of the boats survived. I've been in 30' seas and I've been on 32' foot sailing boats and I can't wrap my head around being on a boat that small in those kinds of seas, especially in a narrow place like the Irish Sea. It would be like being in a washing machine.
posted by fshgrl at 6:11 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

"It's amazing any of the boats survived..."
One of the findings of the tragedy was that most of the boats survived, even those that were abandoned. Stay with the boat!
posted by shnarg at 7:05 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

The racers. Racing to a spot in the middle of nowhere. Sailboat racers are crazy (from experience... we're heading for the rocks, jibe the kite), Rousmaniere points out in his book that there were cruisers in the area that just kept going, shortened sail, hove too, did the right thing and were stunned days later that tragedy was all around them.

That race did trigger a lot of research and there are tools like the series drogue that increase survive-ability.
posted by sammyo at 8:32 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

box: I'm pleasantly surprised to learn that the Fastnet Race is named after a rock instead of some dumb-ass sponsor.

Well, it's currently the Rolex Fastnet Race.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 3:20 AM on January 6, 2013

Here is some more from Yachting World: The disaster that changed sailing.
However 19 years later the 1998 Sydney - Hobart race was the scene of another disaster. Here are some storm photos.
Six people died and 5 boats sank. Those who are interested might like to read A Hard Chance; Terror Under Sail.
posted by adamvasco at 8:58 AM on January 6, 2013

I was always told in the little time I spent sailing in a yacht that it's axiomatic that you don't leave the yacht unless it's fully upside-down, so I couldn't understand why these people had.

Of course, the reason that it's axiomatic that you stay with the yacht is because these are the people who taught the world that lesson. With their lives.

posted by ambrosen at 11:31 AM on January 6, 2013

What we were taught was to step UP into the liferaft. That is, remain on the boat until it sinks underneath you, leaving at the last possible moment.

As has been said in many fields, "the safety rules are written in blood."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:08 PM on January 6, 2013

« Older There are things it doesn't say on the tin.   |   Review Raja Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments