It is possible the CG instructed the crew to secure the tow hawser to the windlass. This could, and would, be done with larger vessels. The towed vessel, assuming the hawser is clapped on to the anchor chain, would then fleet out sufficient chain to make abrasion of the hawser a non-factor. The anchor windlass is also likely to be the most secure fixture on the bow. We now get around to the point raised by Valiente and Blue, most yachts have cute, shiny, and weak fixtures in their bows. A cruciform bitt, as pictured, provides the width of base to be securely backed below and distributes the load over a wider area of deck. The greater the area of contact with the deck, and by extension the backing plate, the greater the strength imparted.
The next factor to be considered is the tow hawser. When being taken under tow by a large hawser it is essential that a large amount of catenary be allowed to develop. This means a long hawser. Two to three hundred feet would not seem out of line, and perhaps substantially more. What cannot be allowed to happen is 'straight lining' of the hawser. A relatively small yacht, being towed by a large diameter hawser, will never stretch the hawser prior to structural failure on the yacht. The stretch we take for granted in our anchor rode will not be present in the size hawser likely to be passed. The anchor line, doubled up and passed through the eye of the hawser, can provide a measure of stretch not provided by the hawser and it is probably the strongest part available on the yacht.
The towing vessel should gain way slowly while taking up the tow. The weight of the catenary will bring the towed vessel into motion. Foolishness arrives when the desire to yank the towed, possibly off a lee shore, overcomes the benefits of a gentle strain. The old adage regarding lines, any lines, is "strain it-don't part it". Whether the line parts, or the attachment point, the towed vessel is adrift and probably worse off.
A possible compromise, necessitated by inferior hardware forward, would be to secure the hawser to the available fixtures forward (more than one cleat) with mooring lines. A rolling hitch with the mooring line around the hawser and thence to the cleat, using as many cleats and lines as available, would work. The procedure for doing this involves bringing approximately a length of hawser equivalent to the length of the vessel on board, claaping on the mooring lines with rolling hitches, and then fleeting out the hawser to one half the length of the vessel, and making the mooring lines fast to their cleats, taking an even strain on all parts. Then the hawser could be led aft and, assuming a keel stepped mast, secured about the base of the mast. Smaller lines can be rigged at the bow to fairlead the hawser dead ahead over the bows.
This is also the time at which it will be found desirable to have an axe, or more practically a hatchet. If it becomes necessary to sever the tow immediately, your basic knife (I don't care the blade is hand forged of unobtainium!) will prove deficient. A good sharp hatchet will allow you to use much more force in severing the line(s). The resultant damage to your deck probably not being a major concern in this eventuality.
The CG does not do as much towing as one might think; certainly nothing like the experience of your tow boat operator. Good communication, if possible, can preclude worsening the situation.
I would also caution of drawing too much from the media in dissecting these types of incidents. The "allision" I was involved in, anchored in the roads off Little Creek, VA, was reported in the local paper. There was little follow up, as my vessel fortunately did not blow up (1,500 tons of ammo in No.1 hold made this a concern) and what was printed in the paper seemed to come from the designated CG pr
personnel. Suffice it to say, they got the name of the vessel and the anchorage correct. After that, one began to wonder which ship they were discussing as it did not sound like the incident of the night before.