Welcome to the February 2020 issue of Yachting Monthly, on sale 2 January

Yachting Monthly editor Theo Stocker writes:

There aren’t many times that I would actively choose to set sail in a gale. I expect that’s true for most of us. There are times, however, when the wind and the seastate start to build and an easy passage from A to B becomes a challenging slog.

‘Lively’ is the euphemism most often reached for at this point. Our passage from Amble to Newcastle that built into a steady Force 7-8 when a Force 5 had been forecast was one, as was the gentle crossing from the Solent to Poole that turned into a five-hour thrash to windward… We’ve all been there when the conditions have defied the forecast. As the foulies, lifejackets and tethers go on, we start wondering whether the conditions are really just lively, or if this has become ‘survival’ sailing. At that point, do you push on regardless, turn tail and run for home, or start trying to make the most of the conditions?

Merfyn Owen, yacht designer and double Cape Horner, with quarter of a million miles in his wake, and Neil Mackley, Admiral’s Cup winner and North Sails sailmaker, both know a thing or two about keeping a boat moving in rough water. This month they’ve been sharing their expertise with us on how to helm in big seas, upwind and downwind, in strong winds and lighter breezes, how to trim your sails as the conditions change, and how to keep the boat moving whatever the sea’s mood (p38).

One person who can’t get enough of ‘lively’ conditions is Norwegian sailor Erik Aanderaa. This modern-day Viking seeks out some of the most inhospitable conditions the North Sea can throw at him: sailing from Norway to Shetland for the mid-winter Up Helly Aa Viking festival, or seeking out a Force 10 to prepare himself and his boat for sailing the North Atlantic to Greenland. His YouTube videos make fascinating watching, and he’s been talking to YM about what he has planned next (p54).