Back to the subject of the knockdowns...
Two theories have been advanced. Jessica's take was that "rogue waves" hit her boat on the beam, resulting in the knockdowns and the 180 roll. At least one poster suggested the knockdowns could have been caused by breaking following waves forcing the boat into a broach, which resulted in the knockdowns. How likely is the "rogue wave" theory, and how would Jessica's storm tactics handle each circumstance?
If you study the wind
patterns as a Southern Ocean storm passes a given lat/lon (try passageweather.com), you'll see that as a storm approaches, the winds begin to build out of the northwest, then back to the west while strengthening further, and then continue backing to the southwest as the storm passes by and the winds ease. That wind
pattern could indeed produce two or more sets of big swells in which the waves cross each other at 90 degrees. I've experienced it in less trying circumstances (Force 9, 7-8 meter swells) in the SW North Atlantic, where we'd have a big wave attack the boat from the beam and try to board us, coming maybe every hour or so. I don't think these would really be considered true "rogue waves", but they're real enough, and feel like you've been hit by a Mack truck.
So, if it was big waves on the beam that knocked her down, I don't think that there's really anything else she could have done to prepare. There's no way to steer your way around one of those--they just sort of appear out of nowhere. Setting the auto and strapping in below was a good choice.
However, if the knockdowns were caused by broaching in breaking following seas, streaming a series drogue
could have helped the autopilot keep the stern aligned and prevented the broaching. Hand steering
in the cockpit
with no drogue
could have worked, too, but as someone noted, it's a very risky position to be in.
I think it might have been difficult for Jessica to tell exactly what caused the knockdowns from her position down below. It would be hard to sort out the relative motions of the two amidst the sudden violence of the event.
Regarding the question about heaving to, I really don't think that's a great tactic in 65+ knot
winds and large, breaking
seas. With the minimal canvas
you'd be carrying, you'd effectively be lying ahull, and inviting a knockdown or roll. If you want a time out in those conditions, I'd say deploy the drogue.
Bottom line, I can't fault Jessica's decision. And I'm very impressed with her spirit and resilliance.