The capsized boat of Donald Lawson, a sailor from Baltimore who disappeared in the Pacific Ocean over two weeks ago, has been found off the coast of Mexico, his wife said.
A Mexican Navy search and rescue team discovered a vessel, later identified as Mr. Lawson’s trimaran, the Defiant, about 410 miles south of Acapulco, Mexico, on Thursday.
Mr. Lawson, 41, was training for an attempt to set a world record while circumnavigating the globe solo in a sailboat. His wife, Jacqueline Lawson, said in a statement on Sunday that she lost contact with him on July 12 after his boat lost engine power in a storm off the Mexican coast. Mr. Lawson was still missing as of Monday.
Here’s what to know about the search for Mr. Lawson.
Who is Donald Lawson?
Mr. Lawson, 41, is a professional sailor from Baltimore who hoped to become the fastest person to sail solo and nonstop around the world in a boat no longer than 60 feet. He also hoped to become one of the few African Americans to set world records in the sport of sailing. Mr. Lawson and his wife started the Dark Seas Project, an effort to promote more diversity in the sport of sailing. He is also the chairman of the diversity, equity and inclusion committee for U.S. Sailing, the national governing body for the sport.
In a 2022 interview published on the U.S. Sailing website, Mr. Lawson said that when he took up sailing, “I was the only African American I saw, but my passion, love and drive made me forget about issues or people who didn’t want me there.”
Mr. Lawson believed the Defiant, a 60-foot sailing vessel known as a trimaran, could help him achieve his ambitions. Before Mr. Lawson acquired it, the Defiant set a speed record in a 2017 race from California to Hawaii. It has also been used as a training boat for the America’s Cup race, Ms. Lawson said.
Mr. Lawson was last heard from on July 12.
Mr. Lawson set off on July 5 from Acapulco, where he had just finished repairing his boat. He was bound for Baltimore by way of the Panama Canal as he was gearing up for his world record sailing attempt in the fall. Four days later, on July 9, he used a satellite communication device popular among sailors to text his wife that he was experiencing issues with the Defiant. The boat had lost engine power and he was forced to rely on a wind generator.
Mr. Lawson lost the wind generator in a storm on July 12, Ms. Lawson said in her statement. It was the last time she heard from her husband.
Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for Ms. Lawson, said in a phone interview that Ms. Lawson had remained hopeful for several days that her husband would find a way to get in touch with her.
“It was not uncommon for him to shut down communications in order to conduct fixes to the boat,” Mr. Feldmann said. But on July 21, after almost 10 days without contact, Ms. Lawson reported him missing.
The capsized Defiant was found on July 24.
The U.S. Coast Guard issued an alert to vessels in the area where Mr. Lawson’s boat was last detected. According to the tracking app PredictWind, that was on July 13, roughly 320 miles south of Acapulco.
The Mexican Navy began a search. On July 24, one of its planes spotted a capsized boat later identified as the Defiant. The U.S. Coast Guard said it had dispatched a 210-foot patrol boat called the Active to assist in the search-and-rescue operation.
Rescue teams did not locate Mr. Lawson near his boat in the days after it was found. The U.S. Coast Guard said it had suspended its search mission on Friday evening, leaving it to the Mexican naval authorities to continue the search for Mr. Lawson.
The U.S. Coast Guard has “limited capabilities” for such a long-range rescue operation, said Edward Wargo, a spokesman. And Mr. Lawson’s boat, which was found hundreds of miles off the coast of Mexico, was outside its jurisdiction.
The search efforts could restart if new information about Mr. Lawson turned up, Mr. Wargo added.
Mr. Lawson might be on a missing life raft.
When Mr. Lawson set sail from Mexico aboard the Defiant, the boat was equipped with a survival suit, a 12-foot dinghy and a life raft. The Mexican Navy found the suit, which could keep him dry, and the dinghy during its search mission, Mr. Feldmann said.
But as of Sunday, the Mexican Navy had not found the life raft after repeated searches in the area where the Defiant was found.
“I view this as encouraging news,” Ms. Lawson said in her statement on Sunday. “I believe Donald used the life raft when the Defiant became disabled, and that he is still out there somewhere.”
She added that she and her family remained “hopeful and optimistic” that her husband would be found alive.
Mr. Feldmann said that neither he nor Ms. Lawson received an update on the search on Monday.
Because Mr. Lawson has been missing for over two weeks, Mr. Feldmann said, the only hope is that he is in the life raft, perhaps with a supply of potable water taken from the Defiant before it capsized.
“Maybe he’s adrift or found an island or some shelter of some kind,” he said. “Absent evidence to the contrary, we hope he’s on the raft and he will be located.”