Chinese Skipper Guo Chuan missing and presumed lost at sea during solo trans-Pacific record attempt

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guo-chuan-by-jean sebastien-evrard/AFP/Getty Images

Guo Chuan (Photo by Jean-Sebastien-Evrard/AFP/Getty Images

China was in shock on Thursday after a search was called off for a hugely popular sailor who went missing as he attempted to break the world record for a solo trans-Pacific voyage.

Guo Chuan’s trimaran was spotted about 600 miles (1,000km) off the Hawaiian island of Oahu after he was reported missing on Tuesday.

But after finding only his lifejacket onboard, the US Coast Guard called off their search late on Wednesday.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua said on Thursday that “millions of his compatriots are praying for his safe return”, and officially Mr Guo remains “missing”.

Guo Chuan sailing out of San Francisco (Photo by  XINHUA/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK )

But the man who led the search for the 51-year-old appeared to have given up hope.

“Our deepest condolences go out not only to his family and friends but also to his racing team and the sailing community,” Captain Robert Hendrickson said.

Mr Guo set sail from under San Francisco’s Golden Great Bridge on October 18 on his 97-foot sailboat, which is called ‘Qingdao China’, after his home city on the country’s east coast.

He was hoping to complete the 7,000 nautical mile-journey to Shanghai in 20 days.

Mr Guo was an experienced sailor, becoming the first of his countrymen to take part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2006, and also the first Chinese to traverse the Atlantic Ocean by himself.

He became the first Chinese sailor to solo nonstop circumnavigate the globe in 2013, when he also broke the record for doing it in a 40-foot yacht.

In this image released by he US Coast Guard on October 26, a 97-foot super trimaran is seen sailing in the Pacific, after contact was lost with the skipper Guo Chuan
Guo Chuan’s 97-foot super trimaran is seen sailing in the Pacific, after contact was lost with the skipper Guo Chuan CREDIT:  AFP/GETTY IMAGES / US COAST GUARD

Mr Guo was greatly admired in China for his love of his country and his family.

He dedicated his record-breaking achievement to his late father, and in one of his most recent reports from his voyage he spoke of how he listened to recordings of his young son laughing. He called it “the most beautiful song in the world”.

Zhai Feng, a close friend of Mr Guo and a fellow sailor, said: “I have been in shock since I heard this news.

“We know that falling into the water is certain death. If you cannot climb onto the boat within half-an-hour, you will surely be dead.

“My wife cried floods of tears when we learnt the news, and we are both praying for him.”

ETERNAL REST

What happened to Guo remained unclear.

Guo’s team said they had observed his speed slowed on Tuesday and attempted to contact him, but he did not answer either satellite calls or internet communication.

The US searchers had found a broken sail in the water, they added.

The US Coast Guard said it was called when Guo’s team had not received notification from him for 24 hours.

The sailor had previously been “in constant contact” with his shore team and family and was “not likely to miss scheduled calls”, it added.

Chinese fans expressed fears for the mariner, with one writing that it was “likely he was adjusting or repairing the sail when he was struck or an accident occurred and he fell”.

Others urged rescuers to continue the search.

“Absolutely do not stop the search and rescue! It’s only 24 hours, the water is warm enough, Guo Chuan’s physical abilities are fine, if money’s an issue the shore team must immediately open a donation account… You can’t give up!”

But a tone of mourning and tribute also appeared, with one writing that sailors, like mountain climbers, embraced challenge to access a vast perspective, with “captains’ hearts always facing the sea”.

 

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