SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - British yacht-racer Andrew “Bart” Simpson was riding on the windward side of a 72-foot catamaran during an America’s Cup training exercise when it cartwheeled and he died underneath, a race organizer said on Friday as officials vowed a full review of the incident.
The other 10 crew members swam to safety when their boat, The Artemis, capsized and broke into pieces on Thursday in the San Francisco Bay, but none of them or anyone else on four support boats - including doctors and divers - could find their 36-year-old mate, regatta director Iain Murray said.
“We need to find out how you lose a person in a small boat with a lot of people looking,” he said.
The death of Simpson, a two-time Olympic medallist, has cast a cloud over the high-stakes race. America’s Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said his organisation would make public its review of the death of Simpson.
The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the death in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard. The Artemis was Sweden’s entry in the America’s Cup.
Asked at a news conference in San Francisco if his organisation was considering using boats in the upcoming race other than the 72-foot type of double-hulled vessel Simpson had been riding, Barclay said: “Nothing’s off the table.”
When asked if it is possible the race could be cancelled, Barclay repeated his earlier statement.
“Nothing is off the table,” he said. “We will look at what happens through the review process.”
Simpson, 36, won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He was part of the crew on the Artemis as they performed a so-called “bear-away” maneuver, turning away from the wind, when one bow dropped under the water’s surface and the vessel flipped, America’s Cup spokesman Tim Jeffery said on Thursday.
Simpson was trapped beneath the boat in the water for 10 to 15 minutes until his body could be located and pulled out by rescue divers, who tried but failed to revive him, according to the San Francisco Fire Department.
Simpson’s death was the first fatality in connection with the America’s Cup since 1999, when Martin Wizner, a crew member from a Spanish team, died in a training accident off the coast of Majorca in the Mediterranean. No one has ever died sailing in the actual America’s Cup race.
The San Francisco Bay is scheduled to be the scene of the Louis Vuitton Cup from July 4 through September 1, and the America’s Cup Finals are set for September 7 to September 22 with defending champion Oracle Team USA taking on the winner of the Louis Vuitton Cup.
Billionaire Larry Ellison founded Oracle Team USA.
Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Andrew Hay