A boat like RULE 62 is emblematic of so many modern boats, in that it was designed from the inside out, the design brief being to maximize its Boat Show Curb Appeal. The hull form flows from the maximization of interior volume, and the rest of the design flows from the accommodation plan… As a result, the layout and ergonomics of the deck and cockpit are simply atrocious for bluewater passagemaking…
It was initially reported that the skipper and Laura were “ejected” from the cockpit when the boat was “swamped” that night… Well, just LOOK at the freakin’ thing, should anyone be surprised?
Yeah, but look at the dude to chick ratio - and all the skin! That's what I call a fun cruise. And then you have this...
Now, compare the deck and cockpit ergonomics with this beautiful Alden, a boat designed from the outside in… Don’t have to be a rocket scientist, to appreciate which design will take better care of its crew offshore…
See my point?
Seriously, you raise a very interesting point above. But it's one that you'll never win in terms of the market. In other words, people are buying the "sexy" boats, not the "sensible" boats. That's the trend that is irreversible - no matter how little sense it might make.
So, what does that mean for sailing?
The oxymoron is that less experienced sailors (like me) are buying boats that are billed as "bluewater capable" (at least in terms of what this rally was), but are more akin to race boats in terms of hull/keel/rudder shape (and sail area) as you point out. Then, as you also point out, these people are getting beat to hell and worn down usually because they are under-crewed unlike a race boat and haven't been in those conditions before in their boat. In short, as you say, these boats are more challenging to handle in rough weather.
But here's the kicker for me (again a newb), I am going to buy a 38'-40' boat in the next year for sailing the islands. And it will probably be a Bene/Jenneau/Catalina/Hunter. I don't want a true "bluewater" boat because it won't make the wife and kids happy in terms of just hanging out on it (too "cramped", too "slow", not "sexy", too "expensive", etc. as is the perception of most of the buyers in this market). And this approach makes sense for the most part, especially in light of the actual number of times sailors hit dangerously rough weather.
So what does this mean for me (and the majority of the market out there)?
At this point in my learning, and using this tragedy as an example, it means a few general things I think:
1. I need to prepare for the worst as much as I possibly can (gear, knowledge, abilities, strategies, etc.).
2. I need to be extremely (overly) conservative in my sailing, confining my sailing to mellower weather windows (not chancing it), "easier" places to sail, etc.
3. I will have to make sure I have enough capable crew on board to handle the forecast conditions.
4. I will have to do everything I can to keep learning better seamanship and preparedness - and know as much as I possibly can about the areas in which I sail.
5. I will have to practice in gradually more difficult conditions and locations to learn how to handle my boat, crew, and self, in tougher circumstances. (That's why I've always been a fan of BFS).
6. I will have to remember that there is a line that we can't cross - period - especially in light of the boat I have and my abilities. That line may change over time as I get better - but it will always be there.
There's a lot more...but I think the last one is the biggest one...and one that applies to most of the sailboat market out there with these kinds of popular boats.