Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Top Sailor Lost at Sea
A top Chinese sailor, who departed San Francisco last week and is attempting to break the world record for a solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean, has lost radio contact with officials monitoring his progress in China, the U.S. Coast Guard said Wednesday.
Guo Chuan, 50, was aiming to arrive in Shanghai in 18 days — which would shatter the current world record of 21 days. He left San Francisco on Oct. 18 and had been in regular contact with his family and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in China, but no one has heard from him since late Monday, officials said.
A Coast Guard search plane, launched Tuesday from the Barbers Point military base in Hawaii, found Guo’s boat but did not see any sign of the sailor on deck, said Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie, a Coast Guard spokeswoman. The boat was moving under main only with the jib dragging in the water. He may have fallen overboard during a head sail change and is now lost at sea.
His 97-foot trimaran vessel, the Qingdao China, named after his hometown, is positioned roughly 620 miles northwest of Oahu, McKenzie said. The Coast Guard is determining which boat in the area — naval, cargo or civilian — would be best to meet the Qingdao China.
“We’re trying to coordinate the nearest, most capable asset able to rendezvous with the vessel,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “Putting boots on the deck would be ideal.”
Guo holds a world record for solo nonstop sailing around the world in a 40-foot yacht, which he set in 2013 after a 138-day trip, becoming the first person from China to sail around the world by himself. Two years later, he broke another record when he sailed nonstop across the Arctic Ocean’s northeast passage with crew members from France, Germany and Russia.
In an August interview with the No Frills Sailing blog, Guo said he only sleeps in short intervals during his perilous solo voyages.
“You have to be extremely vigilant throughout the journey as you are the only one on the boat. That means even if weather conditions are fairly stable you can only sleep for 20 minutes at most. If conditions worsen, you have to stay awake, however long it may take,” he said in the interview.
And though he admitted that loneliness at sea is the toughest aspect of solo sailing, Guo said his biggest fear was falling into the water, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency.
“I fear being separated from the ship when I am sailing solo,” he told the news agency.
A member of an organization that advocates peace through sports, Guo dedicated the trans-Pacific trip to promoting cultural exchange between the United States and China.
Peter Hogg, a Bay Area sailor who shattered records in 1992 when he sailed from San Francisco to Tokyo in 34 days, came to see Guo off in San Francisco and “wished him fair wind,” according to a statement from Guo’s team.
A short post Wednesday to Guo’s Facebook account from his support team read, “We feel devastated today but we hope he is still safe.”
Update: The Coast Guard has suspended the search for Guo. Our condolences to his family and sailing team.