Fedor Konyukhov

Sat phone session with Fedor.

“It’s been a fruitful day for me. In the morning we received our regular weather forecast from Lee Bruce which suggested 20+ knots of steady wind all day. The weather looked cooperative for the rudder repair and there was no precipitation which will allow working with epoxy, so I decided it’s now or it’ll be too late.
Problem in brief: The tiller on each rudder has two locking bolts, one at the end tightens the tiller around the rudder stock and one in the middle centers the tiller to the rudder. This central bolt failed around Cape Horn and the tiller was moving around the rudder stock. Every mile added more stress and carbon dust was all over the transom indicating that the tiller was chewing the rudder stock away. With two oceans ahead to the finish line I must fix it. The only way for me to find out what’s wrong is to take the tiller apart. Frankly speaking, I had a lot of concerns and hesitation as taking a steering device to pieces deep in the South Atlantic Ocean is not big fun with a positive result not guaranteed. What if I won’t be able to put it back together? It’s like trying to repair a part of a plane wing while flying at 30.000 feet!
@@apos@@Open 85’ yacht ‘Trading Network Alye Parusa’ weights 30 tons and her rudder is very solid and heavy. I had to disconnect the rudder which weights 70 kg and has a draught of 1.7 meters and make sure it wouldn’t slip or crash turn at 90 degrees angle to the boat. Firstly I decided to work on starboard tack with the boat heeling over to port with the damaged rudder sitting out of the water. But this proved to be the wrong approach as the disconnected rudder flipped to a dangerous angle and waves were hitting it badly. So, I reassembled it, gibed and put the damaged rudder in the water and under pressure. I then drilled an additional hole through the rudder stock and poked a screw driver through to create a strut which I lashed with spectra ropes to rail stanchions, the mainsheet traveler, and the push pit. Once the rudder was secured I switched off the autopilot as there was no need for it, took the tiller off, and found why the central bolt snapped. The stainless steel sleeve we installed in Albany was too long and it restricted tightening the tiller around the rudder stock. Basically I was compressing the sleeve but not tightening the tiller. I pulled the sleeve out and shortened it by 5 mm. Then I cut a plastic bottle in half and put two sides around the rudder stock to beef it up to get more grip wrapping it up with epoxy.
Meanwhile the boat was sailing on port tack with the port rudder out of the water and the starboard rudder locked in the central position keeping the boat on course. I managed to balance the boat with the sails and she sailed a perfect straight line. It was like she could feel the importance of the moment for the well being of us both and that I’m treating her like an ill patient and that she must be well-behaved. Unfortunately working on the leeward side freezing cold water constantly splashed over me but thank God it was not raining. The day passed very quickly with running from stern to cabin, charging the hand drill, mixing epoxy, changing broken blades for the metal hand saw. It was plenty of physical exercise and fresh air. It’s 10 meters from the navigation station to the stern of the boat. I think I ran a good 5 kilometers. Unusual for a solo sailor that spends most of the time locked in the 2 x 3 meter cockpit.
Once I tightened the bolts heavy rain arrived but the job was done. I was back inside the boat and the kettle was on.. I will not say that it’s a perfect job and I don’t much care for how it looks but taking into account the conditions I don’t think we did too bad a job. I just hope it will last to Albany.
After almost 10 hours on deck, I really needed a good rest but that was not the case. Around midnight we sailed into very powerful turbulence. All of a sudden a squall arrived with heavy rain and very cold air then five minutes later a flow of much warmer air came and this contrast continued for at least one hour. In the meantime lightening was hitting the ocean around the boat. The sky was dramatic with lightening both vertical and horizontal between the clouds. It looked like ‘The End of the World’ and the combined noise of the heavy rain, gusty winds, and thunder was frightening. I was looking at my mast – a 110 ft carbon fibre pipe - sticking up into the air and the highest point in this wild pattern. Although the boat has ground wires it’s all theoretic. We’ve never been hit by lightening before and being here deep in the South Atlantic 7,000 miles from the finish line the last thing I needed was a high voltage current flow experiment. It was very unusual and more likely to happen in the tropics but not in the Deep South. The wind was spinning like crazy and I was trying to follow the shift until I realized that we were going in circles and damaging the main sail which already has two cracks. So the main came down and the staysail half furled. It took another hour for NW wind to fill in. My foul weather gear is completely soaked, there was chaos in the cockpit with the mainsail on deck. I was busy till sunrise bringing things to order. That’s all for now. We just had another exciting day in the Southern Ocean sailing the Antarctica Cup Racetrack. To end I would like to thank Bob Williams and Mark McRae for providing me with various options and ideas how to fix the rudder and also for encouragement. Regards, Fedor Position: 48,24S - 46,29W”.