Tornado troubles for sailor who survived after going missing for 17 days

The trip was always going to be a challenging one. Setting out to cross the Atlantic singlehanded on 20 ft (6.1m) Tornado Olympic catamaranBella Stella, Italian sailor Francesco Di Benedetto left Gran Canaria on January 2nd, heading 2700-miles west for Guadeloupe.

For the first three days, Benedetto gave position reports to his support team. But on day four, his support team lost contact with him, and for the next seventeen days their only means of hope were in that the EPIRB signal had not yet been reported.

However, on January 19th, his EPIRB was activated, which placed him 700 miles from Guadalupe, and just a bit south of his direct route. Eight hours later, and just before sunset, Francesco had been intercepted and rescued (along with his catamaran) by a cargo ship on her way to Barcelona.

Benedetto reports that his troubles began on the 7th of January, where he lost all his equipment in a storm: ‘I had nothing, imagine myself, the boat, the mast and two sails.” Nothing meant no water, food, GPS, glasses, auto-pilots, headlamps, 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.’

Since Francesco had no routing support, he sailed right through areas with 20 to 30 knot wind. “The waves were incredible,” he recalled. “Not too tall but steep and fast. Like cannon balls that I had to avoid… not for 3 or 4 hours, for days!” After sailing on for 12 days in hopes of finding a boat for help, he finally activated his EPIRB.

See for more on Benedetto’s eventful start to 2007.