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sail-world.com -- America's Cup: Two inquiries underway in fatal capsize - Updated

America's Cup: Two inquiries underway in fatal capsize - Updated    
Sat, 11 May 2013


At an international media conference today, America's Cup Events Authority, Stephen Barclay, announced that two inquiries were running into the Artemis incident.

The first is being conducted by the San Francisco Police Department, as is standard practice in any fatality. The SFPD have impounded the boat as part of their accident investigation. A Coastguard review is also underway.

The second inquiry as been instituted by the ACEA themselves, and will be conducted by America's Cup Regatta Director, Iain Murray.

There is no time set for reporting back by either inquiry.

From the information given it would seem that all the basic safety precautions were in place, including dive teams and medical teams. Both Artemis Racing and Oracle Team USA were operating in the area and the combined resources of the teams were applied as soon as possible.

'There was a lot of people there, including divers and medical teams and doctors,' Iain Murray told a media conference of international sailing media.

While some increased level of safety support will be available during the America's Cup, it would seem that the lessons had been learned from the Oracle incident, but a review and re-learning process will take place.

'The first level of response will always be from within the teams', said Murray. 'But there will be an added level from the event.'


It was confirmed that the Artemis incident had taken place in winds of only 18-20 knots and a 2-3kts flood tide. 'The water was flat and sailing conditions were ideal' Iain Murray explained. 'A typical San Francisco day', he added.

Conditions only moderate
2012 49er Olympic Gold Medallist, Nathan Outtteridge was understood to have been helming at the time of the incident, and the sailing master on board was Iain Percy

These were not extreme conditions, and while wind limits may be reviewed, they are not expected to drop to the level occurring at the time of the incident.

'I think it is far to say that neither boat were doing anything they hadn't done before', said Iain Murray.

'They were bearing away to a sail downwind and the end result was that boat ended up capsizing, breaking up and inverted, the top hull had broken off.'

Andrew Simpson was trapped for some time under some solid sections on the boat, probably as a result of it breaking apart, said Murray CPR was applied immediately and continued for 25 minutes ashore by Fire Department paramedics.


All the information to hand, from outside the conference, tends to point to a structural failure predicating, or occurring during the capsize and cartwheel - and the rapid collapse of the platform structure would seem to have compounded the inherent danger in the situation.

It was noted that others had previously died in the San Francisco Bay area in yacht racing, including one incident resulting in five deaths during an offshore race, and the dangers of the sport in the area were inherent in any racing.

It seems most unlikely that the America's Cup Regatta will be stopped or delayed because of the Artemis incident, however it is expected that the lead of Luna Rossa will be followed, where individuals and teams make up their own minds as to whether they wish to continue in the regatta as a result of what is now known.

'There has been no discussions about withdrawing permits, or stopping racing or sailing,'said Iain Murray. 'The authorities are working with us.'

'At this stage we want to conduct the review. We really don't know what happened out there,' said Stephen Barclay, COO of America's Cup Events Authority. 'Until we do we won't be able to determine what any actions or otherwise will be', he said. 'At this stage we are not making any statements on the impact on the event, because at this stage we simply don't know.'

Later when questioned about how long the review would take given the America's Cup Regatta gets underway in less than two months, Barclay said 'we are not going to set a time frame, given that we are very conscious that the event starts in the next few months.We are going to apply undue pressure, we want a full review that looks at and establishes the facts and then comes up with a set of recommendations, if any about things we might change or modify.'

Break-up or capsize?
When questioned as to whether the boat broke up and capsized, or capsized and broke up, Murray replied saying by saying 'if you look at Oracle, they capsized and broke up some time later. In the case of Artemis, without seeing any evidence of it, we know that the crew took the boat into the bear away manoeuvre, and that the end result was that it capsized and by the time it was upside down it was broken.

'There appears to be all sorts of speculation and different opinion as to what came first, but we don't know, and we need to understand', Murray added.

When questioned as to whether the boats were too dangerous for sailing, Barclay said in not so many words, that he would leave that for the review.


Iain Murray chimed in noting that there were five fatalities on the Farallon Islands last year, off San Francisco 'and that wasn't judged to be too dangerous, and ocean racing continued. Larry Klein. a Yachtsman of the Year, drowned in San Francisco (after a hiking rack broke). Another sailor dies in the 1999 America's Cup regatta in Auckland.

'i was in the 1998 Sydney Hobart race when six people died. We have to live with these things and we have to go forward in the best way that we can'.

The AC72's a are a progress in sailing. we have come a long way from 12 Metre days,' he added

ACRM Director Iain Murray said there were no scantlings in the America's Cup AC72 rule, and obviously decisions on whether to increase the structural strength of the boats, lay with the teams rather than being required by race organisers.

Oracle Team USA, being the only team able to sail, have elected to suspend sailing out of respect for Andrew Simpson and the Artemis Racing team. neither Luna Rossa or Emirates Team NZ are ready to sail, having recently arrived in San Francisco.


by Richard Gladwell



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