As the sport of sailing has developed over the years, so too has the danger that comes along with the new “space-age” boats that race like cars across the waves. Sailors who race in America’s Cup know the risks and rewards that come along with these new boats, but the recent death of British Olympic champion Andrew “Bart” Simpson has prompted individuals involved with the sport to take a closer look. Authorities are currently investigating the cause of Simpson’s death, specifically why the 72-foot catamaran nose-dived and capsized last Thursday after finishing a challenging maneuver. They are hoping the investigation will reveal any safety issues with the new high-tech boats.
The accident involving the boat sailed by Artemis Racing of Sweden trapped Simpson, thirty-six, under the seven-ton boat for more than ten minutes. Rescue crews attempted to revive Simpson, but their efforts were unsuccessful. This was not the first accident involving these “high-performance catamarans,” which were introduced into the sport after Oracle Team USA won the Cup in 2010 with a giant trimaran. The boats were an attempt to revive the sport by capturing the attention of more spectators. The boats look much flashier than older models that have been around the sport for years and have the ability to go much faster. However, the sailor of the boat must be careful because one mistake in maneuvering the boat through the breeze could land in horrible disaster.
According to an America’s Cup organizing official, Iain Murray, the conditions Thursday were typical of San Francisco Bay, which often sees very gusty winds. The Artemis Racing team was said to be performing a seemingly normal maneuver under seemingly normal conditions. Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing both declined to comment on the safety of the boats. Murray further commented that these boats are part of an ongoing effort to take sailing to the next level. Jimmy Spithill of Oracle Team USA compared steering the catamaran to driving a race car. He further described the actual structure of the boat, which is “suspended on these tiny pieces of engineered carbon fiber.” This technology is “cutting-edge” and sailors are pushing these boats to the limits. British entrepreneur Keith Mills has expressed concerns over the safety of the boat and said that the boats were much too risky for him to support.
America’s Cup fatality raises safety questions, www.palmbeachpost.com May 11, 2013