Yachtsman is Whitby’s modern-day explorer

Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley on board the Class 40 Fujifilm
Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley on board the Class 40 Fujifilm
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AS a small boy, Alex Bennett used to sail around Whitby harbour but now, aged 34, he’s tackling more treacherous waters.

Alex has just written High Seas, High Stakes, an autobiography detailing his globetrotting life as a professional sailor.

His career has seen him circumnavigate the globe, but he started life at sea in the sheltered waters of the River Esk, as a member of the Whitby Yacht Club.

Alex said: “I remember it so well and I write about it in the book, it was an amazing time for me.

“My first solo passage was from a slipway in Whitby harbour, all the way up to Ruswarp and back again, all in one day.

“It doesn’t seem like much now but at the time it was an epic journey.”

Alex, who’s family still lives in Whitby, is one of Britain’s most successful sailors and was part of the ill-fated crew of Team Philips, the largest ocean-racing yacht ever built.

Six hundred people applied for the two open places on the boat’s crew and Alex was chosen to join the elite team of six men.

He said: “It was the pinnacle of ocean racing, a very ambitious project and a real insight into the future of racing.”

Eighty parked cars could fit between the two hulls of the catamaran, built to compete in The Race, a round-the-world no-holds-barred drag race, but it was scuppered in a freak storm in 2000.

Alex recounts the dramatic event in his autobiography.

He said: “Unfortunately our boat got caught up in a major hurricane in the Atlantic.

“The boat got battered so badly we ended up 800 miles west of Ireland in the middle of the North Atlantic.

“The boat broke up and made mincemeat out of us and the trouble was we were too far out for airborne evacuation, our one chance was to be rescued by a big ship.

“We had to phone home and essentially say goodbye to our families because we couldn’t see a way out.”

Eventually a large containership responded to a mayday sent out by skipper and adventurer Pete Goss, who grew worldwide fame for his own rescue of a stricken French sailor during a global race.

When it arrived on the scene the rescue vessel discovered what Alex describes as a “warzone” as the boat tore itself apart underneath the crew, but the experience hasn’t put him off sailing.

“These experiences in life either make or break you, but that is part of why we do it, it’s the most amazing natural high,” he said.

“We tend to do two or three big races per year depending on the timeline.

“There is a race to Costa Rica that we are planning on doing this year.

“When you are out there on your own, battling against the elements, that is heaven for me.

“Whitby has always got a special place in my heart because it’s where my adventures began.”

Alex’s autobiography is out now and is available from www.alexbennett.co.uk for £12.99.