Remembering the 1979 Fastnet Race

I have been in Cowes today and although Cowes Week is continuing and there were loads of people as ever in the High Street (the regatta is on for another three days), the talk wherever I went was of the Memorial Service at the town’s Holy Trinity Church being held to mark the 30th anniversary of the dreadful tragedy that befell the competitors on the 1979 Fastnet Race and to honour the 15 sailors who perished, to remember them and their loved ones.

As yachting journalist Louay Habib has reported on the new Fastnet/RORC website at, Stuart Quarrie, CEO of Cowes Week, will be competing in his 12th Fastnet Race this year on Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s Swan 53, Noonmark VI.

“There has always been a strong bond between the Fastnet race and Cowes Week,” commented Stuart. “Cowes Week fully supports today’s Memorial Service and all of the competitors and event team will show a mark of respect for those who were lost thirty years ago.”

Stuart Quarrie would love to be sailing at Cowes Week but it is impossible to race and run the historic regatta at the same time. Quarrie will be racing in this year’s Rolex Fastnet, as he has done for virtually every race since his first in 1979.

Quarrie was on board Neal Graham’s Griffin for the 1979 Fastnet, a race that he will never forget. “We abandoned Griffin, just before the boat sank and we had been in the life raft for two hours, with little hope of rescue, when we saw Alain Catherineau’s French yacht, Lorelei. By a stroke of luck, they were in the same wave trough as us and I am sure that is why I am here today.”

The Fastnet fleet sets off from Cowes on Sunday and I, along with many thousands of others, will be praying for a safe passage for all.


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