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Alessandro di Benedetto - solo round the world in a 21ft boat

by Nancy Knudsen on 26 Jan 2010
Alessandro de Benedetto SW
Back in September 2009, Australian sailing teenager Jessica Watson was inadvertently becoming a world sailing sensation in mainstream news by hitting a container ship on her first solo night at sea.

At around the same time the headlines were full of the fact that a Dutch Court was threatening to forbid another teenager, 13-year-old Laura Dekker, from going sailing (and they did).

This all took the attention of the sailing world from other zany adventurers, and one of them is Italian adventure sailor Alessandro di Benedetto.

On October 25th, just one week after Jessica Watson set out on her rapidly repaired yacht, this young Italian sailor, already an experienced solo yachtsman on tiny sailboats, set out from Sables D'Olonne in France to circumnavigate the world, non-stop and unassisted on a 21ft Mini sailboat, a modified 6.50 Class ocean racing boat called, after his chief sponsor, Findomestic Banca.

He has significantly modified and strengthened the boat for the conditions he expects to face in the Southern Ocean. The hull was reinforced with kevlar and carbon, the mast is now shorter and stronger, the bowsprit is fixed and has also been strengthend, the rudder system is now made of solid steel, even the stays are made of steel, and there is, this time, compromise to comfort - he actually added a cabin.

Right now, an Australian by the name of Serge Testa still holds the record for sailing around the world in the smallest vessel – she was only 11 foot and 10 inches long, excluding the rudder. However, he didn't try it non-stop. He finished his epic 3 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.

Alessandra will have to respect the same rules that were invented for the original Vendee Globe race won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in 1969 - non-stop, unassisted, south of the three great capes - Agulhas to the south of Africa, Leeuwin, to the south of Australia and the Horn, to the south of South America. He will, of course, cross the equator twice because of his departure from Europe.

Alessandra is not new to ocean crossings on small boats, In 2002, he sailed 2700 miles across the Atlantic in a 20ft beach cat - a sport catamaran without a cabin, and in 2006, he sailed 4500 miles, again in a 20ft boat without a cabin across the Pacific from Yokohama in Japan to San Francisco in the USA. Both of these records were also ratified by the WSSRC. Quite a tough sailor, you could say.

Currently, in his 21ft boat he has already passed to the south of South Africa, and is now located deep in the Southern Ocean having just passed the Territory of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

When asked before his departure about his chances of success, Alessandro Di Benedetto seemed rather calm and he is confident in his own capacities. ‘I am fine, Findomestic Banca is small but I take care of her, fully aware my life depends on her.’

You can follow his progress on his website, but the ability to read Italian will be an advantage.

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