Ride the world’s stormiest seas

Storms are rightly feared, but for the brave, they also offer some of the best sailing conditions.
A sailing boad fighting agains the rough sea and the waves at the America's Cup Final.
Morning Glory at the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race © Carlo Borlenghi
By Marc Schwarz

Whether it's 50-knot gusts or rolling ocean swell, rain coming in sideways or thunder booming in the distance, there's no question: sailing in storms in the true test of seamanship. Check out our gallery of incredible storm sailing on everything from massive ocean-going race boats to simple sailboards.

Storm sails
What we don't know: where this is or who's steering that boat. What we do know: those are stormy seas, and small sails. This is the time to batten down the hatches, reef the main, and get out the blade sails.

Sailing in a storm in the middle of a stormy sea.
Sailing in a storm © John Lund

Close to the wind
Forget Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes charging through big seas off the British coast on Hugo Boss. Spare a thought for sailing photographer Mark Lloyd who was shooting from a helicopter. “It was right on the limits,” he says.

Battling big seas off the Lizard, UK
The Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 battles big British seas © Lloyd Images

Pointing power
Emirates Team New Zealand pierces through the surf during the AUDI MedCup. We're going to guess the crew got wet.

Emirates Team of New Zealand sailing during the AUDI MedCup.
Emirates Team New Zealand © Ian Roman

Towering Tazzy waves
Dany Bruch at the Mission 2 of the Red Bull Storm Chase in Temma Harbour, Tasmania. It took a storm with force 10 winds to produce waves this size.

Dany Bruch windsurfing during the Red Bull Storm Chase on August 18th 2013.
Dany Bruch in Tasmania © Sebastian Marko/Red Bull Content Pool

Cold cruncher
Dany Bruch, again, at the Red Bull Storm Chase at the Bluff in Cornwall, England. Wetsuit required – this was in February!

Dany Bruch windsurfing during the Red Bull Storm Chase on February 8th 2014.
Dany Bruch off Cornwall, England © Sebastian Marko/Red Bull Content Pool

Storm strategy
A Volvo Ocean Race boat isn't your average lake-side dinghy. Nearly every manoeuvre on the boat – tacking, jibing, or raising the sails – requires a rehearsed, choreographed effort from the crew. When the weather goes awry, the stakes get much higher.

Team work © Jen Edney/edneyap.com

Non-optimal conditions
Storms don't only happen on the sea. A racer in the Optimist class waits out some weather during a regatta in Trieste, Italy.

A competitor challenging the rough sea with his small sailing boat.
Mini Barcolana Race, Trieste © Carlo Borlenghi

Foam and fun
Rough seas and whitewater during the America's Cup Final near Queensland.

A sailing boad fighting agains the rouch sea and the waves at the America's Cup Final.
America's Cup Final rough sea © Carlo Borlenghi

Just a little bow spray
The bow of a race boat pierces through surf at the Portofino Rolex Trophy. 

Waves clashing against a sailing boat at the Portofino Rolex Trophy.
Portofino Rolex Trophy 2011 © ROLEX/Carlo Borlenghi

Point break
Starting from Malta and going around Sicily and its islands, the Rolex Middle Sea Race passes two active volcanos. The conditions at the time of the photo taken were extreme – blowing around 35 knots (65kph) with big seas.

A sailing boad making it's way through the ocean during the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
Extreme conditions at the Rolex Middle Sea Race © Kurt Arrigo

Rain coming over the deck sideways during the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in Cascais, Portugal.

Onboard conditions at the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
Onboard conditions in Cascais © Ian Roman/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Soloing a storm
This is the only way to the train for the Vendée Globe – a solo-skippered regatta around the world, and one of the most difficult races in sailing.

Bertrand De Broc's boat during a last training in the rough sea.
Bertrand De Broc's boat challenging the rough sea © Vincent Curutchet / Dark Frame/DPPI

White water
French sailor François Gabart during a 24-hour, bad-weather training sail in Brittany. Good thing most storms don't last all day.

Bertrand De Broc's boat during a last training in the rough sea.
François Gabart big weather training © Vincent Curutchet / Dark Frame

Who's the Boss? For skipper Alex Thomson, there's only one answer, Hugo Boss, an Open 60. The boat has an impressive history including a fourth place in the 2012-2013 Vendee Globe after losing its keel, first in the 2010-2011 Barcelona World Race, second place in the 2011 Rolex Fastnet, and first place in the 2010 Transat Jacques Vabre. Looks just the job.

Alex Thomson shows the sea who's Boss © Lloyd Images

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