Minoru Saito (斉藤 実) completed a non-stop solo circumnavigation of the world by sail, becoming the oldest challenger at the age of 71.
In 2006 Saito was the first Asian to receive the Blue Water Medal, the greatest honor among amateur yachtsmen.
Minoru Saito (斉藤 実) began yachting in 1973 and participated in such events as Toba Pearl Race between Aburatsubo and Toba.
After purchasing 43-ft yacht in Australia, Saito continued regatta racing.
In 1991, Saito modified his cruising yacht into a racing one, and sailed 12,000 nautical miles by himself from Sydney to Newport. This qualified him for entry in BOC (currently the Around Alone), the greatest challenge in single-handed world circumnavigation. He participated in it three times. On his third challenge, he completed the race in 203 days at the age of 65.
Though Saito is unknown in Japan, where yachting under sail is not widespread, he received recognition from the international yachting community at 6th annual award ceremony for Around Alone (1998-99,) at which he received the title of “Spirit of Around Alone”.
In the race from October 2004 to June 2005, Saito completed a solo world circumnavigation at the age of 71 becoming the oldest to have achieved this feat.
In recognition of this and previous successes, on January 16, 2007 Saito became the first Asian to receive the “The Blue Water Medal,” the most prestigious international award for amateur yachtsmen. The honor was bestowed by the Cruising Club of America, distinguished with the most America’s Cup victories over the regatta’s 130 years.
Minoru Saito will undertake a westerly single-handed non-stop world circumnavigation in the Challenge 8, setting out in October 2008 returning to port in the year of the 150th Anniversary of the establishment of Yokohama Port in June 2009.
This route is more difficult than the easterly one. As the westerly course (Yokohama Port – East of Australia – West South of Australia – South of South Africa – Cape Horn – East of Galapagos Island – the Mariana Islands – Yokohama Port) runs counter to the earth’s rotation, in the face of prevailing winds and currents, a difficult voyage is anticipated. The route will navigate the Cape of Good Hope from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the world’s most difficult reach of water, ever feared by world’s sailors.
Saito says that this challenge is not personal, but undertaken for Japan, yachtsmen everywhere and people throughout the world.