America's Cup under cloud after sailor's death

Race officials say no decisions will be made until they have made a comprehensive study of the accident, but all options will be considered

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 May, 2013, 3:52am


America's Cup officials are pressing on with an investigation of the capsize of a catamaran that killed Briton Andrew Simpson, seeking answers to keep the event afloat.

Artemis Racing member Simpson, nicknamed "Bart", died when the Swedish team's AC72 overturned while training on San Francisco Bay last Thursday.

The accident has plunged the series into uncertainty, fuelling concerns over the safety of the 72-foot America's Cup catamarans and prompting Patrizio Bertelli, chief executive of the Prada fashion house and sponsor of Italian challenger Luna Rossa, to say he would consider withdrawing his team.

America's Cup regatta director Iain Murray, spearheading the review of the incident, said on Saturday that he had scheduled a meeting with defending champions Oracle of the United States, Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa, for tomorrow in San Francisco.

"The meeting with the teams is a crucial next step," Murray said. "We need to establish an open flow of information to ensure this review meets its goals of fact-finding and putting us in a position to recommend changes, if necessary."

The review will include the study of all data that was captured at the time of the incident.

"Once we have the information, the basic facts, all the data, then we will be able to re-build the entire chain of events and start to assess why this incident resulted in a tragic loss of life," Murray said.

In the meantime, Artemis Racing on Saturday urged the sailing community to refrain from speculation.

"Until this process is complete, any conclusions being made about the events that led to the boat's capsizing and its tragic outcome are pure speculation," Artemis said. "Out of respect for Bart's memory and his family, we ask that the broader sailing community and others reserve judgment until all the facts are known, and not persist in unnecessary rumour."

But Simpson's death has cast a pall over the event.

Bertelli told Italian magazine Yacht Capital, in comments posted on the website yachtonline on Friday, that his team were taking the weekend to consider their position.

"The way it is now, it's not OK," Bertelli said. "Those responsible must take note. Not everybody has understood that we're now in an extreme America's Cup, whereas it was romantic before. We're now like Formula One or rally."

The excitement of those high-speed motor sports was just what billionaire US Larry Ellison was going for when he pushed for the new parameters for America's Cup craft.

Ellison's Oracle are the defending champions, defeating Switzerland's Alinghi in 2010 in a competition marred by legal wrangling over the rules that began after Alinghi won in 2007.

America's Cup chief executive Stephen Barclay said that in the wake of Simpson's death "nothing is off the table" as organisers consider their options.

But he voiced confidence that "the event in San Francisco will be a fantastic event".

He stressed that no decisions would be made until after the review into why the Artemis boat "nose-dived" and broke apart while turning.

Simpson, an Olympic champion sailor, apparently was trapped under a piece of the boat, and by the time he was found and pulled out of the water he could not be revived.