But consider if you were the owner and you had free reign in fitting out and adapting your own boat, then your concerns about gear breakage could really be put to rest.
Uhhh, I don't think so... I've yet to see one of these "bulletproof" sailing yachts of which you speak... :-)
A large boat is a lot less weight sensitive to robust gear with a high factor of safety. You can easily make equipment like steering components or goose necks bullet proof. You can also add as much equipment redundancy as you want. As I do for critical systems, my bigger boat is actually a significantly safer proposition than my smaller one.
Well, that may be true of your boat, but most of the overbuilt battleships I've sailed, or seen, are barely capable of getting out of their own way under sail in lighter air, and are often seen 'sailing' on perfect days using this rather curious 'sail configuration'...
For an example my 65 has two completely separate hydraulic steering systems, one is just a backup and the rudder and steering gear are well over engineered.
Uh-oh, don't get me started on hydraulic steering on sailboats
... One of my least favorite features on many larger yachts, sailing without feedback through a wheel or tiller IMHO is akin to having to wear MULTIPLE
Autopilots don’t need checking regularly the way wind vanes do and in a lot of conditions I've had to disconnect the vane and the autopilot then often copes just fine.
Well, I realize windvanes have almost completely fallen out of favor these days, but I don't view having to actually pay attention to changing conditions as necessarily being a bad thing... The 'Set It & Forget It' methodology that seems to be increasingly prevalent among many sailors today can often produce less than optimum performance under sail, not to mention inviting unfortunate navigational consequences...
A wind vane very nearly saw me on the beach a couple of decades ago and it was the sound of the surf that woke me, just an un-forecast wind shift and exhaustion and a few hours 70 degrees off course at 6-7 knots. I've never been that happy with a wind vane since then if there's an autopilot that can be used instead.
Sorry, but that's simply an example of poor seamanship, and a misuse of one of your pieces of equipment... Sailing to a vane in coastal waters or within range of other dangers, then going to sleep, is begging for trouble, bigtime...
Not to mention, an autopilot is not immune to producing a similar result... Jeanne Socrates' first attempt at a circumnavigation came to a disastrous end less than 100 miles short of crossing her outbound track, when her AP malfunctioned, and put her on a Mexican beach while she was grabbing a bit of sleep:
As for poles, I never pole anything out if it can be helped except in light air sailing. The big heavy alloy poles are too dangerous if the wind pipes up especially at night. Also I never run dead downwind in my boat since it's the worst point of sail and we roll the masts out. I find I get stability from the sails and a better run taking the wind reasonably on the quarter and gybing every watch.
I hear similar claims from time to time, but I'm still surprised that downwind poles are so rarely used by so many cruising sailors...
Many times, one simply has little other option than to sail DDW, in coastal waters, constricted channels, and so on... In a long, narrow choke point for shipping such as the Old Bahama Channel between Cuba and the Great Bahama Bank, for example... You may be happy gybing back and forth across such busy shipping lanes, but I'll happily sail DDW in prevailing conditions, favoring the Bahamian side, and staying out of their way... Back in December, I spent the better part of a delightful day sailing DDW down the tight channel through the Indian River, while being passed by several boats under power...
Tacking downwind can sometimes be an effective strategy on some modern, lighter displacement flyers that can maximize their speed by reaching off, and compensating for the longer distance sailed... But most full displacement Bulletproof Battleships that you seem to be referring to, by the time you're tacking downwind at high enough sailing angles to get the headsail out from behind the shadow of the main, you're really gonna be struggling to produce sufficient extra speed to make up the difference - particularly when you might be sailing at or near hull speed DDW, to begin with...