On 11 August 1979, 303 yachts began the 600-mile Fastnet Race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to Fastnet Rock. Weather conditions were good when the race began but that changed very quickly when a Force 10 storm swept across the Atlantic and wreaked havoc on participants, spectators, and the rescue services.

The race became a terrifying ordeal and for almost twenty-four hours the fleet was pounded by huge waves whipped up by 60-knot winds.

Fifteen participants lost their lives in what was the worst disaster in the one hundred-year history of ocean yacht racing.

Gerald Butler PHI_0242

Gerald Butler served as a Lighthouse Keeper for twenty-one years. He was on duty on the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse in August 1979 when disaster struck the Admiral’s Cup Yacht Race. In the Skibbereen & District Historical Society Journal 2020, Gerald tells the story of that extraordinary night from his unique perspective.

The Journal is available in bookshops throughout West Cork. We ask you, where possible, to shop local and to support your local bookshop. The 2020 Journal, and back issues, are also on sale online. To celebrate the 2020 launch, for the months of July and August only, we are reducing postage for online purchases to €2 for sales to Ireland and the UK and €4 for sales to anywhere else in the world. To visit our online store, click here.

Unfortunately we cannot post Journals to Australia or New Zealand at the moment. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, there are no flights into those two countries.

Gerald Butler’s unique perspective on the 1979 Fastnet disaster

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