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In 11 August, 303 yachts left the Solent at the start of the 1979 Fastnet Race, the biggest fleet ever in what at the time was still considered one of the greatest ocean race challenges. They left with a forecast of light to moderate
west-north-westerly winds and no gale warnings.

Just three days later, after an extreme storm had swept the Irish Sea, 15 crew, as well as four from a trimaran shadowing the race and two from a cruising yacht, had died. Only 85 boats finished, 194 retired, 24 boats were abandoned, of which 19 were recovered, still afloat, after the storm. This was, and still is, the greatest disaster in ocean racing history.

Download the 1979 Fastnet Race Inquiry (8MB PDF)

From the Yachting World archives…