Shipboard Program Inspires Former Student’s Dream to be the First African American to Sail Solo Non-Stop Around the World

March 29, 2016

In 1990, Living Classrooms’ Shipboard STEM Education Program was entering only its fifth season on the water but it was already beginning to shape young lives. It was the year that nine-year-old Donald Lawson took his first sail as a student on board Lady Maryland. The experience opened his eyes to the opportunities that lay outside of his home in Baltimore. He recounts this sail as a pivotal moment in his life. “It was the opportunity that started my lifetime obsession with the sea and gave me a path for my career,” he said. “Lady Maryland was my first love.”

That path brought him back to Living Classrooms years later as a volunteer who helped sail the Sigsbee and Lady Maryland for other students having their first experience on board these historic vessels. Now known as “Captain Lawson,” Donald has spent his career teaching, sailing, and racing high performance boats throughout the world. “Because Living Classrooms gave me the opportunity at such a young age, I have always been dedicated in sharing my experiences on the water with everyone I could,” said Lawson.
This year, Capt. Lawson is embarking on a journey to unite city youth and inspire them to follow their dreams by sharing his biggest dream yet: to be the first African American to complete a non-stop solo sail around the world. Using Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Living Classrooms as his home base, Capt. Lawson will spend the next two years competing to break several world records in sailing, including the fastest non-stop solo sail around the world.

Nicknamed “The Everest of the Seas,” Capt. Lawson’s journey will culminate with his entry into the 2020 Vendee Globe, widely considered to be the hardest and most famous international sailing race in the world.

Lawson admits that these will be the biggest challenges of his professional life and says realizing dreams like these wouldn’t have been possible if he hadn’t been exposed to Living Classrooms’ Shipboard educational programs at an early age.

Living Classrooms and our students will be following Capt. Lawson on his journeys and you can follow along too using the hashtag #DLRecords on social media.