Sheridan to put Fastnet disaster on big screen

A sea disaster off West Cork over 30 years ago which claimed 17 lives sets the scene for a new film by Jim Sheridan.

The Great Storm focuses on the 1979 Fastnet Race in which 15 yachtsmen died along with two spectators.

A worse-than-expected storm on the third day of the planned 605-mile race from Cowes direct to the Fastnet Rock and back to Plymouth wreaked havoc on more than 300 yachts.

Emergency services, naval forces, and civilian vessels from Ireland and England were summoned to what became the largest-ever sea rescue operation in peace-time. It involved over 4,000 rescuers, including the entire Irish NavalService’s fleet, lifeboats, commercial boats and helicopters.

A total of 86 yachts finished. There were 194 retirements and 24 abandoned vessels, including five that sank.

Sheridan plans to write and direct the film, based on a survivor Nick Ward’s book, Left for Dead.

Sheridan’s production company Hell’s Kitchen was granted a provisional offer of commitment by the Irish Film Board.

Mr Ward’s book recalls his experiences aboard the yacht Grimalkin after a gale force 11 storm forced dozens of crews to abandon or turn back near the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.

Ward, who suffered a broken leg, was left hanging onto the boat for 13 hours. An unconscious crew mate Gerry Winks died in his arms. The boat’s skipper David Sheahan died when he fell overboard.

Sheridan’s most recent films were Dream House, Brothers — nominated for a Golden Globe —and the 50 Cent biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin. He will also direct a World War II baseball drama Playing with the Enemy, the true story of American baseball player Gene Moore, who taught German prisoners of war in Louisiana to play baseball during their imprisonment. And he is due to shoot Sheriff Street, produced by New Myth Entertainment and inspired by his upbringing in the 1960s on Dublin streets.


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