Day 1024 [July 23/11 JST] – All Set to Depart Before Noon

Today's Report
July 23/11 0800 JST 

Position: 27°03'N, 142°11'E (Ogasawara, Chichijima Island, Japan)
Remaining to Yokohama: 502 nm (ETA: 5-6 days)

After a final assessment of the weather, both current and projected, Saito-san confirmed this morning he will leave Chichijima before noon.

Winds were expected to reduce within 7 hrs to 8 kts W, down from 14 WNW at 0800 this morning. Seas were 3 m, expected to reduce to about 2.5 m by later today. Area thunderstorms will be followed by several days of clear to partly cloudy skies, weakish winds, and eventually a return of the East Trades.

We've been watching two developing lows to the SSW about 600-700 nm away. Both cyclonic lows will grow according to ClearPoint but as they do they will move WNW, in the direction of Taiwan. That should spare Saito-san any grief as he heads obliquely away to the north even should one develop into the season's next typhoon.

There have been plans for him to make another repair stop in Hachijojima 385 nm north, but this morning he said he now expects to continue straight through to Yokohama. This will be decided 100% later – if the engine trouble returns, and if winds are not favorable, Hachijojima with its certified Yanmar mechanic will still remain an option.


Total distance completed: 28,046 nm

To Hachijojima (if needed): 385 nm (measured)

To Yokohama: 502 nm (measured)

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

Day 1022 [July 21/11 JST] – Typhoon Ma-On Finds the Door

Today's Report
July 21/11 0800 JST 

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

Finally, Typhoon Ma-On looks ready to move on.

Winds were expected to be in the low 30s both today and tomorrow, with seas topping 5 meters. Fortunately, absent any change of behavior of this malingering typhoon we've been watching for, waiting on, and frustrated by for more than 8 days, the chances look good Saito-san will be able to leave on Saturday morning when winds will be 8 kts and seas at 3 m. By that time Ma-On is expected to be several hundred miles out to sea, downgraded to a tropical storm. This morning she was just 100 nm north of Hachijojima, Saito-san's next planned stop.

By an amazing coincidence, actually the second involving these same sailors, Saito-san was delighted to see entering the harbor yesterday the sailboat Magellan Major, skippered by Hirose-san, who was at the starting line at Kenzaki Lighthouse to see Saito-san off on his circumnavigation nearly 3 years ago.

By another odd coincidence, Kenzaki is not the last time on this trip the two skippers saw each other.

They also briefly crossed paths on May 24 at U.S. Customs in Honolulu while Saito-san was just leaving, and Hirose-san and his one-man crew were just arriving. Saito-san even acted as an interpreter for his fellow Japanese captain over a visa matter.

If their schedules align they will probably sail together – in their respective vessels, of course – the rest of the way to Yokohama.

It would certainly be fitting… as well as add a little margin of safety for them both as Ma-On continues to make her presence felt even as she fades out to the northeast.

View from Magellan Major of Saito-san's October, 2008 departure.

Day 1018 [July 17/11 JST] – No Early Reprieve from Typhoon Ma-On

Today's Report
July 17/11 0800 JST 

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

Winds were 30 kts or "maybe more," Saito-san estimated during our call this morning.

Typhoon Ma-On is continuing to make her presence felt, stretching out her lingering visit along Saito-san's planned route in devious ways, including circling around to the east so that she will be centered on his next destination – Hachijojima – in 3 days. A day or two after that, she should be well out to sea and no longer a threat.

Here's how it looks on the U.S. Navy's projection.

And on ClearPoint.

White arrow marks Chichijima's location
At the moment as Ma-On passes west of Chichijima (Ogasawara Village), she is ranked a Category 4 on a scale of 5. Winds at the center are sustained at 60-70 kts, gusting to at least 90, with seas at a massive 12-14 m.

So NBSDIII will remain in port until at least Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a second tropical storm, named "Tokage," is still threatening Chichijima. This storm was about 280 nm south at 0800 and moving NNW.

When he leaves he is expected to sail the 385 nm to Hachijojima, where a replacement engine exhaust hose is already waiting for him. It will take the place of the hose that was patched with layers of tape in Ogasawara, where there is no airport and only twice-weekly ferry service under normal weather conditions, thus no quick parts delivery could be arranged.

Once in Hachijo, hose replacement and a quick engine check should take just a few hours by the island's certified Yanmar mechanic. It can then be decided whether Saito-san can leave under the sea conditions expected for the rest of the voyage.

It is 136 nm from Hachijojima to Yokohama, or a bit over 1 day if motor-assisted at a cruising speed that won't stress the engine.