A capsized sailboat spotted nearly 300 nautical miles off Mexico’s Pacific Coast is confirmed to be the racing yacht of missing Baltimore sailor Donald Lawson, his family said.
Lawson’s wife, Jacqueline, looked at photos of the vessel to identify her husband’s 60-foot sailboat Defiant, the family said in a statement Wednesday.
The U.S. Coast Guard, meanwhile, has rerouted its cutter ACTIVE to join the search-and-rescue operation hundreds of miles south-southwest of Acapulco.
Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel said Wednesday the 210-foot cutter was already at sea and heading to the location. Schnabel did not know when the cutter would reach the capsized boat.
The cutter ACTIVE, among the largest in the Coast Guard’s fleet, is capable of launching and landing Dolphin rescue helicopters. ACTIVE is capable of a top speed of 18 knots, with a range of 5,000 nautical miles. Its home port is Port Angeles, Washington, on the Salish Sea, which joins the Pacific Ocean to the Puget Sound.
The Mexican Navy’s search-and-rescue office in Acapulco also continues to search for the sailor. The office said late Wednesday that crews had detected no sign of Lawson.
“We are not giving up hope, and we are remaining hopeful of his return,” Jacqueline wrote in a statement Tuesday night. “He is an experienced sailor who is well-equipped to expertly handle these types of challenging weather conditions in the Pacific. We are continuing to pray that Donald will be found and will soon return home safely to his family, friends, and sailing supporters.”
Gov. Wes Moore has also been following the search.
“I’m grateful for the continued efforts of the Coast Guard and Rescue Coordination Center in Mexico to locate Donald. Our hearts are with the Lawson family,” he wrote on Twitter.
As a Black professional sailor from Baltimore, Lawson is well known for breaking ground in a sport dominated by white men. He has worked to bring the sport to African Americans and served as chairman of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for U.S. Sailing, the national governing body of the sport.
Lawson was planning this fall to attempt a world record by sailing around the world in 74 days. He aimed to become the first American to attempt a trimaran record while sailing alone.
He was piloting an ORMA 60, the class of some of the fastest racing boats ever built. The Defiant could reach speeds of 40 knots, more than five times faster than a conventional sailboat. His sailboat had won races under a previous name when captained by the famous French yachtsman Franck Cammas.
Lawson was also believed to be sailing with a registered emergency radio beacon known as an EPIRB.
On July 5, Lawson departed alone from Acapulco, heading for the Panama Canal en route to Baltimore before his world record attempt. On July 9, he messaged his wife that he was having trouble with the hydraulic rigging and lost engine power. He was relying on a wind generator. Three days later, he messaged his wife that a storm had knocked out the wind generator.
The two decided it would be best for him to turn around instead of continuing to the Panama Canal. Jacqueline said he had 25% battery power and no way of charging.
Reporters Hugo Kugiya and Nick Thieme contributed to this article.