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Microsoft researcher missing at sea

blog Experienced sailor and award-winning researcher went missing on Sunday in the waters west of San Francisco.

An award-winning Microsoft researcher has been missing since he set off on a solo sail trip on Sunday.

Jim Gray, who works in Microsoft's Research Center in San Francisco, left alone on his 40-foot sailing yacht Tenacious sometime on Sunday morning and was expected back in the evening that same day, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a statement Monday. However, the 63-year-old Gray had not returned by Monday night.

Jim Gray
Jim Gray

The Coast Guard said a search for Gray started Sunday night after his wife reported him missing. The overnight search involved an airplane, helicopter, patrol boat and a life boat and continued during the day on Monday, with three additional patrol boats and a utility boat, the Coast Guard said. However, no signs of Gray or his yacht have been found.

The search on Monday covered about 4,000 square miles and extended out west off the San Francisco coast beyond the Farallon Islands, a national wildlife refuge. Local media reported that Gray was sailing out to the islands to scatter his mother's ashes.

Gray, a San Francisco resident and University of California, Berkeley, graduate, is said to be an experienced sailor with over 10 years of experience. His yacht is equipped with communication, safety and emergency gear, the Coast Guard said.

Well-known in Silicon Valley circles, Gray focuses his work on using computers to analyze scientific data and on the topics of databases and transaction processing. In 1998 he received the prestigious ACM Turing Award for his work. More recently, he has been active in building online databases like the TerraService, which provides access to a vast data store of maps and aerial photographs of the U.S.

The search for Gray is planned to continue through the night, with additional search units expected to be added on Tuesday morning, the Coast Guard said. Weather has not hampered the search, and the conditions are expected to remain favorable, it said.