Forty years on from Britain's Fastnet Race disaster that left 19 yachtsmen dead amid 60ft waves

Mail Online | 8/15/1979 | Neil Tweedie for the Daily Mail
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Eight men huddle inside a covered life raft, cartwheeling in a mountainous night-time sea. Outside, the shrieking wind of a Force 10 storm whips the ocean into ever-greater fury — vast towering blocks of water forming and crashing down in relentless sequence.

The flimsy craft flips over again and again as wave after wave falls upon it, until at last it can take no more. Suddenly, it splits, spilling its exhausted and battered human cargo into the raging water.

Men - Hold - Remnants - Grip - Eternity

Six men manage to grab hold of its still-inflated remnants but two lose their grip. They hover nearby for an eternity as their crewmates, summoning their last reserves of strength, try to reach them. One appears to swim towards his beckoning friends but the other floats lifelessly in the water, mercifully beyond caring.

In a moment, both men slip from view into the darkness, consumed by the foaming tumult, never to be seen alive again.

Derek - Morland - Scene - Life - Back

Derek Morland does not dwell on this scene in ordinary life. But it is always there, stowed in the back of his mind, his abiding memory of the 1979 Fastnet disaster, whose 40th anniversary fell this week.

Fifteen yachtsmen taking part in the fabled ocean race — and four more in a cruising yacht following the field — lost their lives when a depression barrelling in from the Atlantic unexpectedly deepened into a full-blown Force 10 storm, with winds at times gusting to Force 12, hurricane strength.

Yachts - People - Seas - Event - Vessels

Around 300 yachts, crewed by some 2,500 people, were assaulted by raging seas never encountered during such an event. Five vessels sank and 19 were abandoned — and more than 100 suffered capsizes, knock-downs, broken masts and rudders as the storm tore through an armada strung out between Land's End and the Fastnet Rock, Ireland's most southerly point. Of the 303 entrants, 194 retired and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Mail Online
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