Re: Skilled helmsman steering downwind in 30-40 knots...
I did this trip once but in the opposite direction. We had been motoring for a long time and the forecast said we were to get a favourable wind. We waited and waited for the wind to arrive and it finally did a few miles before The Rock. So we got to roll out the genny and continued on. By the time we got to Tarifa we had 45 knots sustained and with just a scrap of the genny out we were making record boat speed. The wind was coming straight out of the Med (I believe they call it a Levanter) and the the tide was coming in so we had big seas and were being pushed around a lot. I was at the helm and I had to spin the wheel as hard as I could one way then hold it for a couple of seconds then spin it the other way in order to maintain a course. I actually got a large blister doing this but only backed the sail once with a minor flutter. It was the most thrilling experience I have had sailing. I should also point out that this was my first time sailing ever.