This topic is very complicated. It has not been successfully completely covered in any book I have yet seen (including Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts).
Just for example, consider the french centerboard
boats (like the Ovni
and it's various sisters). These designs have been used very extensively by the french in the southern ocean, and they have an excellent track record
in severe storms. Their two primary positive characteristic are (1) their ability to slide sideways in big breaking waves, rather be tripped over their keels and roll, and (2) their ability to be perfectly balanced & track straight downwind even when heeled on the side of big waves. But they would score extremely low on the "desirable' book scale, and the books
authors did not really even consider much less study them because they are not a racing
design (not very good upwind in racing
terms). So, this whole design approach/space was not explored by that book.
In our own boat we choose to build in both massive initial stability and a very high AVS. This combination meant we were very hard to knock over (the high initial stability) but also likely to bounce back up quickly if knocked over (the high AVS). This combination is also not really considered by the book's authors because it requires more ballast than a racing boat will want to carry (a competitive IMS boat our rig size/length will carry only 65% of our ballast). But in our experience it is a terrific heavy weather cruising combination.
Also, quite honestly racers did not in the fastnet and still do not really take heavy weather totally seriously. Note that in the hobart storm none/zero tried to use any sort of drag device much less the prefered series drogue
solution (yes we can debate that but IMHO that is clearly the prefered solution is that situation for those sort of boat designs), and many used clearly poorly balanced sail plans when trying to run off. And many had storm sails
that were too big. And many admitted in interviews afterwards they did not understand weather charts
and forecasts very well. And this all in a race which was run under safety
rules developed from the fastnet experience with racing skippers who get more strong weather than most. I was once told by the chair of the bermuda
race that "offshore racing is being unseamanlike as fast as possible' - that was obviously tongue in cheek but he was conveying a basic truth about racing - speed, particularly in light airs, is vastly more important than heavy weather considerations (thus no-one carrying series drogues because they are 'too heavy and unlikely to be used').
. . . as to the debate about the relative contribution of the skipper
vs that of the boat design . . . The physics and the tank tests say that any boat design (even the most 'desirable') can be rolled by a breaking wave higher than it's beam if it is poorly managed by the skipper
. It might still be rolled even if the most skilled skipper is on board but with very significantly lower probability because there is much that skilled skipper can do to reduce the probability. This is borne out in real world experience (in both the cruising and racing fleets).
It is also possible to design a boat that will survive a hurricane
with even the most unskilled skipper, but that boat will not be the most fun to sail, and is not reflective of really any design that is typically on the market today. The closest practical example I have ever seen is Ralph and Debra's Northern lights
(a custom 40' steel ketch
somewhat along Josha lines but with many many custom features from the vastly experienced owners). But very few owners today would want that sort of boat. And Ralph and Debra are vastly skilled offshore sailors (in addition to having this tank) (note: they just sold the boat).
Finally, I might note that I was asked a few years ago by the CCA to manage/edit a new edition of the "desirable" Book. After some consideration I declined because I considered the topic too complex and did not think we could do it justice.