Fastnet Rock is the most southern point in Ireland and the light on it is known world-wide, partly because it is the turn-around point of the classic ocean sailing race of the same name. We’ve now had Dirona at the location of several notable offshore races, including Vic-Maui, Transpac (San Pedro to Diamond Head), Sydney to Hobart, Melbourne to Hobart, Newport to Bermuda, Marblehead to Halifax, Coastal Classic (Auckland to Russel, NZ) and the Governor’s Cup (Simon’s Town, South Africa to St. Helena).
As with any ocean competition, the Fastnet Race can be dangerous. According to Wikipedia, “A severe storm during the 1979 race resulted in the deaths of eighteen people (fifteen competing yachtsmen and three rescuers) and the involvement of some 4,000 others in what became the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This led to a major overhaul of the rules and the equipment required for the competition.” Years ago James read and was captivated by Fastnet Force 10 about that disaster
The first light built on Fastnet Rock in 1853 was so weak that gales shook the tower to the point that dishes sometimes were thrown off the table. The new light was completed in 1904 and is an impessive feat of engineering, strong enough to survive a 157-ft rogue wave in 1985. The base from the original tower is visible at the top of the rock and has been converted into storage. The new tower was built on harder slate close to the water line. On the island’s northeast side you can see the carved stairs and large steel doors that provide access to the tower through the rock.
Fastnet Rock is known as “Ireland’s Teardrop” because it was the last sight of their country for 19th-century Irish emigrants sailing to North America. The rock also is the first sight of Ireland for those on vessels arriving from North America. It was dark when we passed a few miles south of Fastnet Rock on our 2,800nm Fastnet-to-Fastnet North Atlantic crossing from Newport, RI to Kinsale, Ireland. We were thrilled to see the light’s bright flash illuminating the sky every five seconds, and really wanted to see the light up close in daylight. With winds blowing around ten knots, we later did two laps around the rock during the day. In the video below, seas were calm and the winds light, but the waves still really crash into that desolate rock.