The Corinthian Ideal
Saito’s Sailing Resume
Veteran ocean sailboat racer Minoru Saito has participated three times in the most prestigious and grueling race in the sailing world – the single-handed, around-the-globe competition originally called the BOC Challenge, then Around Alone, and renamed the 5-Oceans Race in 2006. He has started and finished seven solo circumnavigations of the Earth, the last one non-stop, achieving several international honors and world records.
In his continuing career, he has become the most experienced blue-water yachtsman from Japan with transoceanic voyages totaling more than 265,000 nautical miles — almost exactly the distance to the moon.
Saito is quite well known among American, European and Australian sailing enthusiasts, and increasingly so in Japan as his international renown becomes better appreciated in his home country.
In January, 2007, Saito was named the winner of the highly vaunted 2006 Blue Water Medal, considered the top international award for adventure sailing.
He was also inducted in 2006 into the Single-handed Sailing Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.
In both instances he was the first Asian sailor to be chosen for the honor.
At right: Saito and fellow Single-hand Hall of Famer Bertie Reed, at induction ceremony in Newport, RI. Sadly, Reed died from a long illness at the close of 2006.
Milestones related to Saito and his often-tested boat Shuten-Dohji II (in Japanese, "Drunkard's Child") are described in his book "Kotou" ("Fighting Alone") published by Kadokawa Shoten in 2003.
Jan. 7, 1934 — Born in Asakusa, downtown Tokyo.
Late 1930s — Suffered from TB as a child, eventually overcame illness through vigorous physical exercise.
1948-1967 — Engaged in mountain climbing, eventually becoming the first to climb Mt. Tanigawa-dake in Japan.
1973 — Began serious sailing at age 39. Participated in Toba Pearl Race and other Japan-area races.
1986 — Acquired 43-ft sailing boat in Australia. Participated in Melbourne to Osaka Double-Handed Race, but was forced to retire due to rigging failure.
1988 — Sailed from Japan to Sydney, surviving his first typhoon and two cyclones on the way.
1988/89 — Participated in Around Australia Single-Handed Race. Suffered a heart attack during the race and was forced to retire.
1990 — Participated in Auckland to Fukuoka Race. (Finished third in class.)
1991 — Acquired 50-ft blue-water cruiser, which was modified into a racing boat.
Sailed 12,000 nautical miles alone from Sydney to Newport, Rhode Island, to qualify for entry in BOC Challenge.
1990-1991 — Participated in Third BOC Challenge. Finished third in class (197 days and 20 hours).
1994 — Single-handed from Japan, crossing Pacific Ocean, transited Panama Canal, and up the U.S. East Coast to Charleston, SC (starting point for BOC Challenge).
1994-1995 — Participated in Fourth BOC Challenge (his second), finishing sixth in class.
After the race, returned to Japan solo, departing U.S. East Coast trans-Atlantic to England, then through Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean, thus effectively completing two global circumnavigations in one continuous trip.
1997 — Single-handed from Japan to Australia, South Africa and England to join Fifth BOC Challenge.
1998 — On the way, participated in Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Ocean Race. (Falmouth to Charleston, SC)
1998-1999 — Participated in fifth running of the BOC Challenge, under its new name of "Around Alone." For Saito, this was his third global race, which at age 65 made him the eldest of the challengers. He completed the race in 203 days, finishing fifth in his class.
2001 — On returning to Japan, his ports of call included Cape Town, South Africa, and Tasmania; this trip went down in the log book as Saito's sixth circumnavigation.
2002-2003 — Retired by new race rules from competing with now much-larger boats, he voluntarily supported the HQ of Around Alone Race and donated the Shuten-dohji Trophy for the Class II winner.
2003 — Published his racing autobiography "Kotou" (Fighting Alone), in which he vividly describes his experiences on the sea and explained what drives him back to the sea time after time.
2004-2005 — Completed his first solo non-stop circumnavigation, writing new records for both “oldest circumnavigator” (at age 71) and “most number of circumnavigations by a single-handed sailor” (seven).
2006 — Inducted into the Single-handed Hall of Fame in Newport, RI.
2006 — Received the Medal of Honor from the City of Newport, RI.
2007 — Received the Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America, considered the top prize for adventure sailors. (Thus, Saito became the only Asian to win this prestigious award in its 84-year history).
2007/8 — Included in the 2007 and 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records for “Oldest Person to Sail Around the World (Solo and Non-stop)”
2011 — Completed a 1,080-day “wrong way” (east-to-west) circumnavigation at the age of 77. This was the eighth solo circumnavigation of his career, further advancing his already-held record for the most number of solo circumnavigations by any person.