Tom has assessed hundreds of sailors for the RYA Yachtmaster exam – the gold standard of sailing qualifications. This is an example of the sort of fine seamanship that distinguishes a great candidate from a merely good one

In these days of autopilots and electronic routes, the natural mindset is always to make the shortest distance between two points. In heavy seas, however, particularly if they are on the beam, this policy can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. When the course puts you beam-on to a steep 
sea, the boat is classically at risk.

Even a modest knock-down can throw crew overboard. The answer lies with the helm and steering by hand. When you see, or feel, a nasty one coming, steer either up to take it on the shoulder, or down to run away from it to ensure the safety of all on board. Ploughing on like an automaton is no way to proceed.