Yes, it was a rational decision, but it resulted in very unpleasant sailing.
Frequently changing winds and confused sea made good progress difficult, and one time we were completely blocked by the most unusual wave trap I have ever seen.
The shapeless monsters born of the wind and currents’ sudden changes attacked Puffin from bow and stern simultaneously, putting her to a writhing halt.
“This was my life’s most unusual sea state, hell on the sea itself,” made the note in Puffin’s logbook on January 9th, 2019.
Theoretically, the cold Falkland current would have propelled Puffin toward the goal line, but the unpredictable Malvinas current intervened and built serious speed bumps.
However, this was just icing on frustration’s cake. Its filling has always been the constant sabotage of the Windpilot’s wheel adapter.
On January 17th, we sailed into a strong counter-current, most probably the warm Brazil current, because I could not see Puffin’s bowsprit in the fog.
My body adjusted to the current conditions and to the final phase of the race, of course.
My fungus-infected nails opened up further, my shoulders and knees hurt more frequently, and I broke a rib during a maneuver.
January 19th ranked among the worst days of the race regarding the weather. The wind shifted all around—360 degrees. Its velocity varied between 0 to 55 knots. And by the evening, it became a three-day-long powerful storm with continuous lightning and rain.
The silver lining was the 40 liters of drinking water harvested during this period.
On January 23rd, the sky cleared up, and finally, I could have a thorough bath in the cockpit. Also, I could open the Dorado vents to help reduce the mold infestation growing in Puffin’s interior.
I had to take apart the steering pedestal—again—because my made-up bearing started to fail in its supporting function keeping the cog wheels together.
I decided to use the rebuilt emergency tiller for a while since Puffin was heading towards a more gentle sailing environment.
I wanted to save the far more effective wheel steering for the race’s last leg, where storms and shipping traffic are more frequent.
I shaved my head bald before crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, thanks to the Southern Summer, and maintaining hygiene onboard became much easier.
On January 27th, I shifted Puffin’s steering to the emergency tiller as we got steady south-easterly trades sending the steering wheel for vacation. But the Windpilot wheel adapter would have been sent to some recycling place instead…
Well, the south-easterly trades were light and unsteady, but I was able to exceed the northbound moving Sun by the end of January, at least.
It was great to be in the warm weather after the freezing cold of the Southern Oceans, but as we know, even too much of a good thing can be harmful…and the sun was beaming full throttle.
These days we met merchant ships and even sailboats more frequently.
By February 5th, I shortened Uku’s advantage to 490 nautical miles. However, it was weird to race against the faster Rustler with an emergency tiller.
But it was even more bizarre that Tapio, with a much faster boat, was 3500 nautical miles behind Puffin, which was definitely the slowest boat in the GGR fleet. (Later, I learned that barnacles slowed down Tapio).
The usual dilemma of where to cross the doldrum has always been a challenge. But the heavy displacement boats trapped into wind holes mixed with occasional thunderstorms have little chance for route modification later on.