A Mexican search plane spotted a yacht believed to belong to the missing Baltimore sailor Donald Lawson 275 nautical miles off the coast of Acapulco, the Mexican Navy’s press office said Tuesday.
A spokeswoman in the navy press office said the 60-foot trimaran racing yacht Defiant had been spotted capsized in the ocean. Rescue crews have not yet been able to reach the vessel because of bad weather, she said.
After the navy’s initial report, the local Mexican search and rescue station said later Tuesday that while crews spotted a boat, they are not confirming it to be Lawson’s Defiant.
U.S. Coast Guard officials and Lawson’s family were working Tuesday to get more information about the search that continues hundreds of miles off Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel, spokesman for the Coast Guard district that includes the search area, said U.S. officials confirmed that a boat has been located. They are working to receive photos of the vessel from Mexican authorities.
“We are not giving up hope and we are remaining hopeful of his return,” Lawson’s wife, 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.”
The hurricane season in Mexico’s Pacific Coast has complicated the search and rescue operation. The Mexican Navy said crews are doing everything they can to reach the vessel. The spokeswoman said the search plane detected no flares, electronic messages or any sign of Lawson from the boat.
The U.S. sailing community, meanwhile, was holding on to hope that Lawson would turn up safely. As a Black professional sailor from Baltimore, he is well-known for breaking ground in a sport dominated by white men.
Lawson’s wife and sister, Victoria, spoke to news reporters Monday in Annapolis and urged authorities to continue the search for the missing sailor.
He was sailing 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. In Facebook posts about his preparations, he mentions the emergency beacon.
A functioning, water-activated beacon mounted to a boat will automatically transmit its position to a satellite if the device becomes submerged. The devices may also be activated manually.
A Woodlawn native, Lawson has been missing for nearly two weeks off Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Because he was sailing in Mexico’s territorial waters, the Mexican Navy is leading the search.
Lawson has worked to bring the sport to African Americans sailors. He serves as chairman of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for U.S. Sailing, the national governing body of the sport.
In Baltimore, the nonprofit Downtown Sailing Center in Locust Point urged its members to keep Lawson in their thoughts and prayers. Lawson learned to sail on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor before joining the Downtown Sailing Center in the 1990s as its first Black summer camp instructor. He went on to work as the head instructor.
He was planning this fall to attempt a world record by becoming the first American to sail around the world in 74 days.
Lawson departed alone from Acapulco on July 5, 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 that it would be best for him to turn around instead of continuing on to the Panama Canal. Jacqueline said he had 25% battery power, and no way of charging.
Reporters Hugo Kugiya and David Lance contributed to this article.