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Boat of Baltimore sailor found capsized near Mexico, but he's still missing

Donald Lawson’s trimaran was found empty Thursday night by a patrol boat 356 nautical miles southwest of the resort city of Acapulco, the Mexican navy said.
Captain Donald Lawson.
Donald Lawson.Kim Hairston / The Baltimore Sun / Tribune News Service via Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s navy located the boat of a missing American sailor off the country’s southern coast, but the Maryland man who had been piloting it solo wasn’t found, authorities said Friday.

Donald Lawson’s capsized trimaran was found Thursday night by a patrol boat involved in the search 356 nautical miles (about 410 miles) southwest of the resort city of Acapulco, according to the navy’s press office.

The navy said that it would continue its search for Lawson, 41, an experienced sailor.

A plane had reported spotting a boat similar to the description of Lawson’s on July 23 about 320 nautical miles (370 miles) south of Acapulco. The navy sent boats to the area, but it wasn’t until Thursday night that they found it.

Port authorities in Acapulco said that Lawson had arrived on Jan. 26 for repairs to a motor and hull of the boat. After the repairs were completed, Lawson left Acapulco on July 5, headed for the Panama Canal, where he planned to cross to the Caribbean Sea and continue north to Baltimore, Maryland.

His wife, Jacqueline Lawson, told local media outlets that on July 9, he had sent her a message saying he was having mechanical problems and the motor was losing power. Three days later, he told her a storm had knocked out his wind generator and he would try to return to Acapulco. The last satellite positioning message received for the Defiant was July 13.

Lawson, who is Black, grew up in Baltimore and from his first sailing opportunity at age 9, set his sights on making it his career.

“From that day forward, that was my goal — become a professional sailor,” Lawson said in a profile published by U.S. Sailing last year.

He started out cleaning boats, folding sails and stowing gear in Annapolis. Later, he and his wife founded the Dark Seas Project, an effort to increase diversity in the sport of sailing. He is the chairman of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for U.S. Sailing.

Lawson was working toward challenging records for circumnavigating the globe solo.