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Blind sailor crosses Pacific Ocean

Published on April 21st, 2019

Blind sailor Mitsuhiro Iwamoto called himself “the happiest person on earth” after conquering the Pacific Ocean after nearly two months of sailing nonstop from San Diego, USA to Iwaki, Japan.

“Six years later, I finally could achieve my dream,” he said, referring to his first attempt in 2013 that failed after his boat capsized and sank.

His 12-meter yacht, Dream Weaver, arrived in Iwaki harbor on April 20, 55 days after setting off from the U.S. West Coast on February 24. His navigator was Douglas Smith, a 55-year-old American and a longtime resident of Japan.

The successful voyage made Iwamoto, 52, the first to conquer the Pacific through blind sailing, in which a visually impaired sailor steers a boat while a sighted partner describes the surroundings.

In his previous attempt, he and Jiro Shinbo, a TV anchor, sailed out of Onahama Port in Iwaki in June 2013 bound for San Diego. But Iwamoto’s boat collided with a whale shortly after, and the duo were forced to be rescued by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Despite that, he did not give up his dream of achieving the feat and realizing a message for Fukushima students, “A challenge will eventually pay off.”

Iwamoto, a native of Kumamoto Prefecture, lost his sight when he was a high school student. After becoming an acupuncturist, he moved to the United States where he married an American woman and they took up sailing together. He has previously competed in the Blind Sailing World Championship.

Smith, who is married to a Japanese and has no prior experience in sailing, said he signed up for Iwamoto’s undertaking to cross the Pacific as he was inspired by the blind sailor’s quest.


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