Minoru Saito - Oldest around the world update

Posted: Feb 14, 2005 05:02 pm EST

Remember Minoru Saito from Japan who is attempting to become the oldest person at age 70 to do a solo, non-stop circumnavigation without stops?

Shoot your dog

He is still out there, and doing great. Saito left Japan Oct 16 last year on his boat Shuten-dohji II (translates "Drunken child" but commonly reffered to as "Shoot your dog") and is in a close race with another Japanese sailor; Kenichi Horie, who embarked 15 days prior to Saito (on a new boat).

Typhoon damage

Killer typhoon stroke Japan 4 days after Saito's departure, but by then Saito-san was out of its reach. Instead, he received a personal message from Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to circumnavigate the globe, single-handed, non-stop, in 1968. But the foul weather cost him jib damage, the new weather fax system was busted, and the fridge was also out!

3 teams were formed to supply Saito with regular weather updates in lieu of his non-operational weather fax.

Food and health

Saito has been in good health, reporting, "it is a little cold outside the cabin in only a T-shirt," and there's been much talk about food: "Now eating alfa rice as main food because heating is not necessary."

And: "Had squash for today's supper. This is the third day of squash. Japanese squash is easily rotten though tasty. On the other hand, Australian squash lasts a long time, about half a year though the taste is not as good as Japanese squash. Going to finish the rest of the squash tomorrow. Two squash were disposed of because they were rotten. Beer and squash together is not so bad!"

Rough seas took their toll: "Have not slept more than 2 hours at a stretch since leaving Japan, but although short of sleep, otherwise feeling well. Have finished one pumpkin. It took five days. Only one more is left now."

Gear and tech

At one point, about 20 to 30 dolphins were swimming along with the boat. Saito Tried to take their photographs thinking to send them to Japan, but found it very difficult. Though the camera is a hi-tech camera, it was difficult to work everything out. Transmitting the image is more difficult than taking the helm, he reported.

Saito managed to send photographs to Sankei Newspaper Co. though the boat was swinging on the seas, making the communications link up difficult.

He spent an entire day on the engine, "finding no problem to charge the batteries since a generator is installed now. Going to try more engine maintenance tomorrow. If the work does not go well, thinking to give up the repair business. At present, there is nothing to worry about except for the engine because both the wind and the current are favorable for now," he wrote at one point. And then it was back to food:

Not like ... Nishiki

"Vegetables remain only onions and potatoes. Japanese pumpkins taste better than American or Australian ones, but they are harder and keep longer, though they are not so tasty. ....Temp is going lower, which means meat and other opened foods have a longer life, for 2 days. I took a lot of corned beef with me."

"I don't cook with regular rice (waste of time and fuel), "Arufa" rice prepared by Miyako is convenient for making up Gohan or Okayu only in 10-15 minutes. Not like ... Nishiki, but it's something. It only needs hot water or just water and good for saving fuel. Thanks to the Temp for opening the packaged milk, I'm now taking cereal "Borijji"s which I like better. This also needs no fuel. I have still long way to go, so I'm save the better meals for later and slowly, which is the opposite of how I'd do it on land."

Vendee Globe

December he mentioned his friends at Vendee Globe: "Saw the Ranking Table of the Vendee Globe sent from Ichige. (Circumnavigation Non-stop Race started from Les Sables d'Dionne, France on 7 Nov.) Eleven sailors out of the 17 boats participating are internationally known! Feels good!"

"The boats coming fast from behind, will soon pass me. It is my pleasure. They will use e-mail mostly and will never use radios. (It's the age of IT!) Anyway I will try to have contact with them. I reported my position to the Media Center of the Vendee Globe."

2 knockdown's

Early January, the going got really tough. Shuten-dohji II suffered first knockdown, then a second. The boat was damaged:

"Bare pole, running with windvane since Autohelm doesn't work due to strong waves; rudder jumps up and sensor is not working well. Wind gauge at top of mast seems to have broken when boat was knocked down.
Continuing to sail under bare pole. Windvane steering assistance is weak. Rough weather continues at the beginning of the New Year in the Antarctic Ocean."

Communication failure

Communications of both satellite phone and Fax not smooth, was the report in January: "Tried again after poor daytime communication; this time it was fairly satisfactory, though noisy. Top 3 boats of the Vende Globe reported to turn at Cape Horn 5 days earlier than the previous record. Was told second, third, and fourth place boats' skippers all knew me."

Saito was cold, and his foot frostbitten. Communications were on Iridium phone in January, as the Satellite phone became unusable after passing 50S.

"Fax may be difficult until returning to higher latitudes, above 50S."

"Felt good during radio contact with Japan, but radio conditions were poor and contact was cutting out frequently; contact completely lost one time!! I took a picture of the iceberg and sent it out, hope that was good!!! Tried sending again...cut out again, gave up.

February - water leak!

Early this month, a water leak broke out in the Centerboard case, under the chart table: "Seawater coming in at a syringe-like rate. Amount of water by this leakage is not a problem but not good psychologically. Leaking with the sound SHOOO. Forgot to bring water-setting glue just this one time, wouldn't you know. Long way to go with that leak."

Cape Town

Both Saito and Horie are now approaching Cape Town, South Africa. Horie is now only about 197 nm in front, as the separation between the two vessels grows less since Shuten-dohji II rounded Cape Horn. Saito is now following the course of H.M.S. Challenger, a Royal Navy corvette built in 1858 which made 4-year circumnavigation (1872 - 1876).

"71"

Saito chose the name "Challenge-7" for his race for several reasons. It's the first digit of his current age, for one thing, and this voyage will become his seventh globe-circling, single-handed quest.

When he finishes Challenge-7 he will be 71 years old, which was the race number carried by Shuten-Doji II, his sailboat for all three BOC and Around Alone races in which he competed. In fact, "71" remains inscribed on the hull.

With more than 240,000 cruising and racing miles of his own, Saito is one of Japanese top yachtsmen. He completed the Around Alone (formerly the BOC Challenge) three times, the last in 1998/99 and this will be his 7th trip overall.

Saito has typically provided most of his own financial support for his voyages from his life savings after retirement. The modest sailor is not well-known in Japan, but he won special recognition as embodying "The Spirit of Around Alone" at the closing ceremony of the 6th Around Alone Race in 1999 in Charleston SC.

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