Sailors survey damage after 'brutal conditions' hamper 50th Fastnet Race

WATCH: ITV Meridian reports on the damage caused by gale force winds, as 28 boats were rescued by Coastguard and lifeboat crews off the south coast. Promotional video from Rolex Fastnet Race.

A brutal first night at sea in the 50th Rolex Fastnet Race saw at least 86 retirements and many others seeking temporary shelter from the gale force conditions in the English Channel.

Wind data from Hurst Castle at 20:10 BST last night recorded 38 knots, gusting 43, with one boat reporting 46 knots off St Alban's Point.

HM Coastguard reported involvement in 28 incidents, including one sinking.

Of the latter, in a statement the Rolex Fastnet Race race committee stated: “At approximately 16:30 yesterday afternoon the Sun Fast 3600 Vari began to take on water southwest of the Needles.

Gale force winds were endured on the first night of sailing Credit: Paul Wyeth Pictures

"Thanks to the swift response of the emergency services both crew members were evacuated to Yarmouth, Isle of Wight and are safe and well.

"The boat is believed to have sunk although the exact reasons are not yet confirmed.”

Several calls to HM Coastguard were to do with injured crew.

Otherwise, four yachts dismasted – Heather Tarr’s Yoyo from Ireland; Nick Martin’s Diablo; Bertrand Daniels’ Mirabelle and Tapio Lehtinen's Swan 55 yawl Galiana.

Four boats were de-masted in stormy conditions

In addition Azora sustained broken steering, Dulcissima a loss of rigging, while Richard Matthews’ CF520 Oystercatcher XXXV sustained deck failure and Oida ran aground after her anchor dragged.

There were several other incidents in which HM Coastguard was not involved, including the mast foot exploding on Long Courrier who retired to Cowes.

“The strong winds last night were forecast well in advance,” commented Race Director Steve Cole. “The club would like to thank HM Coastguard and the RNLI for their assistance.

"It is thanks to their effort and skill that the incidents were dealt with professionally and those who required assistance were recovered safely.

"Now the front has passed the wind and sea state have dropped, and conditions are even set to be light over the next 24 hours.”

This morning the wind has dropped to 10-15 knots in the western English Channel and is expected to drop further to 5-10 knots in the Celtic Sea for the crossing to the Fastnet Rock.