11 May 2013

Safety review after fatal capsize

9:23 pm on 11 May 2013

The America's Cup top official has refused to rule out the possibility this year's contest will be cancelled following the death of British yacht-racing champion Andrew Simpson.

Double Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson, 36, was trapped beneath the AC72 catamaran Artemis when it capsized in San Francisco Bay on Thursday afternoon.

New Zealand yachtsman Craig Monk, who was on the boat, sustained minor hand injuries and is now out of hospital.

The capsize followed numerous warnings about the safety of the sleek, high-tech catamarans being used for the contest.

America's Cup Event Authority chief executive Stephen Barclay says all aspects of the regatta will undergo a full review before organisers decide how to proceed with the competition.

When he was asked if it were possible that this year's competition, which begins with a qualifying contest in July, could be canceled, he repeated his earlier statement and added: "We will look at what happens through the review process."

Reuters reports that for now, competitors and race officials agreed to refrain from practice runs until at least Monday.

The cup finals are scheduled to be raced in September.

Safety review after fatal capsize

Concerns are being raised over the safety of the America's Cup multi-hull boats following Andrew Simpson's death.

Artemis Racing is to review how it can limit the risks in competitive sailing and ensure the safety of its crew.

Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie said the aim of the America's Cup is to push the limits of the boats and new technologies, but questions if there is a point where this should stop.

He said there is a fine line between testing or the situation developing into an accident.

Mr Abercrombie said it is 'a big ask' to sail these 73ft boats around the course with a wing sail that is bigger than the wing on a 747 jet.

Regatta director Iain Murray said the crew of Artemis were performing a turning manoeuvre in 18-20 knots of wind when the capsize happened, causing the boat to break into pieces.

The BBC reports sailors wear helmets and body armour and carry knives to cut themselves free from rigging, and also wear small oxygen bottles in case of being trapped underwater.

"All the crews had been trained underwater, they all carried oxygen and were prepared for the worst,'' said Murray.

Oracle capsized also

The Louis Vuitton Cup series, which determines the challenger to take on Oracle in the America's Cup, is due to start on 4 July.

The BBC reports Oracle capsized in San Francisco Bay in October 2012, though no-one was seriously hurt.

The change to traditional monohulls to make the sport more exciting for spectators, was instigated by Oracle.