Blind Japanese sailor's hopes dashed, rescued from liferaft

Approximate position of rescue
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It was a sad end to the voyage for a highly experienced blind sailor when he and his crewmate had to be rescued from their life raft after abandoning their sinking yacht in the Pacific on Friday. While it is not known what caused their 13m yacht Aeolus to be taking on water, sea conditions were very rough at the time of the abandonment.

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force on Friday reported that they rescued the blind sailor and his crew. According to the Japan Times, sailor Mitsuhiro Iwamoto, 46, and newscaster Jiro Shinbo, 57, were rescued at around 6:15 p.m. about 600nm southeast of Kinkasan Island in Miyagi Prefecture, the Coast Guard said.

Photo from Japan Times: Mitsuhiro Iwamoto (left), 46, and newscaster Jiro Shinbo, 57, attend a news conference after they were rescued Friday by the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Pacific Ocean. Iwamoto, a veteran sailor who is visually impaired, and Shinbo left Onahama port in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sunday bound for San Diego, California, but ran into stormy weather. | KYODO
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They were taken to the MSDF’s Atsugi Base in Kanagawa Prefecture and appeared healthy, officials said.

Iwamoto, an active participant in yacht races for the visually impaired in and outside of Japan, left Onahama port in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, with Shinbo last Sunday. They were bound for San Diego, California.

Earlier Friday, an MSDF search-and-rescue aircraft tried to rescue the pair after their backers told the Coast Guard in the morning that their 6-ton yacht, the Aeolus, was taking on water.

Conditions were so bad that the amphibious aircraft was unable to and to pick up them from their life raft.

The MSDF sent another amphibious aircraft to the area to relieve the first plane, which was running low on fuel after spending an hour trying to rescue the pair.

Iwamoto and Shinbo left Osaka on June 8 and called at Iwaki, where they presented two training yachts to a high school and other clubs that lost their yachts in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, their office said.

They had planned to arrive in San Diego in August, a plan now disappointingly dashed.