Welcome to the January 2020 issue of Yachting Monthly, on sale 5 December

Is it the ability to pull off impressive feats of seamanship and come alongside with aplomb that makes the best skippers? Or does it have more to do with navigating the rocky coastline of interpersonal relationships within the narrow confines of a small yacht at the mercy of the weather’s vicissitudes?

Many of us sail with friends and family, rather than a disciplined race crew, and how much we enjoy our time spent on board and the degree of harmony between the crew is often a greater mark of success than miles logged or hardships overcome. We talked to three of the world’s best skippers – Pete Goss, Dee Caffari and Conrad Humphreys – about how to skipper a boat in such a way that crews remain motivated and willing to join the next cruise.

Part of that is good planning and getting everyone involved, including with safety drills. Last summer my wife and I decided that practising our man overboard drill was long overdue. We frequently sail as a couple, so if one of us did fall overboard, the other would be left to pick them up solo rather than with the extra pairs of hands we’ve had in the past.

With only one person on deck, exactly what order to do everything in, and exactly what would work best on our new boat, was far from clear. We spent a sobering afternoon trying things out. Exactly how did the MOB button on our new touchscreen chartplotter work? With an engine ignition tucked beneath the companionway, when would we start the engine in relation to stopping the boat and furling the huge genoa, and would we drop the main or not?

Each step of the process had to be tried, refined and tried again until we had a better idea of what would work for us, on our boat, in that scenario. There are situations we haven’t rehearsed yet, but we both felt empowered by knowing what actually worked. We repeated the same experiment with the YM team to see what we could learn.