After 43 days at sea, Kojiro Shiraishi sailed Spirit of yukoh across the finish line in Salvador yesterday. After the squalls that lashed the area earlier in the day, the air was still laden with moisture as he finished to take the final podium place.
This was the first time Kojiro and Spirit of yukoh have finished on the podium and the pleasure was obvious on the skippers face. Koji may not speak much English, but he is one of those rare individuals whose rich body language tells a thousand stories.
Just as they had been for the other skippers, the last few days of the leg were frustrating as headwinds and no wind made for painfully slow progress. In fact flat calm seas interspersed with squalls that brought breeze was the only way that Spirit of yukoh was finally able to make it to Brazil. "I have not slept for a few days because of all the squalls,"
he said looking like he had just returned from a relaxing visit to the health farm. "I am very tired."
His boat looked spotless and Koji said there was not much work to do. "Just a leak in the keel area to fix,"
The passage from New Zealand had been easy and relatively trouble-free for the Japanese skipper. "The Southern Ocean was very good to me this time,"
he said. "Big high pressure made the sailing really nice. No storms."
It was only once Spirit of yukoh turned the corner at Cape Horn and headed north that the big winds arrived making life difficult for fellow competitors Alan Paris and Derek Hatfield. "I think I was lucky,"
he said. Same too for his rounding of Cape Horn. "The weather was nice at Cape Horn. Not too much wind and good visibility. The last time I rounded Cape Horn I was 90 miles to the south and of course never saw a thing. This time it was very nice to see."
In 1993/94 Kojiro became the youngest person at the age of 26 to circumnavigate the world single-handed non-stop. On that trip he was heading towards Africa and remained deep in the Southern Ocean.
Kojiro said that the hardest part of the race to date was the second half of the leg from Cape Horn to Salvador. "There were a lot of headwinds and squalls making the sailing very difficult. But it was not really a problem."
When asked about the heat he replied with a laugh. "Panama Canal was much hotter."
With the arrival of Spirit of yukoh only Alan Paris remains sailing. He was still 700 miles from the finish. Then of course there is Derek Hatfield still in Ushuaia. This upcoming week will be a big one for Spirit of Canada as the new mast arrives along with an army of riggers, sailmakers and electronics experts. "It's not the same without my friends here in port,"
Koji said. "I look forward to seeing them."