Day 1023 [July 22/11 JST] – Saito 8 News Release: The Final Countdown Begins

Today's Report

July 22/11 0800 JST 

Position:  27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama:  502 nm (ETA: ? days)

In this morning's call Saito-san announced his intent to depart Chichijima tomorrow before noon as the remnants of Typhoon Ma-On, now a tropical storm, move northeast away from Japan and out into the North Pacific.

Cross marks Chichijima in this 24-hour projection of Ma-On's path out to sea.

Today's report takes the form of the official news release as we count down the final miles to the end of his epic circumnavigation. 

News Release

July 22, 2011
Saito Challenge 8 (Tokyo)
Contact: Hunter Brumfield
Phone: (+81 3) 3626-3539
Mobile: (+81) 90 52 13 49 67

Japanese yachtsman, 77, nears end of his 34-month record 8th solo circumnavigation

OGASAWARA, JAPAN – Typhoon Ma-On has moved on, so that means Minoru Saito can, too.

Guinness Book world record holder Minoru Saito, 77, is within a week of his return to Yokohama to finish his epic 3-year solo circumnavigation in his 56-foot sailboat, Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III.

Ma-On further delayed that homecoming, as Saito waited out the Category 4 typhoon's passage for 9 days on an outlying Japanese island, but he just sees it as par for the course of his arduous "wrong-way" solo circumnavigation that is now 1,023 days along.

"I guess I just have to wait a little bit more, but can probably leave tomorrow," he said today by satellite phone from Ogasawara Village on Chichijima Island 500 miles south of Yokohama.  The typhoon is expected to be gone within 3 days, according to projections by the U.S. Navy weather service.

Saito has sailed more than 28,000 nautical miles (52,000 kilometers) since leaving Yokohama in October, 2008. His steel-hulled sailboat was disabled twice in attempts to round stormy Cape Horn at the bottom of South America. He succeeded on the third try nine months later.

The solo yachtsman departed Chile in February, 2010, after repairs and waiting out the frigid, stormy winter in a small fishing harbor in Punta Arenas, the world’s southern-most city.

Twenty-three days after he left Cape Horn 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 ailing battery charging system.

Later in the circumnavigation his weary vessel literally started falling apart and he was forced to stop in Hawaii. Rigging, mast, engine, sail, and electrical troubles were corrected in Honolulu through the volunteer labor of fellow boaters and the support of voyage sponsors and private donors. 

The 9.0 magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake on March 11 sent tsunami waves washing into marinas in Honolulu, including Saito's. Extensive damage was reported in neighboring marinas as a number of vessels, in some cases still attached to floating finger piers, were sucked out to sea. No fatalities occurred, although damages were estimated to be in the millions of dollars. There was no damage to Saito's vessel.

The physical toll of the voyage has been hard as well on the septuagenarian skipper.

He underwent emergency abdominal surgery in Punta Arenas, suffered a 6-inch gash on his right forearm from a falling hatch, and toughed out a frigid Chilean winter living aboard with no internal heating and no running water, and subject to bashing by larger vessels in a crowded fishing harbor on the Strait of Magellan. Most personally vexing, he lost a dental bridge to a hard crust of bread early in the voyage.

He discovered that even dry land is not safe. In October, he was struck by an errant motorist in Honolulu as he used a pedestrian crosswalk, causing an injury that required knee surgery and the use of an orthopedic brace. Police judged the motorist at fault.

Saito’s shore crew reports that he is in good spirits and pleased at the impending success of his record-making voyage as he has moved westward against the spin of the Earth, thus against the prevailing winds, currents and weather patterns. Few solo sailors have completed a highly punishing "wrong-way" circumnavigation, and none near Saito's age.

Saito will be 77 and 7 months old when he returns later this month, completing a 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.

Many hail the sailor's "Never Give Up!" mantra as especially fitting in the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Daily updates at