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Proudly holding his Blue Water Medal awarded in New York by the Cruising Club of America, Japanese yachtsman Minoru Saito became the first Asian to win sailing's greatest honor in the 84-year history of the annual prize. The award was in recognition of Saito’s seven solo circumnavigations of the globe, including one he completed non-stop in 2005 at the age of 71, a sailing record. Commodore Ned Rowland of the CCA, far right, presented the medal, with Jiro Okuyama, Deputy General Consul, Consulate General of Japan in New York, looking on.
Former TSPS member Pooch (his F-14 call-sign while assigned to the Indy) wrote in his email with the photo: "With all the blue water cruising experience in the room that night (you cannot be a member of the CCA unless you have captained a vessel completing an ocean crossing), jaws were still hitting the floor as the accomplishments of Saito-san were cited in the awards ceremony." [January 16, 2007, New York Yacht Club]
CRUISING CLUB OF AMERICA AWARDS
New York, N.Y. (January 16, 2007) — Minoru Saito, an admired Japanese solo sailor, who at the age of 71 completed his seventh single-handed circumnavigation of the world, was selected by the Cruising Club of America to receive the prestigious Blue Water Medal for 2006. The medal will be presented at the club’s annual Awards Dinner in New York on January 16, 2007 by CCA Commodore Edward S. Rowland of Hamilton, Mass. The Blue Water Medal was inaugurated by the Cruising Club of America in 1923 to “reward meritorious seamanship and adventure upon the sea displayed by amateur sailors of all nationalities that might otherwise go unrecognized.”
BLUE WATER MEDAL TO MINORU SAITO
Click image to see the inscription.
Previous Blue Water Medalists have included such luminaries of the world of ocean voyaging in small vessels as Alain Gerbault, H.W. Tilman, Carlton Mitchell, Eric Hiscock, Sir Francis Chichester and Bernard Moitessier. For a full list of past award winners click here.
Saito, sailing his 50-foot sloop, Shuten-dohji II, first raced around the globe in the 1990-1991 BOC Challenge and has been sailing almost continuously in solo world-circling races and voyages ever since. His latest voyage which ended in June, 2005, in Japan, completed 240,000 miles at sea since he began his single-handed sailing career.
Saito began serious sailing in 1973 at the age of 39 by participating in races in Japan. Thirteen years later he purchased a 43-foot sailboat in Australia and entered several grueling races between Australia, New Zealand and Japan, including the Melbourne-to-Osaka Race, Around Australia Single-handed Race (where he suffered a heart attack, forcing him to retire from the race) and the Auckland-to-Fukuoka Race. Between races, while sailing from Japan to Sydney, he survived a typhoon, two cyclones, and several knock-downs from gale-force winds.
In 1991 he acquired Shuten-dohji II, a solidly-built 50-foot blue water cruiser built in Australia which was modified for long-distance solo ocean racing. To qualify and participate in the third BOC round-the-world race, he sailed from Sydney to Newport, R.I., then in the race itself. In 1994 he sailed from Japan to Charleston, S.C. to participate in the fourth BOC Challenge race then back to Japan, via the Red Sea, thus completing two circumnavigations in one continuous trip. In 1997 he sailed from Japan to England via Australia then the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa to participate in the Single-handed Trans-Atlantic race between Falmouth, England and Charleston, SC and then participated in the fifth BOC Challenge, renamed the "Around Alone ." On returning to Japan, via Cape Town and Tasmania, Australia, he had completed his sixth circumnavigation.
His latest voyage, dubbed "Challenge 7," began in Tokyo in October, 2004 assuming the form of an informal contest between him and Japanese single-hander Kenichi Horie. Saito completed the route without stopping 7-1/2 months later on June 6, 2005, (a few days ahead of Horie) to notch up his seventh circumnavigation.
Minoru Saito has always sailed without sponsorship with a sparsely funded budget and with a long-running heart ailment. While seldom among the winners and sailing an aging boat, his dogged persistence, cheerful attitude and indomitable spirit have been recognized and praised in yachting circles all over the world.
About the Cruising Club of AmericaThe Cruising Club of America is dedicated to offshore cruising, voyaging and the "adventurous use of the sea" through efforts to improve seamanship, the design of seaworthy yachts, safe yachting procedures, and environmental awareness. Now in its 84th year, the club has 10 stations throughout the U.S., Canada, and Bermuda, with approximately 1,200 members who are qualified by their experience in offshore passage making. In even-numbered years, the CCA organizes the Newport to Bermuda Race in conjunction with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. It also sponsors several Safety at Sea seminars and hosts a series of "Suddenly Alone" seminars for the cruising couple.
For more information on the CCA, go to http://www.cruisingclub.org.