Blind sailor, friend rescued in Pacific

Kyodo

The Maritime Self-Defense Force on Friday rescued a blind sailor and his supporter in the Pacific Ocean after their small yacht took on water in rough conditions, the Japan Coast Guard said.

Mitsuhiro Iwamoto, 46, and newscaster Jiro Shinbo, 57, were rescued at around 6:15 p.m. about 1,200 km southeast of Kinkasan Island in Miyagi Prefecture, the Coast Guard said.

They were taken to the MSDF’s Atsugi Base in Kanagawa Prefecture and appeared healthy, officials said.

Iwamoto, an active participant in yacht races for the visually impaired in and outside of Japan, left Onahama port in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, with Shinbo last Sunday. They were bound for San Diego, California.

Earlier Friday, an MSDF search-and-rescue aircraft tried to rescue the pair after their backers told the Coast Guard in the morning that their 6-ton yacht, the Aeolus, was taking on water.

Stormy conditions prevented the amphibious aircraft from landing and picking up them up after they had abandoned the 13-meter yacht for a lifeboat.

The MSDF sent another amphibious aircraft to the area to relieve the first plane, which was running low on fuel after spending an hour trying to rescue the pair.

Iwamoto and Shinbo left Osaka on June 8 and called at Iwaki, where they presented two training yachts to a high school and other clubs that lost their yachts in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, their office said.

They had planned to arrive in San Diego in August.