With 40-footers in such straits, the plight of 30-footers farther down course was nothing short of desperate. In the race for the first time were a dozen 00D34s, a new breed of offshore one-designs. They were from the drawing board of the celebrated Doug Peterson of San Diego and were built of fiber glass in a patented, extra-strong process.
Three of these 00D34s, through no weakness of construction, had to be abandoned. One at least, Griffin, operated by the Royal Ocean Racing Club, was rolled 360 degrees. Her skipper, Stewart Quarrie, reckoned that for a full half minute she remained upside down. During that time, Griffin took in so much water that once on an even keel again, her crew took to the life raft. For a long time they drifted, firing flares. Then the raft capsized. Somehow they managed to right it and clamber back aboard.
In spite of their difficulties the sailors on Griffin were more fortunate than those on the 35-foot Ariadne, owned and sailed by Frank Ferris, an American yachtsman living in London. Ariadne was dismasted and may have rolled over. Two of the crew were rescued by helicopter, but four others, including Ferris, perished.
The Royal Navy air station at Culdrose near Land's End is one of the biggest in Europe, with close to 100 helicopters, but only five were fully operational when the storm hit. The five were in the air within minutes. Helicopters rescued three men from Grimalkin (another two died), one from the sea near the dismasted French yacht Tarantula, the entire crew of five of the 30-foot Magic, two from Trophy (another three were lost), the crew of eight off Camargue.
Ireland had come into the Fastnet leading the 18 other Admiral's Cup nations on points. Golden Apple of the Sun, whose crew included the yacht's designer, Ron Holland, was the most highly regarded Irish yacht. She surfed off over the giant seas headed toward the Bishop, till, some 40 miles short, she came to a halt when she broke her ultramodern, ultralight, carbon-reinforced rudder. The crew tried to jury-rig a rudder from the spinnaker poles, but these "snapped like twigs," according to Holland. So they decided to batten down and sit out the storm below. Late on Tuesday afternoon their radio picked up a forecast of another severe gale approaching. Experienced, young and tough though they were, the sailors did not relish the prospect of a rerun of the last 12 hours. When a helicopter hovered above and demanded, "Are you coming or aren't you?" all 10 of the crew on Golden Apple elected to take the skyhook.
By noon on Tuesday the wind had dropped to around 18 mph and the worst was over. At 1:55 p.m. the 77-foot Condor of Bermuda
, the first yacht to finish, set a new course record of 71 hours 25 minutes 23 seconds, almost eight hours faster than Turner's mark. Condor is owned by Bob Bell, as British and as burly as a bulldog, and had a crew of 22, which included nine New Zealanders who had sailed her around the world in the last Whitbread Race.
Though Kialoa had led Condor by 67 minutes at the Fastnet Rock, Condor beat her home by more than 28 minutes by driving harder and risking a tighter turn inside the giant overfalls, the breaking waves, at Bishop Rock, which most yachts gave a wide berth.
Once inside the Lizard, Condor's crew dared a small spinnaker. Later their eyes glistened with elation as they told of the broaches that followed. Once they had broached head-to-wind so that the kite had filled aback and driven them sternward at three knots. Then the boat had spun round on her heel, the kite had filled with a bang and they were off again at 14 knots. "It was one of our better three-point turns," said Peter Blake of New Zealand.
When Kialoa came alongside in Plymouth's Millbay Dock, courteous congratulations were exchanged. Then Jim Kilroy clambered painfully up the dockside ladder to a waiting ambulance. Several ribs had been cracked when the wind blew two of his crew down the deck on top of him.
Eight and a half hours later, 40 minutes outside his own '71 record, Turner crossed in Tenacious. With a corrected time four hours better than Condor's, the man and boat that in 1979 had already taken the Miami-Nassau, the Miami-Montego Bay and the Annapolis-Newport races had triumphed again, this time in the midst of tragedy.