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The story of tragic 1979 Fastnet yacht race set for Irish day on Cape Clear

April 27th, 2022 5:45 PM

By Southern Star Team

The story of tragic 1979 Fastnet yacht race set for Irish day on Cape Clear Image
John O’Donnell will tell his story of experiencing the horrific 1979 Fastnet Yacht race, on Cape Clear in May.

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THE community on Cape Clear will host an Irish Language Day on the island as part of the Fastnet Film Festival this year.

The programme, which takes place on Thursday May 26th will include a number of short films, and an illustrated presentation by John O’Donnell entitled Back to the Rock and the Fastnet ‘virtual reality experience’.

Back to the Rock is a gripping and evocative adventure story of hurricane winds and waves the size of houses experienced during the Fastnet Yacht Race of August 1979.

It is also a story of fear and courage, survival and disaster, and the power and allure of the sea.

In August 1979 during the race a storm, not forecast, struck the fleet of over 300 boats. Many boats were dis-masted or abandoned; some boats sank.

By the end of the race, 21 people were dead. More than 40 years later John O’Donnell, who as a teenager sailed in the 1979 Fastnet aboard the yacht Sundowner, remembers the storm.

In his illustrated presentation John will tell the story of ‘Fastnet 79’ from various different perspectives of those at sea, as well as those on land.

The Fastnet ‘virtual reality experience’ allows visitors to experience the impressive rock lighthouse which was constructed at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Fastnet has inspired poetry, songs and legends and is the object of insatiable curiosity as thousands sail towards and around it every year, as they try to see as much as possible of its structures and to imagine how life must have been for its lighthousekeepers.

However, the Fastnet remains elusive for all but the few. The constant turbulence of the waters that surround it means that landing is rarely possible and its inner workings remain a mystery to us.

But now, this virtual reality tour brings you to every nook and cranny of the lighthouse in the company of former light housekeeper Gerard Butler – seen from above, below and inside. The virtual tour of the Fastnet will run throughout the day.

One of the short films to be shown on Cape Clear is Doineann directed by Damian McCann and starring Peter Coonan (Love/Hate) and is set on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland.

Investigative journalist Tomás, played by Coonan, returns home to find his wife and child have vanished.  With nowhere to turn and a storm approaching, he is forced to place his trust in the small community’s lone retired police officer, Labhaoise. As the search takes an unexpected turn, some uncomfortable truths are revealed.

Meanwhile, the storm looms ever closer.

Ferries will run from the pier in Schull to Cape Clear. Tickets are available at the festival box office, Main Street, Schull but booking is essential. See for more.

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