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July 24, 2023

Fear Arises for Captain Donald Lawson En Route From Acapulco to Baltimore

It appears that Captain Donald Lawson of the ORMA 60 trimaran Defiant has encountered problems during a planned singlehanded passage from Acapulco to the Panama Canal, on his way to Baltimore. He left Acapulco on July 5, but has not been heard from since his tracker stopped on July 13 about 300 miles southwest of Acapulco.

Captain Donald Lawson
Captain Donald Lawson’s last known position on his PredictWind tracker.
© 2023 Predict Wind

According to Chesapeake Bay Magazine, his wife, Jacqueline, told Bay Bulletin that her last text from from Lawson was on July 12. In a prior communication on July 9, Lawson advised he was without engine power and relying solely on a wind generator. Jacqueline told Bay Bulletin that he lost his wind generator due to a storm on July 12.

His last known position was detected on July 13 at 1324 GMT (1:24 p.m.), updated through the PredictWind app at 12°13.475’N, 099°19.735’W.

The USCG has issued an AMVER report (Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System) to vessels within a 300-mile radius of Lawson’s last known position. All vessels in the area should be on the lookout for the 60-ft trimaran. Anyone with information should contact the US Coast Guard National Command Center at (202) 372-2100.

Mighty Merloe Corinthian Yacht Club
Mighty Merloe, now named Defiant, outside the Corinthian Yacht Club in 2022.
© 2023 Randall von Wedel

Captain Lawson is sailing aboard the Defiant, formerly Mighty Merloe, with a plan to break several singlehanded long-distance world records. However, he has faced a series of disruptions and problems on the way. Despite his extensive sailing experience, a series of mishaps has raised numerous questions about whether he and his Dark Seas Project have the ability to pull off his ambitious plans.

Lawson is headed to Baltimore, where he will prepare for a singlehanded world-record attempt for circumnavigation aboard a trimaran this fall. Though we don’t have current news on the situation, there are rumors he may have dismasted in what is a high-risk area during hurricane season. We join many in hoping he will find help soon and that he and Defiant return to safe harbor.

Highlights From the 2023 Long Beach Scuba Show

Reader David Chamberlain sent us this letter in early June, reporting from the annual Long Beach Scuba Show, which took place on June 3 and 4. It got us wondering: How many sailors out there also scuba dive? We’d like to hear from you.

After sailing, my next biggest passion is scuba. I’ve found I’m not the only sailor who has a love of everything that happens under the water. If you’ve ever dropped an anchor in a beautiful cove or lagoon, or off a sandy beach, donned your buoyancy compensator, mask and fins, and giant-stepped into the depths, then you might be interested in the annual Long Beach Scuba Show. (I’m not affiliated with the show — just sharing my passion for it.)

I’ve attended the Scuba Show about four times (sans COVID) and found it to be an enjoyable and exciting event that I look forward to every year. Scuba diving enthusiasts, sailing aficionados and underwater adventurers flocked to the event, which was held at the Long Beach Convention Center. So let’s dive (pun intended) into the highlights of this remarkable gathering and discover the wonders that await sailing enthusiasts in the underwater realm.

Scuba enthusiasts do some hands-on testing at the Long Beach Scuba Show.
© 2023 The Scuba Show

Let’s face it, we don’t breathe, see or swim well under water, hence the gear! The event featured numerous exhibitors showcasing the latest diving equipment, accessories and technologies. Visitors had the opportunity to explore a wide array of diving gear, from state-of-the-art regulators and buoyancy-control devices [BCDs] to cutting-edge underwater cameras and advanced dive computers. Thanks to the large portable pool on site, visitors can test various gear.

One of the key aspects of the annual event is its emphasis on ocean conservation and sustainable practices. Numerous organizations dedicated to preserving marine ecosystems and promoting responsible diving practices are present at the event. Through insightful presentations and workshops, attendees gain awareness about the importance of protecting our oceans and are inspired to make a positive impact on the underwater world.

If you attend a Scuba Show in the future, be sure to set time aside for some of the talks and workshops by renowned divers, scientists, and explorers sharing their experiences and expertise with attendees. Covering topics such as wreck diving, marine biology, underwater photography, and exploration of uncharted dive sites, these sessions provide valuable insights and inspiration for both seasoned divers and beginners.

When he’s not sailing, David Chamberlain is for scuba. (Kudos if you get that reference.)
© 2023 David Chamberlain

Networking opportunities abounded at the show, where like-minded individuals could connect, exchange stories, and forge new relationships. Attendees found a sense of community and camaraderie among those who share similar passions. The Saturday night party was a highlight of the networking events, providing a fun and vibrant atmosphere.

Looking to plan your next dive adventure? Numerous travel vendors and tour directors are present at the show, providing information on dive holidays and exotic destinations around the world. You’ll find all the best dive holiday deals and plan unforgettable experiences. These vendors are always ready to talk deals too!

