Hi all. This is Justin from Shearwater.
Thanks for the really good comments and constructive feedback. That is the best reason for making videos like this - to create a great discussion about the events. This turned out to be a nice learning experience for us, and hopefully for others as well.
I wanted to add a little more information and basically agree with a few of the points raised.
1. I agree the lifelines are too loose. I noticed it the first time I watched the video (again that is what make videos so helpful). Already on the list to tighten them up a little when we get back to the boat.
2. I also agree the main is not as flat as it should be and that is because the reef line is not led far enough aft. I made a mental note right on the water in the harbor and added it to the list when we got back. While we've been sailing together for awhile now, we've haven't really sailed Shearwater that much yet at least not upwind in a blow.
3. Yes, there are certainly places to stop on the way south. The issue at the time was that entering somewhere like Nazare would have added an unfamiliar entrance in big seas, arriving potentially at night. So while we knew we could stop if we wanted, we didn't plan to. Also, the forecast showed no improvement in conditions for the next several days, so even if we had stopped somewhere, we would have had to wait a long time. It made more sense to just turn around, go back to familiar place, go back home to Madrid, and watch for better weather. Porto is only a 1 hour flight away.
5. It's been a week and the conditions still have not improved. A new Jeanneau 57 left the day after us heading south and turned right around. They left again two days later and turned around again. They are still in Porto and may not leave before we return.
6. In the end the issue was two-fold. First conditions were not as forecast (are they ever?). We used GFS gribs, PassageWeather GFS, COAMPS, and WRF, and PredictWind (so arguably 4 different models) and none of them showed wind exceeding 25 knots, but we never saw winds below 25 knots true once clear of the entrance and easily averaged 30 knots true. The secondary problem was, while the conditions at the time were manageable, the forecast was for a slight increase 12 hours later. The real issue though, was steering. I was doing fine once I put my feet in the right place, the boat handles beautifully and the sail plan was balanced really well. An autopilot or vane could have steered the boat easily, BUT neither an autopilot nor vane can see the waves and would have just sent us crashing directly through the worst spots, making no correction to avoid high spots or the low spots. That was something I hadn't considered before we departed. Trying to do that myself at night wouldn't have worked so well either. Plus sleeping and eating would have been miserable if not impossible. That was the clincher for us. We could handle the current situation, but over time and with any increase in conditions we would have been very uncomfortable. With a double-reef and #4 (80% or so jib) we were at our minimum working sail area. A great combination for 25-30, but if conditions worsened we would have to switch down to the storm jib and/or trysail and that just seems silly. Why use storm sails if you don't have to?
All in all, it was a great experience. No regrets. We did a number of things right, and a few things wrong and we learned from it in a reasonably controlled situation. We did want to push ourselves a little and we were prepared to be uncomfortable, but we do this for fun, so there comes a point...
I'm really glad we had the camera on and posted the video. I thoroughly enjoy it afterwards, again, and again, and again.