© Matthew Pryor – Vendeeglobe.org:
Alessandro Di Benedetto makes astonishing gains in fleet’s oldest boat. He was supposed to be here just for the adventure, he has packed 130 days worth of food and has a salad garden dotted around his deck, but never underestimate a man who has sailed around the world in a mini – the 21 foot boat variety, not the car, but only marginally less incredible.
Sicilian by his father, French by his mother, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique), the 41-year-old skipper holds many incredible endurance records, but the last few days have shown that he is no slow coach. Despite having a 14-year-old boat , the oldest boat in the fleet and the only one with a fixed keel – rendering him sedate in a fleet of flying machines – he has pulled back 300 miles in three days on the leaders and 500 miles on Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas).
In a race of attrition – and with six boats out of the 20 retired and the Doldrums punitively taxing half the fleet, the 2012-13 edition of the Vendée Globe is definitely that – Di Benedetto’s presence is starting to look like more than just an adventure. He is still behind at the back of the fleet, but he is now back in touch.
His videos home are of soldering, gardening or grinding in his pants off the Cape Verde islands, but once again this morning at the 0500hrs ranking (French time) he had the fastest 24 hour run in the fleet with 320 miles at an average of 13.3 knots. If he can have a Doldrums like Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) and Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives cœur) then he will bank many of those miles.
In 2002 Di Benedetto crossed the Atlantic in a 20-foot beach catamaran, in 2006 he crossed the Pacific from Yokohama to San Francisco, again in the 20-foot beach cat and in 2009-10 he completed an epic 268-day non-stop solo voyage in Hakuna Matata, the smallest boat – just 21ft (6.5m) – ever to circumnavigate the globe. All were non-stop, solo and without assistance.
At one point on the circumnavigation he severely damaged his rig in a storm and looked like he would have to head to Chile, instead he stunned everyone by jury-rigging his mast and rounding Cape Horn.
On the Pacific voyage of 68 days – a record – he spent 62 of them in a survival suit.
By comparison he looks like he is only holiday this time, but that is deceptive, he is sailing his 60ft yacht almost as fast as she will go. He will be in the Doldrums by the end of Friday and seems likely to just keep plowing on where others falter, dawdle or abandon.