As we reported, Irish solo-sailor Peter Lawless was well on his way into his planned solo, nonstop circumnavigation with his Rival 41 “Waxwing”, powered by Rolly Tasker Sails. Of which he says: “These sails transformed my boat and her performance!” However, after a promising start, his rudder was hit hard in an unidentified impact off the coast of Portugal. Since then he had experienced problems with the steering. This must have been especially frustrating as Peter had meticulously prepared his boat over a period of two years, checking and replacing nearly everything.

As Peter reports: “Something hit my rudder hard, it knocked the ball joint of the steering linkage, it also knocked off my autopilot rudder indicator. I had emergency steering and sailed with this to the coast of Portugal and repaired it, however after 4 days it was making noise and I could feel a lot of play in my steering. So, I decided to stop in Tenerife.

In Tenerife I stripped all the steering linkage and saw that the ball joints were damaged and worn as a result of the impact the week before. I ordered new parts from England and I bought some locally and I also had some parts made locally by an engineer.”

After all this was back together, the steering was working perfectly again. However, the repair took nearly one whole month as it turned out. Especially the much-needed parts from England took very long to arrive. In the end the whole repair took the time it obviously needed until all was all back together and in safe working order again.

This in turn had dire consequences for Peter’s plan: “The repercussions of this on my solo nonstop circumnavigation is that it took so long to get parts and repairs finished, I was over a month behind where I should be. I had certain times I wanted to be at the capes, especially at Cape Horn for the local summer down there which is in January and February. Had I continued it would have been April until I arrived there and that makes it even more dangerous. So, in the end I decided to sail back to Ireland and start again next year.”

Obviously, this must have been a very difficult decision to take for Peter but it is one that speaks for his sound seamanship and planning. Nothing would have been gained by a reckless effort that could well have ended dramatically, by sailing in the wrong season. Which is something you definitely do not want to be doing, most of all in the notorious Southern Ocean.

This is what Peter wrote on his website: “After spending the last week talking with family, friends, fellow sailors and sponsors I have decided to sail back to Ireland and start again next year. This was not an easy decision to make but safety comes first. It’s getting too late this year and I can start again fresh next year from Ireland. My plan is to sail to Madeira and wait for a good weather window, then sail to Portugal. I will possibly leave “Waxwing” there until spring and fly home, then sail back to Kilrush marina in Ireland next spring to start preparing for my journey again.”

“It was a huge decision but honestly, I’m glad I have decided one way or the other. The advice, help and support from all over the world is fantastic and really helped me make this difficult decision.”

What has hit his rudder in the first place we will never find out. There are of course many rumors and speculations by fellow sailors all over the world, some even suggest an Orca attack as has been experienced by other crews in this area. But whatever it was, the impact was obviously quite hard. It could well have left him rudderless in the first instance, but Peter was lucky that he was sailing a solid yacht designed for ocean voyaging, where the rudder arrangement is apparently very strong.

Watch this space for updates on his preparations and re-start in the coming year.