January 31, 2010
Saito Challenge 8 (Tokyo)
Contact: Hunter Brumfield
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‘Never-Say-Die’ Saito restarts his record circumnavigation
Japanese yachtsman, 76, sets off once more at Cape Horn
PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE – The third time’s the charm, a much frustrated but determined Minoru Saito hopes as he resumed his solo circumnavigation from the world’s southern-most city today [Jan. 30 local time]. He bade farewell to his small team of local supporters in late afternoon under overcast skies after clearing immigration and customs.
The Guinness Book world record holder restarted his quest to achieve a record eighth solo circumnavigation after his 56-foot yacht Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III was disabled and nearly lost during a perilous crossing of storm-tossed Cape Horn in April. His attempt to leave in October was aborted 2 days after he passed The Horn a second time, when he lost the use of his sails and engine. His vessel was towed back to Punta Arenas for engine and staysail furler repairs and replacement of his badly damaged headsail.
It will take him about two days to reach the point of his furthest westward progress as he proceeds westward on the Strait of Magellan to the South Pacific Ocean. He will be accompanied by a second vessel much of the way to Cabo Felix lighthouse at the strait’s entrance, should he need assistance along the sometimes narrow and winding route back. Strong, opposing tidal currents and headwinds make the strait dangerous for solo sailors.
He has already passed Cape Horn not once but twice on this circumnavigation that began 486 days and 16,500 miles ago, going the “wrong way” in a rare westward solo passage against the prevailing winds and seas. The first time a three-day gale hit him head-on and drove his yacht back eastward. At the height of the storm a line washed overboard and wrapped the rudder and propeller, crippling the vessel. The second attempt in October saw him make an additional 270 miles, when his engine was shut down by contaminated fuel and strong headwinds damaged his two head sails.
A new genoa sail was made for him in Auckland, New Zealand, and flown to Punta Arenas in December. A local welder was able to repair the furler.
Saito turned 76 in January. He will return to Yokohama in approximately 3 months, completing a yachting feat that will make virtually invincible his standing as the world’s oldest and most-accomplished single-handed circumnavigator. He will be able to claim records for most (8), oldest (76), and oldest westward “contrary” route circumnavigations. He already holds the Guinness Book world record as the oldest person to complete a non-stop solo circumnavigation at age 71 in 2005.
Daily updates at http://saito8.blogspot.com/
Saito’s route back to the restart point of his twice-interrupted transit of Cape Horn