Minoru Saito, the Japanese solo sailor who completed his seventh single-handed circumnavigation at the age of 71, was selected by the Cruising Club of America (CCA)
to receive its Blue Water Medal for 2006. The medal was 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.” Previous Blue Water Medalists have included voyagers Alain Gerbault, H.W. Tilman, Carlton Mitchell, Eric Hiscock, Sir Francis Chichester and Bernard Moitessier.
The CCA also presented its 2006 Rod Stephens Trophy for Seamanship to the crew of ABN AMRO TWO for skillfully carrying out the nighttime recovery of an overboard crewmember during the Volvo Ocean Race. Accepting the award on behalf of the crew was ABN AMRO TWO skipper Seb Josse. Saito, sailing his 50 foot sloop, Shutendohji 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.
Minoru Saito began serious sailing 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-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 Shutendohji 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, Australia 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 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 in the Single-handed Trans-Atlantic race between Falmouth, England and Charleston, 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 taking 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.