At the age of 71, Minoru Saitō set sail from his native Japan for a circumnavigation of the globe on board his 50-foot-long yacht Shuten-dohji II. While Saitō previously sailed around the world on his own a total of six times, this particular trip was notable because it would make him the oldest person to complete a waterborne solo and non-stop circumnavigation.
This record-setting voyage of 233 days and approximately 27,000 nautical miles started and ended in the vicinity of the Japanese port of Misaki, Saitō’s extended time at sea was anything but glamorous. “Have not slept more than 2 hours at a stretch since leaving Japan, but although short of sleep, otherwise feeling well,” he reported at one point during the voyage. Saitō also had to deal with other formidable challenges as frigid temperatures, malfunctioning electronic equipment, and lower-than-anticipated food rations.
Saitō received a hero’s welcome when he made it back to Japan on June 6, 2005. His accomplishment also earned him induction into the Single-Handed Sailing Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island; and the Blue Water Medal, which is awarded annually by the Cruising Club of America for noteworthy sailing feats. In October 2008, Saitō initiated his eighth solo circumnavigation. He started this voyage in the Japanese city of Yokohama, completing the round-the-world trip at this port in September 2011.
For more information about Minoru Saitō and his 2004-05 circumnavigation, please check out the article “Saito-san 71, home after 233 days along at sea” at http://www.explorersweb.com/oceans/news.php?id=158
The Guinness World Records listing of Saitō’s circumnavigation achievement is available at http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/oldest-person-to-sail-around-the-world-(solo-and-non-stop)