May 9, 2013 / 10:28 PM / 4 years ago

British sailing champ dies in America's Cup training off California

3 Min Read

Silver medallist Andrew Simpson of Britain smiles during his men's star class keelboat sailing medal race victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth and Portland, southern England in this August 5, 2012 file photo.Pascal Lauener/Files

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - British yacht-racing champion Andrew "Bart" Simpson, who won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, was killed on Thursday when his vessel capsized in San Francisco Bay during training for the America's Cup, his team said.

Simpson, 36, a two-time Olympic medallist, had been sailing on the Artemis, Sweden's entry in the America's Cup, when the catamaran overturned, according to a statement posted on the Artemis racing website.

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

The Artemis website said Simpson was part of an 11-member sailing team and that all other crew members had been accounted for following the mishap.

A U.S. Coast Guard officer, Pam Boehland, said support boats had pulled 12 crew members from the water, and that one was taken to a San Francisco hospital.

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge confirmed that one male crew member had died in the accident and said he was estimated to have remained under water for 10 to 15 minutes before he was recovered.

Silver medallists Britain's skipper Iain Percy and crew Andrew Simpson (R) smile during their men's star class keelboat sailing medal race victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth and Portland, southern England August 5, 2012.Pascal Lauener

She said one other sailor from the Artemis crew was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries and later released.

Boehland said the Artemis capsized at about 1 p.m. local time (9:00 p.m. British time) northwest of Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The crippled vessel remained in the bay, and the Coast Guard established a 100-yard (91-meter) safety zone around the boat, she said.

Andrew Simpson of Britain, sailing in the Star Class, poses with his gold medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Qingdao in this August 21, 2008 file photo.Pascal Lauener/Files

The wreck was at least the fourth major accident in just over a year off the California coast or involving California vessels.

In March, a crew member was killed when a 30-foot (9-meter) sailboat broke apart in rough seas during a race near San Clemente Island.

In April 2012, four crewmen in a race from Southern California to Mexico died after their yacht ran aground. Two weeks earlier, five sailors died in a racing accident near the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco.

The Farallon incident prompted the Coast Guard to temporarily suspend racing in the Pacific Ocean off northern California.

Reporting by Ronnie Cohen; Writing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Gorman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Jim Loney

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