The largest ever sea rescue operation in peacetime is put in place as a huge storm hits the Fastnet Race.

The 610 mile Fastnet Race is one of toughest sea races in the world. Held biennially, the race begins at Cowes in England goes around the Fastnet Rock, the most southerly point of Ireland, and ends at Plymouth in England.

With a gale force 10 wind howling across the Atlantic at Fastnet Rock, many of the 330 yachts taking part in the race radioed for assistance in what would become the largest ever sea rescue operation in peace-time.

Freighters and all available boats went to their rescue including the car ferry Saint Killian on its way from Le Havre to Rosslare, which changed its course to help take part in the search. Many of the competing boats were scattered over a vast area.

They were heading into a particularly fierce wind which was driving seas, and the boats had to tack to reach the Fastnet Rock off Mizen Head, this compounded the confusion and the rescue operation.

While some yachts are continuing in the race many crews are taking refuge in Irish ports. One of the Irish hopes in the race ‘Regardless’ sought shelter in Baltimore. ‘Silver Apple of the Moon’ is drifting off the coast of Cork without a rudder and will be rescued as soon as weather conditions allow. The Dunmore East lifeboat is returning home with three race yachts in tow.

The race resulted in the deaths of 18 people, 15 competing yachtsmen, and three rescuers. A total of 86 yachts finished. There were 194 retirements and 24 abandoned yachts, including five that sank.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 14 August 1979.