It is possible to turn back when ocean sailing, but these situations are rare. I’ve turned back twice in the past four circumnavigations, and the figure seems about right for a well-prepared vessel attempting to cross an ocean during the correct weather pattern.
However, turning back often isn’t about the boat or its prep. It’s about the soul of its skipper.
There are good reasons to return to port: taking on water, for example, and having no way to remove water from your boat, or breaking a piece of your standing rigging, or having your self-steering gear fail. The first two reasons have to do with safety and strength, while the third has to do with basic seamanship.
If a couple is so fatigued by steering during their entire watch that they can’t eat, sleep or poop properly, they can quickly turn into numbskulls. You can trust me. I’ve turned…