As soon as the gun fired his arms shot into the air and Kojiro jumped for joy stopping only momentarily to bend and kiss his boat. The expression on his face and the sheer delight of his actions left no doubt that the relief of finally making home safely was an emotional experience. By tying the knot in his circumnavigation, Kojiro joins two other famous Japanese sailors, Minoru Saito and Yukoh Tada keeping the Japanese tradition in the Around Alone alive. And it was a spectacular arrival to boot. Following winds and a clear sky were on tap as Spirit of yukoh sailed into the history books.
Kojiro Shiraishi has added so much to this event. His numerous photographs that added color to the pages of this website earned him the title of unofficial photographer for the race, but he was so much more than that. His energy, enthusiasm, friendship and magical smile made him one of the most respected and loved sailors in the fleet. To arrive in Newport and take another podium finish was a fitting end to a fantastic voyage around the world, a voyage that began months before the race even started when Koji left Japan to sail to Newport for the start of the race. He covered over 10,000 miles before the race even got underway. When asked at the press conference if he would be sailing back to Japan, he made it clear that the answer was an emphatic "no". But he did not rule out another race around the world. "Next time it will be in an Open 60," he said. "With a big sponsor. But not again on a forty-footer."
This is Kojiro's second solo circumnavigation. His first was in 1994 when he became the youngest person to sail around the world single-handed non-stop. When asked if finishing the journey was any different this time than last he said simply, "It feels the same this time as last, but perhaps a little better because this race was much tougher. This race was harder than I expected. I didn't have enough money or time before the start to be properly prepared, and during the race I had to keep looking for sponsors along the way. Also we had a lot of problems with the boat. The worst moment in the race for me was when the keel went loose, I really thought my race could be over." On the first leg Kojiro experienced severe keel problems on Spirit of yukoh, but fortunately he was able fix them in England and carry on with the race. Like all the other skippers that have finished ahead of him, Kojiro said that the best moment of the race was sitting at the press conference with the race behind him.
Kojiro's dream of doing the Around Alone started many years ago when he read about Yukoh Tada winning Class 2 of the Around Alone in the first BOC Challenge (as the Around Alone was known then). He was a child at school and was inspired by Yukoh's story. "When I was a boy I read about Yukoh Tada doing the first BOC Challenge race," he said. "And since then I wanted to follow in his footsteps. When he took part in the 3rd BOC Challenge I was his apprentice, but he killed himself during the race and so I decided to take on the mantle and achieve his ambitions for him. I think today Yukoh will be happy in heaven."
This race would not have been the event it was without Koji and Spirit of yukoh. The amount he added to the depth of the experience for rest of the skippers was immeasurable. Go well Koji san, may the next few days be restful. When you look back on your circumnavigation you can be very proud of what you accomplished not only on the water, but among the friends you made along the way.