With the flurry of attention over teenage girl circumnavigators having at least temporarily subsided, we’re thrilled to note the successful completion of a very ‘manly’ round-about. Yesterday, 39-year-old French/Italian geologist Alessandro di Benedetto sailed Findomestic back into Les Sables D’Olonne Harbor after a nonstop circumnavigation that took 268 days, 19 hours and 36 minutes. What makes this voyage notable — and a ‘first’ — is not the route or the time. The former is the same racetrack used by Vendée Globe soloists, and the top guys usually complete it in about three months. Di Benedetto’s claim to fame is that he did it on a Mini TransAt boat which, at 21 feet, makes it the smallest boat ever to complete a nonstop circumnavigation.
Alessandro had his share of adventures, including a dismasting near the Horn, which he repaired and kept going. You can read about the voyage — or try — at his website www.alessandrodibenedetto.net. Be warned that the English “translation” is a tad wanting. For example, when we were trying to figure out what the guy ate, we came across: “This outstanding sailor knows how to handle both the harpoon on the sea beams — to improve his ordinary meals, as well as the vocalizations of the Italian ways, when the wind sulks him." We think that just means he fished a lot. And we sure hope ‘harpoon’ really means ‘speargun,’ or armchair experts are going to have something new to rant and rave about.
Kidding aside, the completion of any nonstop circumnavigation is a feat of skill, strength, courage and determination unimaginable to most casual sailors. To pull it off in a boat about the same length as a Santana 22 really boggles the mind. (To be fair, Findomestic was heavily modified and strengthened.) With the Vendée Globe regularly touted as the ‘Everest of Sailing’, di Benedetto’s feat might compare to the venerated Seven Summits — climbing the tallest mountains on each of the continents, including Everest.
For comparison’s sake, Robin Knox-Johnston took 313 days to sail his 32-ft ketch Suhaili nonstop around the world in the 1968-1969 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. In the 2008-2009 edition of the Vendée Globe, Michel Desjoyeaux completed the round-about in 84 days and change on the 60-ft Foncia.