Japanese man, 83, oldest to sail solo non-stop across Pacific Ocean

·3-min read
Kenichi Horie became the first person to complete the voyage in 1962  (JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)
Kenichi Horie became the first person to complete the voyage in 1962 (JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images)

Kenichi Horie, dubbed “Japan’s most famous yachtsman”, has become the oldest person in the world to complete a solo, non-stop voyage across the Pacific Ocean, aged 83.

His journey began at a yacht harbour in San Francisco on 27 March and Mr Horie returned home on Saturday as he crossed the Kii Strait off Japan’s western coast at around 2.39am local time – completing his journey in 69 days.

After spending the night in his customised, 19-foot-long Suntory Mermaid III, Mr Horie was towed into his home port of Shin Nhishinomiya on Sunday.

There local residents and supporters greeted the octogenarian adventurer with signs that read: “Welcome back, Mr Kenichi Horie!”

As he approached the harbour, Mr Horie took off his white cap and waved at the waiting party from his boat. Bowing deeply and acepting bouquets of roses, Mr Horie said: “Thank you for waiting!”

This is not the first time Mr Horie has successfully completed a solo nonstop voyage across the world’s largest ocean. Sixty years ago, remarkably, he became the first person ever to achieve this feat, travelling from Japan to San Francisco.

In an interview on Sunday, he revealed that, despite carrying a stock of medicines from San Franciso, all he needed during his more than two months alone at sea were eye drops and Band-Aids.

“That shows how healthy I am,” Horie continued. adding “I’m still in the middle of my youth.”

Soon after his departure from San Francisco, he was faced with a storm, but the weather gradually improved and he reached Hawaii in mid-April ahead of schedule.

He had some struggles toward the end with a few days of pushback from a strong tide. He wrote on his blog on Friday that he had succeeded but was exhausted, and he took a nap after feeling assured that his yacht was on the right track to the finish line.

Describing the arduous journey, he said he “burned all my body and soul” to complete the voyage but that he’s ready for more, adding, “I will keep up my work to be a late bloomer.”

Speaking at a news conference at the yacht harbor later on Sunday, Mr Horie called the accomplishment a dream come true.

“It was my great joy to have been able to make a challenge as a real goal and safely achieve it, instead of just holding onto it as a dream.”he said, as quoted by the Associated Press, adding, “I want to be a challenger as long as I live.”

Despite sailing on his own, technology such as ship tracking and communications allowed him to stay in touch with his family – who he spoke to once every day – over the course of his journey.

“I imagine my next voyage would be even more fun,” he said, full of optimism.

Mr Horie has completed other long-distance solo voyages, including sailing around the world in 1974. His latest expedition was the first since his 2008 solo nonstop voyage from Hawaii to the Kii Strait.

The first boat he used to cross the Pacific, the Mermaid, remains at the National Maritime Museum in California.

“Recall for a short moment, if you will, the deed of a young Japanese, who loved the yacht and the United States of America,” the plaque he donated to the museum reportedly reads.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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