The 1979 Fastnet Race was the 28th Royal Ocean Racing Club's Fastnet Race, a yachting race held generally every two years since 1925 on a 605-mile course from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock and then to Plymouth via south of the Isles of Scilly. In 1979, it was the climax of the five-race Admiral's Cup competition, as it had been since 1957.
A worse-than-expected storm on the third day of the race wreaked havoc on over 303 yachts that started the biennial race, resulting in 19 fatalities (15 yachtsmen and four spectators). Emergency services, naval forces, and civilian vessels from around the west side of the English Channel were summoned to aid what became the largest ever rescue operation in peace-time. This involved some 4,000 people, including the entire Irish Naval Service's fleet, lifeboats, commercial boats, and helicopters.