Sail-World New Zealand: May 9, 2013 - Double Olympic Medalist in America's Cup fatality

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 11 May 2013

Sail-World New Zealand: May 9, 2013

Tragedy hit the 2013 America's Cup with the death of double Olympic Medalist, Andrew 'Bart' Simpson.

He was a member of the British sailing elite, that sadly has now lost two of its number, with 1996 Olympic Silver Medalist John Merrick's death in a car crash in 1997, and now that of Bart Simpson.

Bart was part of an era of achievement by Great Britain, that will never be matched again in sailing.

Two of the world's Sailing families are in mourning for one of their own. The Olympic family for having lost a double Medalis; and the America's Cup sailing family for having lost a great competitor, who looked set to become part of the next British Challenge.

At Sail-World we mourn the passing of one of the characters of the sport, as well as one of its great achievers, and our condolences to his family and many friends.

Of course, the world of sailing is in shock at today's turn of events.

Andrew Simpson, Star - 2008 Sail For Gold Ball, Hilton on Park Lane, London  RYA

Death is sadly part of our sport, maybe more so than most.

Every sailor that goes on the water must accept that no matter what safety precautions are taken, there is a chance they may never come back.

That is part of the risk we all take - from the novice Optimist sailor, to the Volvo Ocean Racer.

But that does not ease the shock, when a sailor gets caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and serious injury or death results.

Part of the attraction of sailing is taking on the elements, but also tempered by the sober knowledge that you never get a second chance with the sea.

Iain Percy and Andrew Simpson, Star - Weymouth and Portland International Regatta 2011  Richard Gladwell ©

Only sailors understand the attraction of sailing in light winds and strong. Those outside the sport judge us by different standards, and with the benefit of hindsight.

The question is where to from here?

It seems inevitable that official inquiries will be held. Quite where those go is quite unclear at this stage.

There will obviously be a lot of issues raised, and things that could have been done better. Losing two boats, and one death, in the course of eight months is not a good look in the eyes of the public or officialdom.

The point is that the AC72's are new boats, a new type of sailing, and we will all learn from it. Those lessons may go right through the sport.

Andrew Simpson and Iain Percy racing at the 2012 Olympics in Weymouth  Richard Gladwell ©

Nevertheless the America's Cup Regatta must go on.

There are stringent safety provisions, which are already in place for the racing, but which the teams must look at adopting for training.

There is little that can be done in the racing itself. Maybe the wind limit will come back to 30kts. Anything else is going to affect teams that have designed and prepared for the regatta.

The bottom line, if a team feels that conditions are too dangerous, or they are not prepared, is not to race.

Yes, they will lose the point, but in the Louis Vuitton Cup Qualification Round with all three competitors at least going directly into the Semi-Finals, there is not a lot at stake.

Andrew Simpson  Sander van der Borch / Artemis Racing ©

While one team may lose the point, by the same token the other team has to complete the course to win the point, and in the process may lose their boat. That is a risk that is always inherent in high performance sailing.

Simpson & Percy Star Gold Medallists 2008 Qingdao Medal Race  © Ingrid Abery
One thing is for sure, after today's tragic events, no-one can blame a team for electing not to race.

We'll update on this story as it unfolds. Stay tuned to

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

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