On January 19th, 38-year-old French/Italian sailor Francesco Di Benedetto
flipped a switch to turn on his EPIRB. He was 700 miles from the West Indies island of Guadeloupe, 17 days out of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. Di Benedetto, brother to Alessandro Di Benedetto who has set records by crossing the Atlantic and Pacific in small catamarans, was attempting to make a 2,700-mile transatlantic crossing and had gotten into trouble and needed rescue. Not an unheard of story by voyaging standards. What is unusual is that Di Benedetto was attempting his crossing on a 20-foot Tornado, Olympic class catamaran.
After leaving Las Palmas on Gran Canaria on January 2, Di Benedetto, was doing well for three days, making progress toward Guadeloupe and sending his support team updates. After day three, however, Di Benedetto went silent. But his real troubles began on day seven when he was hit by a storm and had all his food and equipment washed overboard. He reports on his blog
that: “I had nothing, imagine myself, the boat, the mast and two sails.” Di Benedetto had lost his water, food, GPS, glasses, autopilots, headlamps and medicines. “Without glasses and contact lenses I could hardly see the end of the catamaran and at night there were no stars. I had a small compass with no light and the EBIRP in my pocket, that’s it.”
In an impressive feat of endurance, Di Benedetto sailed for 12 days without any food or water, hoping to run across another vessel from which he could beg some supplies. He remained close to the rumb line as he sailed through some tough conditions with 20 to 30 knots of wind and daunting seas. “The waves were incredible, not too tall but steep and fast. Like cannon balls that I had to avoid… not for three or four hours, for days!” He finally gave in to his situation and turned on his EPIRB.
Search and rescue forces diverted the merchant vessel Norman Lady, bound for Barcelona, to pick him up. The crew of the ship were also able to recover his catamaran, Belle Etoile
. He is due to arrive in Spain on January 27.