Donald Lawson sailed his racing trimaran, Defiant, in this image from the Dark Seas Project's YouTube channel.

Search Continues for Missing Sailor Donald Lawson off Mexican Coast, Life Raft Missing

UPDATE: Jacqueline Lawson released a statement Sunday night saying that the Mexican Search and Rescue (MRCC) will resume search operations this week for her husband, Captain Donald Lawson, lost at sea off of Acapulco. In her statement, Jacqueline also says there has been no sign of the life raft Lawson had on board.

The family of missing sailor Donald Lawson tells Bay Bulletin that the vessel found capsized 360 nautical miles off the coast of Mexico is, indeed, Defiant, Lawson’s 60-foot racing trimaran. Mexican search and rescue crews are still searching the area where the vessel was found.

In her latest statement, Jacqueline Lawson says, “I was notified by the Mexican Navy Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) earlier today that after repeated searches in the area where our trimaran Defiant was located, there is still no sign of the boat’s lone life raft.”

She believes this is a sign Lawson may still be alive.

Jacqueline positively identified the vessel found south/southwest of Acapulco as Defiant last week.

A U.S. Coast Guard Cutter was dispatched to help in searching for the missing sailor from Baltimore but stood down as of Friday afternoon.

Donald Lawson, sailing his racing trimaran off the coast of Acapulco, has not been heard from since July 12. He left Acapulco on July 5, intending to bring the 60-foot Ocean Racing Multihull Association-class trimaran to Baltimore via the Panama Canal.

Tori and Donald Lawson worked on the boat at port in Acapulco, Mexico for nearly two months before Donald set sail for a solo trip bound for Baltimore via the Panama Canal. Facebook photo.

Once the boat was in Baltimore, the Lawsons had planned to make final adjustments for Donald’s planned world record attempt this fall. His goal was to become the first African American to sail solo nonstop around the world. At the same time, he aimed to set a speed record for single-handed circumnavigation in a trimaran.

His boat had proven capable: it had set multiple speed records before Lawson acquired it, including one at the 2017 Transpac Race between California and Hawaii.

When Lawson left Acapulco for his voyage around the Panama Canal, he was communicating with Jacqueline through text messages. He ran into issues with his gear not long into the journey. First, he had trouble with his hydraulic rigging system. Then on July 9, Lawson told his wife that engine trouble had taken away his main method of charging the boat’s battery. The backup was a wind turbine, which maintained the battery for a number of days. On July 12, Lawson communicated that a storm had taken out his wind turbine and he had decided to return to Acapulco to address the problems.

That was the last communication anyone had from Lawson, and his last known coordinates were recorded on July 13. After Jacqueline notified the U.S. Coast Guard on July 21, the agency issued an AMVER report (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) to alert vessels within a 300-nautical mile radius of Lawson’s last known position. The Mexican Navy launched a search, but there were few updates. Jacqueline and Lawson’s sister, Victoria, made a public plea on Monday, July 24 for Mexican and American authorities to increase search efforts. Then on Tuesday, July 25, reports trickled out of a vessel being located. By Wednesday, it had been positively identified as the missing boat.

 As of Friday night, Jacqueline Lawson had not heard, what, if anything, the Mexican authorities had learned about the life raft that was on board Defiant when Donald left Acapulco on July 5, and whether the raft was still with the capsized boat.

Jacqueline said in a statement that she’s still hoping for good news:

“We have not yet heard for certain if the MRCC will resume their search and recovery operations on Saturday. I continue to remain optimistic and hopeful that Donald will be found alive and will return home safely.”

Bay Bulletin is in touch with American and Mexican officials and are closely following the case. We’ll provide updates as soon as we get them.

-Meg Walburn Viviano