When I was 10 the Fastnet Yacht race was a disaster and a lot of people died. I don’t really remember much in the news from when I was young but I remember this and the Whiddy island disaster because they seemed local catastrophes and my parents spoke about them. Along with the Tuskar Rock air crash which happened the year before I was born, they were background disaster news which was local to us. Even then, like all Cork people, I was a Cork partisan.
So, on that basis when RTE put out a radio documentary about the 1979 Fastnet race, I was curious to have a listen. The first thing that struck me was that many of the voices on the radio were old men who sounded just like my father – all restraint and composure and very Cork . These are people you don’t hear so much on the radio here – it’s mostly Dublin voices of all ages. And I heard some names I knew because this is Ireland, and my father used to sail a lot, and one of the people speaking was a colleague of a friend.
And I was surprised how very terrifying it was and somehow the calm, low level way these (mostly older, mostly men) spoke about it made is seem somehow more terrifying. I was fascinated. Highly recommended if you think you might be at all interested.
In a highly competitive field, I think that recommending a radio one documentary may be my most middle aged move yet.
Conor Galvin says
But then it is an excellent recommendation…
Well, yes, but very middle aged. It’ll be plays on the radio next I suppose.
I was 20, second year at university. Funnily my father was also a sailor for fun, he used to sail in the Royal Artillery boat, but was too old for that race and I remember it well. My father knew people who were in the race but they were clever enough to run for home when it got dangerous.
That generation were a lot calmer and having lived through a lot were able to keep things in perspective.
Well, they certainly seemed very calm and collected in this account. My father’s friend had a big boat in the race and finished quite early and had no difficulty. He said to my father afterwards, “Dan, I don’t know what race they were in, but it was a different one from the one I was in.” Listening to the documentary, I think the big issue was for the smaller, slower boats and particularly the boats that were not taking part but just sailing out to watch – a number of those spectators got into trouble and drowned.