Sailing: Hiroshi Kitada becomes first Japanese man to finish the Transat

Japanese adventurer Hiroshi Kitada preparing to set off at the start of the Transat Bakerly solo transatlantic yacht race.
Japanese adventurer Hiroshi Kitada preparing to set off at the start of the Transat Bakerly solo transatlantic yacht race.PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Hiroshi Kitada successfully became the first Japanese man to complete the Transat sailing race on Wednesday, reaching the finish in New York a fortnight after the winner.

The 51-year-old Kitada, who originally moved to Lorient in France aiming to race in the Route du Rhum, decided to take on the greater risk of tackling the transatlantic competition, which started in Plymouth, south-west England.

He was the final finisher, with his journey taking 22 days, 18 hours and three minutes.

"I am very happy," said Kitada. "I can not find the words to express my emotions.

"I did not understand initially why everyone was asking me why I had chosen to do this race. I realised then that this was the most difficult race and it all started."

Although he finished dead last, Kitada easily completed the course quicker than Francis Chichester, the winner of the inaugural edition in 1960, who took over 40 days.

"I am very proud to have finished," he added.

"It was very hard but I am glad I did it. If I have to summarise the three weeks of racing, it is the image of martial arts that comes to mind.

"It takes stamina, but you also need to struggle and face anything. I am not yet aware of what I have done, but the day is beautiful. There's the sun, the skyscrapers and New York!"

Frenchman Francois Gabart won the race a couple of weeks ago, beating compatriot Thomas Coville by nine hours and 38 minutes.

Gabart narrowly missed out on the record time set in 2004 by Michel Desjoyeaux by 25 minutes.