More than 300 boats, carrying 2,500 sailors, set off from Cowes for the biennial race to Fastnet rock in southern Ireland. But on the second night, a ferocious storm ripped through the fleet, leading to what was the biggest air-sea rescue mounted in peacetime.
For the anniversary of the disaster, some of the crew who survived the night have been speaking about their experiences, including Matt Sheahan, who was 17 years old when he saw his own father die.
Six men were lost overboard and swept away because their safety harnesses broke; nine others drowned or died of hypothermia. Three rescuers also lost their lives.
Only 85 yachts out of 303 reached the finish line; at least 75 boats flipped upside down, five yachts sank and 24 crews abandoned ship.
I remember it vividly - the TV footage included pictures of men (dead and dying) and smashed boats (capsized and sinking) which littered a vast area of heaving, stormy ocean ..... it left me feeling unbearably sad and helpless .....