Head of nonprofit promoting diversity in sailing goes missing in the Pacific

Published 7/22/2023 2:15 p.m. EDT, Updated 7/22/2023 3:56 p.m. EDT

Donald Lawson, the head of a nonprofit seeking to diversify and promote sailing, has gone missing in the Pacific Ocean and has not been heard from in nine days, his wife said.

Lawson left Acapulco, Mexico, on July 5, after his boat had undergone repairs, and was planning to return to Baltimore through the Panama Canal, according to a news release sent Friday. His last known location, on July 13, was about 300 miles off the coast of Acapulco in the Pacific Ocean.

He is overdue for his destination.

Lawson’s wife, Jacqueline, said she last received a text from her husband July 12. At that time, a storm knocked out the wind generator on his 60-foot trimaran sailboat — a vessel with a central hull and two outriggers — known as the Defiant.

Three days prior, Lawson reported his engine lost power and he was experiencing issues with the rigging on his boat.

A native of West Baltimore, Lawson is a professional sailor and the founder of the Dark Seas Project, a nonprofit dedicated to the “development, education and diversification of the sport of sailing,” according to its donation page.

Lawson was tentatively planning to attempt a world record by sailing the Defiant around the world in 74 days, according to the release. He was aiming to make additional repairs to the ship in Baltimore before setting sail on his record attempt in the fall.

The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a report to alert vessels within a 300-nautical mile radius of Lawson’s last known position, according to the news release.

Anyone with information regarding Lawson’s whereabouts is encouraged to contact the U.S. Coast Guard National Command Center at 202-372-2100.

In a May interview with Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Lawson talked about his plans for a record season and the challenge of solo long-distance trips.

“To be successful at this type of sport, you have to be very driven,” he said. “If you’re out there thinking to yourself, ‘I don’t know,’ you aren’t going to make it. To make long-distance passages single-handed, you have to put yourself in the mindset that, whatever happens between now and then, I’m going to get there.”

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