HONOLULU (CBS SF) – A search was suspended Wednesday evening for a Chinese sailor who left San Francisco last week in a bid for a world sailing record, U.S. Coast Guard officials and the sailor’s racing team said.
Guo Chuan, 50, of Qingdao, China is still missing after a two-day search by crews from the Coast Guard and U.S. Navy.
Chuan sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge at 2:24 p.m. Oct. 18 as he set to break the trans-Pacific solo, non-stop sailing record.
Chuan hoped to make the passage to Shanghai in 18 days. The record is 21 days.
Chuan set sail in a 97-foot super trimaran named Qingdao China, after his hometown.
Tuesday morning Coast Guard officials heard from personnel at the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center China that Chuan had not been heard from in 24 hours, prompting a response from the Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy.
Coast Guard officials deployed HC-130 Hercules airplane crews, who conducted six search patterns near the Qingdao China’s course through the Pacific. The search, which also included a Navy team aboard an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter, covered more than 4,600 square miles over two days.
“It’s highly unlikely he survived,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said.
In the search, the crew of the MH-60 Seahawk flew over the Qingdao China and hailed Chuan, but he did not answer. A rigid-hull inflatable boat had been deployed and rescuers boarded it, but Chuan was not on board and they only found his lifejacket.
“Mr. Chuan was a professional mariner with a deep passion for sailing,” Coast Guard Capt. Robert Hendrickson said in a statement. “Our deepest condolences go out not only to his family but also to his racing team and the sailing community.”
The Qingdao China remained adrift Wednesday, according to the Coast Guard. Chuan’s racing team was making arrangements to recover the boat.
Rescuers had lowered the mainsail and marked the boat and a broadcast was sent to other mariners to avoid the sailboat.
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