Alessandro Di Benedetto (FRA - ITA) on Team Plastique has crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 15h 36 mn 30 s (French Time). He finishes eleventh in the race. In completing his race 26d 00h 17min 50s after race winner François Gabart, completed the course he ensures this seventh edition of the renowned solo non stop around the world race makes history with the shortest gap ever between the first and last finishers.
Di Benedetto's elapsed time for the course is 104d 02H 34mn 30s. His average speed on the course was 9.8 kts. He actually sailed 28,840.00 miles on the water at an average speed of 11.5 kts. Reminder: the theoretical distance of the course is 24,394 miles.
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 circumnavigation on a tiny, cockleshell Mini 6.5m, Alessandro 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, finishing under jury rig. And, among them, Arnaud Boissières has never forgotten his own 'Mini' years. Naturally he takes Alessandro for a sail on his IMOCA Open 60 and a dream is born.
A boat with a history
So he sets his sights on Solune, the boat sailed by 'Cali' Boissières in 2008, Sébastien Josse in 2004 and 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 finds support from a company with very strong Vendée links. But stepping into a relative unknown, his first IMOCA race, he takes food for 140 days.
His race does not bear comparison to his rivals because he does not have the machine to compete in the pack and he has little experience of racing. And so he chooses to start steadily, to learn his boat day by day. To start with he is laid low by flu and that makes for a difficult first few days.
Di Benedetto finds himself at the back of the fleet but he takes pleasure from simple things.
Birds, crepes and salad
He 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 his good food. And his music. Each major passage is celebrated appropriately. He passes Cape Leeuwin with 'O Sole Mio' - a virtuoso 'solo' performance. And he passed Cape Horn on January 17th 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 damages have taken their toll. He is left with no downwind sails, has to climb the mast several times to sort out halyard issues. And a tumble into the cockpit when he gybes unexpectedly results in a broken rib for Alessandro. 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 22nd 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 figure
- The greatest distance covered in 24 hours: 405 miles on December 15, 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: 12d02h40mn)
- Good Hope - Cape Leeuwin: 14d 20h 45mn (F. Gabart's record: 11d 06h 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, 57mn, 18s