British sailor dies during America's Cup practice

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm •  Published: May 10, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Andrew "Bart" Simpson had already garnered an Olympic gold medal in sailing in 2008 and a silver at last year's games when Artemis Racing came calling with a chance to win yachting's top prize — the America's Cup.

"Moving the family to San Fran for 6 months is pretty hectic!!!," Simpson tweeted in March. "The cup should be fun though!!"

On Thursday, the British sailor drowned when Artemis' high-tech catamaran capsized and trapped him underwater for more than 10 minutes while on a practice run in the bay.

Simpson, 36, served as the Swedish team's strategist.

"The entire Artemis team is devastated by what happened," CEO Paul Cayard said in a statement on the team's website. "Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew's wife and family."

Cayard didn't take questions during a brief news conference Thursday evening and didn't return telephone calls.

The British Olympic Association described Simpson as a "treasured and accomplished member" of its teams.

"Andrew Simpson was a hugely accomplished sailor and Olympian," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, a former Olympic sailor from Belgium, said in a statement to The Associated Press. "He died pursuing his sporting passion and our thoughts are naturally with his family and friends and of course his fellow crew members who must be devastated by this tragic accident."

British newspapers reported that Simpson is survived by a wife and an infant child.

Artemis Racing said doctors "afloat" with the team and on shore were unable to revive Simpson after he was freed from the wreckage. The other sailor suffered minor injuries, and the rest of the crew of about a dozen people was accounted for and taken back to their dock in Alameda.

Officials said winds were blowing between 15 and 20 knots (17 to 23 mph) when the boat capsized. The National Weather Service later issued a small-craft advisory, warning inexperienced mariners to stay off the bay and indicating winds of between 21 knots and 33 knots.

The Artemis boat flipped near Treasure Island, which is bisected by the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge. The armada of rescue boats and helicopters were visible from the roadway.

Simpson and the unidentified injured sailor were brought to shore at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, where paramedics performed CPR on Simpson. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

The America's Cup is considered, along with the Olympics and World Cup soccer, to be among the world's largest global sporting events in terms of its economic impact. Organizers are trying to modernize the race, which has a reputation for being stodgy. For the first time, they have scheduled an America's Cup for young competitors ahead of the main event.

NBC plans to broadcast the America's Cup live and use graphics similar to the yellow first-down marker in football to let viewers know who is ahead and behind. High-definition cameras and microphones will also be placed on each America's Cup boat, according to NBC.

This is the second time a sailor has died during training for the America's Cup. In 1999, Martin Wizner of the Spanish Challenge died almost instantly when he was hit in the head by a broken piece of equipment.

No deaths have been recorded during the actual racing since its inception in 1851.

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