National

'I'm the happiest person on earth': Blind Japanese sailor completes nonstop Pacific crossing

Kyodo

A blind Japanese sailor on Saturday successfully completed a near two-month, nonstop voyage from San Diego to Fukushima Prefecture, making him the first person to make a blind sailing across the Pacific Ocean.

Joined by a sighted navigator, it was 52-year-old Mitsuhiro Iwamoto’s second two-person attempt at the 14,000-kilometer journey — his first ended when his boat hit a whale and sank.

“I didn’t give up and I made a dream come true. I’m the happiest person on earth,” Iwamoto said.

According to the Japan Blind Sailing Association, Iwamoto is the first person in blind sailing, in which a sailor with a visual impairment steers a boat while a sighted navigator informs the person of the surrounding situation, to make a nonstop voyage across the Pacific.

Iwamoto, a native of Kumamoto Prefecture currently living in San Diego, left the western U.S. city on Feb. 24 aboard his 12-meter boat Dream Weaver with navigator Doug Smith.

Since his first attempt, Iwamoto has taken part in triathlon races to familiarize himself with swimming in open water and to help him overcome the traumatic 2013 sinking of his boat in the middle of the Pacific.

He was traveling in the opposite direction on his failed attempt, starting off Fukushima Prefecture and aiming to finish in San Diego, with a Japanese navigator. His boat sank five days after leaving port and the two were rescued by the Self-Defense Forces.

“We undertake this voyage not only for personal accomplishment, but to send a message that anything is possible when people come together,” Iwamoto wrote on his website.

Iwamoto lost his sight at the age of 16. He and Smith made the voyage to raise money for charity and for efforts to prevent diseases that cause blindness.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5