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Japanese Boy Sails Alone to San Francisco

Adventure: Subaru Takahashi, 14, had been given up for dead by the media in his home, but his family held out hope. He passed under the Golden Gate Bridge to finish his 6,000-mile voyage one day ahead of schedule.

September 15, 1996|MARTHA IRVINE | ASSOCIATED PRESS

TIBURON, Calif. — A 14-year-old Japanese boy who was thought to be lost at sea on a solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean was spotted alive Friday moments after he sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge to finish the 6,000-mile trip.

Subaru Takahashi had not been heard from since Aug. 16 and was all but given up for dead by the media in Japan.

Just inside San Francisco Bay, he waved his hands and got the attention of a Canadian man on a small sailboat, who radioed the U.S. Coast Guard. They escorted him to a yacht club, where he was greeted by his parents, a swarm of Japanese reporters and enough champagne for everybody.

"From two days ago, I couldn't stop smiling and I couldn't sleep," the junior high school student said in Japanese.

Takahashi is believed to be the youngest person to sail the Pacific alone. But he said his biggest goals are still ahead.

"This is not good enough," he said. "My dream is to travel around the world. This is my first step to accomplish this dream."

He had last been heard from when he gave his location 2,790 miles west of San Francisco. His motor had quit, and then his battery, meaning he had to sail the rest of his journey without an auto-pilot to help him steer.

His parents had not given up hope, though, because he was not due to arrive until Saturday, 50 days after his departure.

Even before the teen left, his father, Hiroo Takahashi, acknowledged he was worried, comparing his son's quest to the transcontinental flight of 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, who died with her father and instructor in an April 11 crash in Wyoming.

The elder Takahashi added that he had confidence in his son's abilities even though the boy didn't start seriously practicing until this March. Takahashi began canoeing at age 5 and crossed the 19-mile Sado Strait in the Sea of Japan by canoe when he was 9.

To prepare for his Pacific trip, Takahashi spent 500 hours of intensive training with yachting experts.

Before Takahashi's feat, the youngest person known to have crossed the Pacific alone was a Japanese man, Kenichi Horie, who achieved the feat on a 19-foot yacht in 1962 at age 23.

The fastest solo trans-Pacific voyage was set last month by Steve Fossett of Chicago, who made the trip in 20 days on a 60-foot three-hulled boat.

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