Vendee Globe back marker arrives home
Alessandro Di Benedetto on Team Plastique crossed the Vendée Globe finish line at 14:36:30 UTC to claim 11th and last place in this 2012-13 edition of the singlehanded non-stop round the world race and drawing it to a close.
The Franco-Italian skipper's elapsed time for the course was 104 days 2 hours 34 minutes and 30 seconds at an average speed on the theoretical course of 9.8 knots, although he actually sailed 28,840 miles at an average speed of 11.5 knots.
He arrived in Les Sables d'Olonne just over 26 days after race winner François Gabart and MACIF, so this seventh Vendee Globe has the shortest gap between the first and last finishers in the history of the race .
Whatever the weather, wherever he was on the globe, Alessandro di Benedetto was this Vendée Globe’s eternal ray of sunshine. His constant good humour, his transmission of his simple joys of being at sea, his rich accent and unstoppable dialogue stole the hearts of race fans and followers a long time ago. But in finishing eleventh today so too he completes a very good sporting performance.
When he arrived in Les Sables d’Olonne in July 2010 to end his impressive circumnavigation in 21ft long Mini, Di Benedetto intrigued the Sablais offshore community. Many know, or indeed have sailed in the Mini class, and could not countenance Alessandro’s 268 days circumnavigation solo in such a tiny boat, and, most impressively having been dismasted at Cape Horn, continuing up the height of the Atlantic under jury rig.
Akena Verandas skipper Arnaud Boissières has never forgotten his own Mini years and after he had taken Alessandro for a sail on his IMOCA 60, a dream was born for the Italian.
A boat with a history
So he sets his sights on the Finot-Conq design, sailed by ‘Cali’ in 2008, as VMI by Sébastien Josse in 2004 and as Sodebo by Thomas Coville in 2000. It is not the fastest or most efficient boat, but it is simple to control and sail. De Benedetto further benefits from Boissières' advice. Staying in Les Sables d’Olonne, he becomes the second skipper to be based in the Vendée Globe’s home. And he found support from a company with very strong Vendée links. Stepping into the unknown, on his first IMOCA race, as well as by far the hardest in the calendar, he took food for 140 days.
Di Benedetto's race does not bear comparison to his rivals, because he didn't have a state of the art boat to compete and he has little experience of racing. So he chose to start steadily and to learn his boat day by day. Soon after the start with he was laid low by flu making for a difficult first few days. He soon found himself at the back of the fleet, took pleasure from the simple things.
Birds, crepes and salad
Di Benedetto tells of his daily life vividly and with passion: An encounter with a big bird, growing his own green salads and his diet of crepes, such are the typical first anecdotes from the Franco-Sicilian skipper who loves good food.
And his music. Each major cape he passes is celebrated appropriately. He passes Cape Leeuwin with ‘O Sole Mio’ – a virtuoso ‘solo’ performance. And he passed Cape Horn on 17 January, a day quicker than Arnaud Boissières had done in 2008-9 on the same boat.
A growing force
In a way the passage of Cape Horn is a watershed for the skipper of Team Plastique. He is no longer happy to just live his days in a good mood and get on steadily. He has learned his boat and what makes each tenth of a knot of difference and he has upped the pace and rhythm accordingly. But successive issues have taken their toll on his boat. He is left with no downwind sails, and has to climb the mast several times to sort out halyard issues. And a tumble into t cockpit when he gybes unexpectedly results in a broken rib.
But he never shared a moment which was not upbeat and insightful. Just about every Di Benedetto broadcast started with ‘everything is good, everything is OK ’…
And now finishing today, Friday 22 February, Alessandro has improved on the reference time for the boat of his pal Boissières by more than one day, a performance which gained him seventh in the last race. And Arnaud Boissières will be proud. And rightly so.
The race of Alessandro Di Benedetto in numbers
- The greatest distance covered in 24 hours: 405 miles on 15 December, 2012 (average speed of 16.9 knots)
- Les Sables d’Olonne to Equator 15d 20h 03mn (record held by Jean Le Cam in 2004-2005: 10d 11h 28mn)
- Equator- Good Hope 16d 09h 25mn (JP Dick’s record: 12d 2h 40mn)
- Good Hope - Cape Leeuwin: 14d 20h 45mn (F. Gabart’s record: 11d 6h 40mn)
- Cape Leeuwin - Cape Horn: 25d 03h 16mn (F. Gabart’s record: 17d 18h 35 mn)
- Cape Horn - Equator: 18d 05h 08mn (F. Gabart’s record: 13d 19h 28mn)
- Equator - Les Sables d'Olonne: 17d 15h, 57m 18s