Blind Japanese sailor completes non-stop Pacific voyage

  • Published
Mitsuhiro Iwamoto and Doug SmithImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Blind sailor Mitsuhiro Iwamoto (L) celebrates with his navigator Doug Smith

A blind Japanese sailor has completed a non-stop Pacific crossing, reportedly making him the first visually impaired person to do so.

Mitsuhiro Iwamoto, 52, sailed the 8,700-mile (14,000 km) crossing with the help of a sighted navigator.

His 12m (40 ft) yacht made port in Fukushima on Saturday morning, ending his two-month trip.

He left California on 24 February with Doug Smith, an American navigator who assisted him.

His first attempt at the journey in 2013 ended in failure after his boat struck a whale and sank. He had to be rescued by the Japanese military.

Speaking at the port of Iwaki, he told Japan's Kyodo News that completing the challenge on his second attempt was a "dream come true".

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Mr Iwamoto made port in Fukushima on Saturday morning

"I'm the happiest person on earth," he said, according to the news agency.

Mr Iwamoto, who lost his sight aged 16, steered the vessel while Mr Smith gave him verbal guidance, advising him on wind directions and potential hazards.

He is the first blind person to successfully sail across the Pacific without stopping, the Japan Blind Sailing Association says.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Iwamoto had to be rescued on his first attempt in 2013

Determined to make the crossing second time around, Mr Iwamoto - a Japanese citizen who currently lives in San Diego - took part in triathlons.

"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.

He and Mr Smith made the voyage to raise money for charity and for efforts to prevent diseases that cause blindness.