To me, the show is an invaluable source of inspiration and knowledge, igniting a desire to jump in and go diving. I know I’m not alone in this adventure and encourage my fellow sailors to jump in with me and enjoy the enchantment of underwater exploration.

Max Ebb — To the Guillotine

“The trouble with democracy is that there are never enough weekday evenings. “I’m not sure who first said that, but it rings true. My local Harbor Commission, Planning Commission, Transportation Commission, and City Council all expect citizens to exercise their right to participate in City government at evening sessions that fill up the calendar and usually run late. Despite this state of affairs, there was a surprisingly good turnout at the last Harbor Commission meeting. After I filled out a speaker’s card and turned around to find a seat, I was surprised to see Lee Helm in the front row.

“Like, what brings you here?” she asked as I took the empty seat next to her. It seems that even when a meeting room is crowded, people tend to avoid that front row. But I like it, and so does Lee.

“Rate hikes in the marina,” I said. “Someone needs to tell these people that if they’re going to raise our fees, the least they can do is fix the broken docks. But Lee, you don’t even have a boat; why are you here?”

“This is way more important than a few more pesos on your monthly marina bill,” she answered. “It, like, threatens the waterfront as we know it. We have a whole coalition mobilized to oppose this train wreck.”

“What train wreck?” I asked. “And why don’t I know about it?”

“The ferry terminal,” she sighed. “Don’t you read the comments in the local online paper?”

Max Ebb_Electric ferry image
This all-electric fast ferry is in service in Norway, carrying 147 passengers at 23 knots. Read more to find out how this relates to the Bay Area.
© 2023

Before Lee had a chance to explain what was so terrible about a new ferry terminal, the meeting came to order and small talk was cut off. After some formalities, the first speaker, Armanda Legg, was called to the lectern.

“The Ferry Authority says this is about equity,” the young man began his commentary. “They say that it will open up the downtown job market to people in the non-wealthy neighborhoods near the harbor. That’s pure fantasy. By the Ferry Authority’s own data, 90% of their passengers earn above median income, and 40% are above 200k.”

“I could have told them that,” I whispered to Lee. “It’s not the same crowd that rides the bus.”

“Look at the per-ride subsidy level.” Armanda continued. “The operating subsidy alone is $33 per ride. That’s per one-way ride. Every time some tech bro commutes to the City and back, it’s like they get a check for 66 bucks. And that’s just operating subsidy — crank in the capitalization of a $120 million terminal, two fast diesel ferries at $30 million apiece, and about $15 million the City is expected to pay for shoreside improvements. Depending on the interest rate you choose, the total per-person subsidy could top a Franklin each day. It’s nuts. It’s as far from equity as public policy could ever be. Especially when transit ridership all over the state is in trouble.”

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SailGP’s SoCal “La La Land” Adventure

For an event that has, for all practical purposes, “popped up” on the schedule, it could not have been more chock-full of surprises. The Spanish Team, which was on the ropes last year and hanging by a thread, pulled off a shock by not only winning the weekend, but beating the unbeatable Australians in the process. In just his fifth event at the helm of an F50, Spanish driver Diego Botin led his Spain SailGP Team to a stunning victory at the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix. It was his first-ever podium final, as he delivered a perfect start and was never caught, defeating Nicolai Sehested’s ROCKWOOL Team Denmark and Tom Slingsby’s Australian Team. The Spanish squeaked into the final by edging out the Canadians in the final Fleet Race, for their spot!

“This is amazing; we have been through some quite hard times as a team lately, and we really didn’t expect this to happen. We are behind the other teams in some areas, but we got in a good position,” Botin said. “It’s such a small course: Anything can happen, and we managed to pull the win off. It’s a huge motivation for the team, and we are just so proud of ourselves.”

SailGP winners season 4
The Spanish Team celebrate winning with the trophy at the Oracle Los Angeles Sail Grand Prix in the Port of Los Angeles
© 2023 Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

“It was quite an emotional day today. We got off to a very good start with the race win in the first race — a perfect start, and then in the second one we didn’t manage to start well. We were struggling with the penalties with the French. We couldn’t take them off and we lost heaps there. At the end we managed to pass [the Canadians]. To be honest, after the finish we didn’t know we had made it to the final.”

USA SailGP Team and Spain SailGP Team nip and tuck as the Spanish capture the position with just a few feet to spare.
© 2023 Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

“We got in a big lull at the end of that last downwind [in the podium final], and the Danish and the Aussies were coming foiling from behind with the gust, and there was some tension there because if they’d managed to foil all the way through they would have passed us. But we just focused on staying in the pressure and copying them when they got close, and we managed to stay ahead,” Botin said.

