Alessandro di Benedetto, the young Franco-Italian who is attempting to sail around the world in the smallest boat ever unassisted and non-stop, has successfully sailed around Cape Horn - under a jury rig.
Alessandro de Benedetto
He has now passed well south of the Horn in his 21ft (6.5 metre) mini sailing boat, and is heading north up the Atlantic Ocean on the last long leg of his voyage back to Europe.
He had left Sables D'Olonne in France on 25th October last year on his attempt to sail round the world in his tiny sailboat, Findomestic Banca. The voyage had been generally proceeding well. However, in late March he was struck by what looked like a death blow. He was dismasted on his final approach to Cape Horn. He had prepared the boat for the conditions he was to face in the journey, making the mast shorter and stronger, but it wasn't enough
He then astonished his home team by announcing that he could jury rig the boat and attempt the rounding anyway.
On 16th April, he sent word that he had rounded the dreaded Cape and was heading north. There have been other solo sailors who rounded Cape Horn under jury rig (Australian Alan Nebauer in 1995) but not many.
So who is this amazing sailor and why has he taken on such a challenge?
Alessandro is by occupation a geologist, is no stranger to small craft, and is accustomed to taking on dramatic challenges. In December 2002, then aged 31, he made the first single-handed transatlantic in the '20 feet sport' category. Then in August he completed a north Pacific non-stop unassisted crossing in the same category of boat. For both of these feats he was checked and approved by the World Speed Sailing Record Council.
Alessandro on his way
He then decided to try for a circumnavigation in the same category of yacht. In preparation, he significantly modified and strengthened the boat for the conditions he expected to face in the Southern Ocean. The hull was reinforced with kevlar and carbon, the bowsprit was fixed and strengthend, the rudder system was replaced with one of solid steel. For warmth, as a concession to comfort, he added a cabin.
An Australian, Serge Testa holds the official record for sailing around the world in the smallest vessel – she was only 11 foot and 10 inches long, but he didn't do it non-stop. He finished his three year adventure in 1987 by returning to Sydney, via the Panama Canal, and after crossing the Pacific Ocean to Australia.
Unlike the crop of teenagers currently stealing the headlines, Alessandro's departure was witnessed and will be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) and the International Sailing Federation. To prove his journey, the WSSRC has placed a black box on board, which will record his route beyond any doubt. If Alessandro can make it back to Sables D'Olonne without stopping for a repair, it will be an even greater achievement....but watch this space
You can follow his progress on his website www.alessandrodibenedetto.net.