Turner didn't let the loss of life dishearten him. "It's no use crying. The king is dead, long live the king," he said. But he did allow himself to be impressed by the weather. "That ain't the ultimate storm, but I will grant you it was rough. We couldn't have taken much more wind and continued to race, but we were never in danger. If I thought we were in danger, I would have pulled out. Really, I'm amazed that more weren't lost."
Turner's navigator, British-born Peter Bowker, can now claim to be the only man to have navigated winners of the big three: the Fastnet, the Sydney-Hobart and the Bermuda. To Bowker a storm is a storm is a storm. "Some compare this with the 1972 Bermuda, but to tell the truth I wasn't all that impressed with that one at the time." He should have been impressed with this one but claimed he had been below most of the time. In fact he had once come on deck with the RDF set to get a fix on the Bishop and been knocked so hard by a wave that he dented the steering wheel and nearly took helmsman Jim Mattingly overboard with him as he headed for the lee rail. The RDF set vanished.
Like Tenacious, the 64-foot Boomerang had pressed hard through the storm. All aboard had known something big was coming when the barometer dropped alarmingly on Monday afternoon. After turning Fastnet, Boomerang charged along at 10 knots under scant canvas. According to crewman Bill Rudkin, on one memorable descent from the top of a lofty wave and propelled just then by a great gust, the boat's wind gauge registered an incredible 100 knots and the speed indicator showed 24 knots. Deducting the 24 from the 100, Rudkin figured the wind hit some 75 knots—hurricane strength.
Dennis Conner, skipper of Seymore Sinett's Williwaw, said it was the worst weather he had ever experienced at sea. His main regret was that the U.S. Admiral's Cup team had played it too safe, particularly as the storm was easing. As a result, the Australians, with their background of huge seas and winds in the Bass Strait, had taken the Cup, snatching it out of the Americans' grasp. The Aussies finished third, fourth and 13th among the Cup boats in the Fastnet. The U.S. came in fifth (Imp, Dave Allen, skipper), 15th (Williwaw) and 28th (Aries, John Marshall, skipper).
Tragedies hinge upon the coincidence of unlikely events. First, this storm, short though it was, was the first of such strength in several English summers. Second, the Meteorological Office did not anticipate its severity. Third, it struck over the only three-day period in two years when 300 yachts would be exposed to the same patch of turbulent, open water. Fourth, though hulls and rigs—but not rudders—stood up well to the punishment, I personally suspect that ever flatter, wider yachts produced by the Offshore Rating Rule, which have shown they broach so easily in sheltered water, are more prone to be rolled or knocked flat in open water.
Obviously the top sailors fared best. Their past experience made them feel more at home, and their boats were faster, thus they had turned the Fastnet Rock before the worst of the storm hit. It was the weekend sailor who suffered most. After the easy races of '73, '75 and '77, he was prepared to believe the Fastnet was a doddle. The waves that made one Condor crewman think of the paintings J. M. W. Turner had done after being lashed to the mast with his sketchbook, made others think of imminent death.
With an angry flick of its mighty tail, the sea had warned weekend sailors everywhere, "Do not trifle with me."