Blind San Diegan sails for Japan once again after whale sinks 1st voyage

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SAN DIEGO — Mitsuhiro “Hiro” Iwamoto, a San Diego resident, is on a mission to become the first blind person to complete a crossing of the Pacific Ocean as part of a two-person crew.

Iwamoto, and his co-captain, Doug Smith, set sail for Fukushima, Japan on Feb. 24 from Harbor Island. Their goal is to reach Japan in 60 days.

Iwamoto said he is able to navigate the open water using tools on his iPhone, his other senses, and help from Smith. “I’m not a sailor, I’m a seeing eye ‘Doug,'” Smith joked. “He’s the sailor.”

In 2013, Iwamoto’s first attempt to sail from Japan to San Diego ended when his boat collided with a whale about 600 nautical miles off the coast of Japan and sank. “I thought I was knocked down, but I have to stand up here,” Iwamoto said. “So I started telling people – I want a rechallenge.”

Born in Japan, a medical condition took away Iwamoto’s sight when he was a teen. He battled depression and contemplated suicide before turning his life to athletics. He first started sailing in 2002 and has now dedicated his life to motivating and inspiring others who are overcoming adversity.

“Never give up,” Iwamoto said. “Your failure will make your future success a thousand times, a billion times bigger.”

Iwamoto’s journey will also raise funds for the Himalayan Cataract Project, the Trachoma Control Program and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

You can track his journey online.

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