Day 964 [May 25/11 JST] -- Saito-san clears customs and readies to leave tomorrow

May 25/11 JST

Position:  21°17'N, 157°53'W (Honolulu) 

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

With boat repairs completed and checked out on Monday's sea trial, Minoru Saito has received clearance to leave from the U.S. Coast Guard and will depart tomorrow. A farewell party will be hosted tonight by members of Team Hawaii.

The following news release is being sent to media in Japan and Hawaii.   

News Release
May 25, 2011
Saito Challenge 8 (Tokyo & Honolulu)
Contact: Hunter Brumfield
Phone: (+81 3) 3626-3539
Mobile: (+81) 90 52 13 49 67

Japanese yachtsman, 77, ready for 'final' departure on his 33-month epic circumnavigation

HONOLULU, HAWAII – Guinness Book world record holder Minoru Saito, 77, was set to leave port Thursday [May 26] after what turned into an 11-month repair stopover in Hawaii. He hopes to finish the remaining 3,700 miles of his solo circumnavigation to Yokohama in his 56-foot steel-hulled sailboat, Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III, within 5 weeks.

He has sailed more than 27,000 nautical miles since leaving Yokohama in October, 2008. His boat was disabled in two separate attempts to round stormy Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. He succeeded on the third try.

His attempt to depart Hawaii last July resulted in an abrupt thousand-mile U-turn that ended with an overnight emergency tow as his weary vessel literally started falling apart around him. Rigging, mast, engine, sail, and electrical troubles have been corrected in the months since through the volunteer labor of fellow boaters in Honolulu and continuing support of voyage sponsors and private donors, supplemented by Saito's retirement savings. 

The solo yachtsman departed Chile in February, 2010, following a 9-month interruption to attend to repairs and wait out the harsh winter in a small fishing harbor in Punta Arenas, the world’s southern-most city. Twenty-three days later the fourth-most powerful earthquake in history, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, struck barely 200 miles from the small coastal port where Saito had stopped to fix the boat’s battery charging system.

This time, the even-stronger 9.0 magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11 sent tsunami waves swirling into marinas of Honolulu, including Saito's. Extensive damage was reported in neighboring marinas as a number of vessels, in some cases still attached to their floating finger piers, were sucked out to sea. No fatalities occurred, although damages were estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

Saito’s shore crew of volunteers in Hawaii reports that he is in good spirits and anxious to leave despite the extended voyage that will fall just short of three years in duration when he arrives in Yokohama in July. The circumnavigation had initially been expected to take about 9 months.

The physical toll of the voyage has been hard on the skipper: He underwent emergency abdominal surgery in Punta Arenas, received a 6-inch gash on his right forearm from a falling hatch, and suffered the frigid Chilean winter living aboard a boat for 9 months with no internal heating and no running water, and subject to constant bashing by other vessels in a crowded fishing harbor. In October in Honolulu, he was struck by an errant motorist as he used a pedestrian crosswalk, causing a knee injury that required surgery and the use of an orthopedic knee brace. Police judged the motorist at fault.

Saito will be 77 and 7 months old when he returns in July, completing an epic 27,000-mile voyage that promises to secure his standing as the world’s oldest and most-accomplished single-handed circumnavigator. He’ll be able to claim circumnavigation records for most (8), oldest (77), and oldest to complete a westward “contrary” route. He already holds the Guinness Book world record as the oldest sailor at age 71 to complete a non-stop, unassisted solo rounding of the globe.

Daily updates at