Thierry Martinez /

De Benedetto ups his game

Mini round the world sailor gunning for new boat for the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship

Friday August 8th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: France

Born in Rome, Vendee Globe skipper Alessandro Di Benedetto holds Italian and French dual nationality.

Di Benedetto started sailing at the early age of 6, initially with his parents and then in the Optimist class, before starting sailing school in Sicily.

"I developed a love of sailing back then that has never left me," he says.

He now lives in La Chaume, in Les Sables D’Olonne, a town where he is also Citizen of Honour.

The route of Di Benedetto to the IMOCA Ocean Masters circuit has been unusual.

Before he became a professional skipper, he worked as a geologist. He carried out projects such as sailing across the Atlantic with his father in their catamaran in 1990, on a passage between Sicily and Martinique. He repeated this same route in 2002, but this time solo.

Then in 2006 he hit the headlines when he set a world record crossing the North Pacific in a Hobie cat, between Yokohama and San Francisco and it was during this extraordinary journey that he realised that he was ready to tackle another dream - to sail around the world.

In 2010, he set off on board the most unlikely of craft, a 21ft long Mini which he adapted for the voyage, sailing the same course as the Vendée Globe, starting and finishing in Les Sables d'Olonne sailing solo, nonstop and unassisted. In doing so, Di Benedetto became the first person to achieve this record on a boat of this size.

At the end of this voayge, he was bought a bottle of champagne "by Didier Elin, President of Team Plastique, the now owner of my IMOCA 60 boat and my current sponsor," Di Benedetto recalls. They soon decided to join forces for a Vendée Globe campaign. With the support of a number of sub-sponsors, Di Benedetto completed this project finishing 11th in the 2012-13 Vendée Globe.

"I think we showed great courage to take on this amazing adventure, such a big race, alongside world famous skippers, as well as big global brands," says Di Benedetto. "That is one of the amazing things about the Vendée Globe and the races in the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship in general - they allow smaller companies to get involved and tell some amazing stories.

"The impact of the sponsorship was incredible in terms of profile, recognition of the brand and client relationships for Team Plastique."

Di Benedetto has now completed two solo laps of the globals and still speaks with amazing passion about them. "It was an incredible adventure, part of the school of life," he says. "It allows you to think beyond the little problems that you encounter while on land.

"I have great memories of sailing in the IMOCA class, such as rounding Cape Horn during the Vendée Globe. The start and finish of the race were also incredible moments, with 1000s of people lining the canal. At the start they are there for all the skippers, but at the finish they are there to greet only you, that brings tears to the eyes. It is amazing."

Di Benedetto is also taking part in the next Route du Rhum this autumn again in his existing boat, in order to help him find more sponsors to be compete in next year's Transat Jacques Vabre and Vendée Globe the year after on a more advanced and newer boat.

"The Team Plastique IMOCA 60 has some limitations as it is a 1998 boat, with a fixed keel and without daggerboards," di Benedetto explains. "But its still an attractive boat, despite being one of the heaviest in the fleet, it can still surf along at 30 knots and that is pure joy to experience.

"IMOCA remains an open class and it is still possible to invest time and effort into evolving the boats even further. They are very powerful, and since they are monohulls, you can get them to nearly 100% of their potential, even sailing them solo. And IMOCA 60s are the boats of the Vendée Globe, a race that still remains today one of the most important in the world and the most interesting from the sporting point of view for solo sailors."

The Franco-Italian skipper sums up : "I think its really important for skippers from different nationalities to take part in the World Championship, French but also Spanish, English, Americans, Chinese….that would create a really great atmosphere, generate even more interest and allow companies from different markets to join the circuit. I think there is a lot more work to be done, but I am sure that the new IMOCA Ocean Masters circuit will only add value."



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