Slingsby and his crew were hoping to close off Australia’s week of global sporting success, led by the Matildas and the Australian cricket team, and overcome adversity to punch their ticket into the Podium Final. The team survived a near race-ending disaster when the Flying Roo’s jib sheet, which is essential to maintain the F50s speed, broke during the fourth qualifying fleet race. Some quick thinking by grinder Sam Newton, who tied the sheet onto the jib, saved the race for the Australians, allowing the team to limp over the finish line in second place.

Kinley Fowler, grinder of Australia SailGP Team, runs across the boat as the Australia SailGP Team lead New Zealand SailGP Team on Race Day 1.
© 2023 Simon Bruty/ SailGP

“I guess part of the reason I’m frustrated with the result is because we definitely faced adversity today, whether that be our jib sheet breaking or us taking on weed on our foils. But our team were able to fix it quickly and still sail really well,” Slingsby said. “I feel that we sailed the best we have sailed in a long time, which is why I’m so angry right now. I feel we deserved that one with how well we sailed. I’m sure I’ll calm down, but right now it’s pretty raw.”

The Aussies weren’t able to bring home the event trophy, with a poor start in the Podium Final allowing the Spanish to take an early lead. It then became a dogfight for second place between them and the Danish. The Flying Roo then took on the weed, which handicapped the boat’s speed and sealed the Australians’ fate in third place.

“I am still really happy for the Spanish, and it’s exciting to see another contender up there. I remember our first win in SailGP, and that elation you feel,” Slingsby said.

The Port of L.A. is known for its steady, if not heavy, breezes, but the winds played fickle games all weekend, and the SailGP F50s were originally fitted with the 24m “all-purpose” wing. It was then a “call to arms” when race management called for the 29m wings instead. The call to move to the largest wing came after lighter winds than expected were forecast, with Los Angeles’s thermal acceleration zone known as Hurricane Gulch failing to show up.

“The call to switch came pretty late, but everyone in SailGP is able to adapt,” said French Team driver Quentin Delapierre. “If the clouds stay like this I think it will be pretty light, but it’s SailGP; you just have to adapt yourself every time.”

Paul Campbell-James, Team USA wing trimmer, commented, “It takes around 45 minutes [per boat] to extend the wing from 24m to 29m. They’re just doing the first wings that will be lifted now, and then we’re going to try and bang through them as the day goes. Hopefully we’ll make it in time.” They did.

It was a challenging and very disappointing weekend for the Kiwis as they dropped from first to fifth on the Season 4 leaderboard. The team was blindsided by a controversial penalty, which forced them to drop from second to fifth in the second fleet race of the day. It occurred in Race Two, as New Zealand worked their way to second before being penalized for not giving room at the mark to Team USA. “Personally I’m blown away by how we got a penalty in that situation,” Team New Zealand driver Peter Burling said.

“I spoke to Jimmy [Spithill] who our penalty was against, and he didn’t even know it was on us. I think the umpires need to have a little look at themselves after that and how they can make better decisions going forward,” Burling said. “It’s an awesome racecourse here. It’s so cool having the top marks so close to the fans on shore. It would definitely be pretty tight if we got 20 knots, but with conditions like we had in those first two races today, it was absolutely perfect.”

Strategically, New Zealand navigated downwind to get behind Team USA, while also putting themselves back on the windier side of the course. But it wasn’t enough to make up significant lost ground. Denmark, who executed flawlessly from start to finish, won Race Two ahead of Australia in second, and Spain in third.

In many ways, the weekend win was a popular victory for the Spanish Team. Not only amongst their competitors, but also with the Southern California fan base in the L.A. area. Especially since the USA Team seem to be light years away from being competitive. Team USA’s skipper and CEO continues to juggle his lineup, as Erica Reincke returned from IR (injured reserve) as strategist. In perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the weekend, and foretelling the Spanish fortunes and the USA struggles, Spain was able to foil past the Americans at the line in Race 1, Day 1 to capture critical points on a tight leaderboard.

The foiling fleet of 10 boats tightly packed at the start, with the cranes of the Port of L.A. in San Pedro providing a “scenic” backdrop!
© 2023 Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

Overall it was an exciting and well-attended weekend in the stands, and with the spectator fleet near the racecourse. Next up is the France Sail Grand Prix in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez on September 9–10.

Scott Sellers and his daughter Merritt Sellers (15) of Larkspur have just finished First in Class in the Chicago Race to Mackinac, after starting in last. They were over early and had to pick off the boats one by one!

Merritt and Scott Sellers of Larkspur, aboard their J/111 Nosurprise after this morning’s win.
© 2023 Mark Reid

We’ll have the full story in Wednesday’s ‘Lectronic Latitude.

He's a Winner!
"What 'about' Bob?" we hear you thinking. Bob Schulz is our newest Golden Ticket winner and has earned himself a fun new 'Latitude 38' T-shirt!