Well, if we are going to be pedantic (something I am myself prone to) what you are talking about is the Florida Current. *grin*
If I recall the Carib 1500 maps correctly, Rule 62 was North and East of Abaco and in the nominal Gulf Stream where it tips over (excuse me - veers more Easterly and starts to aim for Europe) when the recorded track and the reported SSB communications from the boat indicate Rule 62 made a significant course change and headed for Abaco.
So Rule 62 was subject to bumpy conditions. I maintain a better choice, regardless of decision-maker, would have been to head further offshore into more settled conditions and heave-to for as long as it took to rest. Heading Southwest, also out of the Gulf Stream, was a bad choice.
OK, I suspose those with a myopic view of the world would call what runs west of the Bahamas the Florida Current
, but the "river in the ocean" that runs up the Carolinas coast and by Hatteras is known by those who've been north of Jacksonville as the Gulf Stream.
From my reading of the Carib 1500 transponders, Rule 62 was clear of the major effects of the Gulf Stream within 36 hours (+ or - a few) of leaving Norfolk. I've made the trip from Norfolk to Tortola twice and the advantage of leaving from this far south (vs New England) is that you can be done with the Stream quickly. Normally, the C1500 fleet crosses the Stream north of Hatteras and is on the other side within the first 24 hours. Off Hatteras the Stream is usually no more than 60-80 miles wide. This year many boats went further south and crossed it south of Hatteras where it might be 80-100 miles across at most. They did this to avoid the worst of the weather thrown off by the low off New England, using both time and distance to their advantage.
From my reading of the track of Rule 62, she didn't make the decision to head for the Bahamas until she was near the latitude of Jacksonville at a position 200-300 miles east of the eastern wall of the Stream.
What came into play here was the wave patterns from the N and NW produced by the storms that had passed the latitude of Hatteras and/or come off the coast above Hatteras a few days before. Combine that with strong winds from the north and it makes for an uncomfortable ride. Last year we had a similar but much more moderate wind/wave combination in this area. Broad reaching in 25-30 may sound like a cake walk, but with a 10-12' swell hitting the boat on the port quarter, it's no fun -- it pushes the stern down hard on every wave requiring the helmsman to work hard. (Our autopilot would not keep up and the crew resorted to hand steering). BR has a similar underbody, but is a much heavier boat than Rule 62. With a stronger wind (one boat reported > 50 kt gusts) and larger wave train a lighter Rule 62 would not have had a comfortable ride. But the conditions they faced when their track leaves the pack and goes off to the SW toward the Bahamas had nothing
to do with the Gulf Stream.