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.