Feedback and Advice on turning up wind in a big gale
Wow, what a story; sounds familiar. Here is my review and advice on how to turn from down wind, to up wind in high winds.
* Absolutely get a Jib for your boat. Your boat was made to sail with two sails. When the Jib is not there, you have severely limited your ability to maintain control, especially when tacking up wind.
* Absolutely be ready to Reef the mainsail at 1st warning of impending trouble; don't wait. Start up the outboard, point the boat straight up wind; this will enable you best stability during the Reefing process.
* When caught in a storm down wind like you were, stay with the devil you know, and absolutely do not be tempted to turn the boat such that a big swell can easily roll your boat.
* Now for the big question: how to turn the sailboat around from downwind to some up wind, such that you have an extremely better chance of surviving the storm: As you know, any attempt to turn the sailboat around from downwind toward upwind in high winds, will absolutely capsize the sailboat.
Follow this technique in high winds, before the sea becomes out of control:
1.) Let the Jib out such that it effectively in out of the game
2.) Pull the mainsail in to slow the boat as much as possible. Be careful at all times to stay on a heading away from dead down wind.
3.) Begin the turn process, let the mainsail out all the way, and reduce the centerboard to 30% or less effectiveness. The boat will slide instead of capsize, at the same time, it will begin to turn the nose toward up wind. Like all maneuvers, you will need to manage the Tiller, Centerboard, Mainsail.... to get the attitude of the sailboat to just begin to point upwind.
4.) At the earliest point of being upwind, begin to fully engage the Centerboard to gain forward momentum and slow/stop the slide
5.) As the sail boat begins to reach upwind attitude, momentum is moving forward and normal control is restored, engage the Jib. If you engage the Jib too early, the slide will be very pronounced, and the bringing the nose into upwind attitude will be very difficult.
6.) General advice/warning: you will need to manage the slide, turn, heel, and engage the center board slowly (but not too slow) such that you don't bend/break the centerboard. Careful not to engage the centerboard to quickly, especially if there is a significant slide in progress. You don't want to bend/break the Centerboard. At the same time, not reducing the Centerboard enough, could result in over whelming heeling and you could capsize. If you capsize, it is a result of too much Centerboard, and turning too quickly (assuming a huge wave does not contribute to the rollover).
Bottom Line: your objective is to put the nose of the sailboat, such that sailing upwind can begin immediately.