A year after Andrew Simpson drowned, the sailors tell Ian Stafford about the pain of dealing with their friend's death and how opening a sailing centre in Weymouth is helping his name live on.
Iain Percy (right) and Andrew Simpson (GBR), acknowledge the crowd at the medal ceremony for the Men’s Keelboat (Star) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition.
Iain Percy has flown in from California, Ben Ainslie from China, united in friendship and grief, and as determined as they have been in the pursuit of gold to ensure that Friday plays another part in guaranteeing that their best friend's name – and impact – lives on.
Sir Ben Ainslie arrived Wednesday from racing in the Extreme Series in Qingdao, the 2008 Olympic venue where he won the third of his magnificent four Olympic gold medals. Iain Percy, a double Olympic champion, arrives Friday morning from the San Francisco base where he leads Team Artemis in the pursuit of America's Cup glory.
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR), pictured in the Men’s Keelboat (Star) event in The London 2012 Olympic
Both are home for one reason: to be in Weymouth for the opening of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. It is the latest stage in the extraordinary rise of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation borne out of the universal love from their sport following the tragic drowning of 'Bart' Simpson on 9 May 2013 in San Francisco Bay when Artemis capsized on a training run. He was 36.
The new centre – officially opened on Friday in the company of Ainslie, Percy, other key members of the British sailing community and, perhaps most poignantly of all, Simpson's widow, Leah – is designed to provide the chance for children of all ages and backgrounds to sample not just the sport of sailing, but opportunities to work in the sailing industry.
'It would have been almost the perfect day for Bart,' Ainslie explains. 'It meant so much to him to provide the chance for all to sail or gain employment in the business. Ridding the sport of any remaining elitist perceptions was a huge goal for him, and he'd devote much of his time to helping others, advising anyone who asked. I just wish he was here to see it. I'd give anything for that.'
The Foundation has raised more than £500,000 so far and, apart from Friday's event, will also stage 'Bart's Bash' on 21 September, a synchronised series of races worldwide designed to annually encourage as many people as possible to get out on to the water, and to keep the memory of Simpson burning brightly. It hopes to break the world record as the race with the most participants.
For the rest of this story click here
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Ian Percy (r) and Andrew Simpson (GBR), Star Gold medal winners.
Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Gold medla winners, Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR).
The Star medallists from Qingdao, Star class Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada (BRA); Andrew (Bart) Simpson and Iain Percy (GBR); Fredrik Loof and Andres Ekstrom (SWE)
July 28, 2012 Iain Percy and Bart Simpson, GBR Star Two Man keelboat
Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson earned a Silver medal in today Star-class medal race
20120805 Copyright onEdition 2012© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson (GBR), who won the Silver Medal today, 05.08.12, in the Medal Race Men's Keelboat (Star) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition runs from 29 July to 12 August and brings together 380 of the world's best sailors to race on Weymouth Bay. Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 and has appeared at every Olympic Games sinc
Andrew Simpson and Iain Percy racing at the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth
Iain Percy and Bart Simpson cross the finish line in the Medal race of the Star class in the 2012 Olympics to win the Silver Medal, having led the fleet going into the final race.
Iain Percy and Bart Simpson salute the crowd before the Medal Race of the 2012 Olympics. The gold start of the top of the mainsail is for a former world champion, the gold circle at the bottom is for the fleet leader in the Olympic event
At what proved to be his last hurray - Andrew "Bart" Simpson (1976-2013) pictured at the Medalists’ Media Conference 2012 Olympics