Fastnet Redux into Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which the same point is implicit. During that storm, the various noblemen on board scream their last words of despair into the gale and plunge into the sea. Prospero, whose magic caused the storm, asks the spirit Ariel, “Who was so firm, so constant, that this [turmoil] would not infect his reason?” And Ariel answers, “Not a soul but felt a fever of the mad, and play’d some tricks of desperation. All but mariners plung’d in the foaming brine and quit the vessel.” All but mariners. Shakespeare’s vessel, with its mariners safely tucked below, survives the storm and makes it to a nearby port. Of the three hundred three yachts in the Fastnet Race, only five went to the bottom. Those who have ana-
lyzed the grim tally agree that taking prematurely to life rafts was a major cause of death in the Fastnet Race. The reason is clear: A raft was no match for that storm, even if it could have been successfully launched and boarded. Seven of the fifteen deaths were raft-related. Aboard Aries, one of the hot U.S. Admiral’s Cup boats, the life raft was f loated out of its compartment behind the helmsman by a torrent of water that came aboard during one knockdown. A crewman grabbed for it as it went past, clutched at a line hanging from it, held on, felt it give, and realized he had pulled the rip cord. There, on the deck of Aries, a forty-sixfooter in full, semi-controlled f light, a ten-man raft began to inf late. A push-pull ensued. The deck crew wanted it shoved below. The folks below said no thanks. Aries crashed on through the night. The helmsman began having trouble seeing past the expanding rubber bag. Two crewmen pulled knives and began stabbing it to death, a task complicated by the raft’s many compartments. When the raft had finally been subdued, someone asked if he should take it below and patch it in case they needed it later on. That was good for a laugh, and during such a night laughs were at a premium. Roger Vaughan lives, works and sails in Oxford, Maryland.
May 2019 Tidewater Times