Updated: Saturday, 11 May 2013 05:21 | By Agence France-Presse

Safety probe after Briton killed at AmCup

America's Cup organizers announced a full probe Friday into the capsizing of a catamaran that killed British Olympic champion Andrew Simpson, casting a pall over yachting's biggest race.


Safety probe after Briton killed at AmCup

The bottom of the Artemis Racing AC-72 catamaran is seen in the water at Hangar 3 at Treasure Island on May 9, 2013 in San Francisco, California. America's Cup bosses announced Friday a probe into why the AC72 yacht on which Briton Andrew Simpson died "nose-dived" into the water, and said other AC72 boats will not train until next week.

The high-speed AC72 "nose-dived" into the San Francisco Bay while performing a relatively common maneuver in normal conditions, they said after the tragedy Thursday during training for the 34th America's Cup in September.

The Artemis Racing crash was the second involving the spectacular new AC72 size of sailing boat, after one involving the Oracle team in October, in which no one was injured, and has revived questions about the new boat.

Given the circumstances, the Oracle team would not train with its two AC72s before Monday, said America's Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray. Two other teams with AC72s are not yet ready to train.

The San Francisco Police Department will lead its own probe, along with coastguards, to "rule out any criminal negligence or intent," said captain Matt Bliven of the US Coast Guard.

Thursday's mishap happened during regular training and in normal conditions in San Francisco Bay, with flat water and winds of 18-20 knots, organizers told a news conference.

 "The boat nose-dived... the boat ended up upside-down capsized, broken into many pieces," said Murray, who struggled to compose himself at first. He said Simpson, known by his nickname "Bart" after the TV series, was "a mate."

"It appears Bart was trapped under the solid sections of the yacht out of view, out of sight to the myriad people on board trying to locate him, including divers with proper apparatus," Murray added.

"All the crews had been trained under water, they all carried oxygen and were prepared for the worst. Andrew was located eventually" and doctors on support boats and later on the docks tried to revive him.

"Unfortunately they were unable to retrieve him and he passed," he said, adding that another sailor, Olympic bronze medalist Craig Monk of New Zealand, suffered minor injuries.

The AC72 boats developed for the 2013 America's Cup are described by event organizers as "speedsters" powered by 130-foot (39.6-meter) tall wing sails and with the ability to hydrofoil, rising out of the water to reduce drag.

They can reach top speeds in excess of twice the wind speed, and place strenuous physical demands on crew members.

Organizers said Friday they could not say how fast the Artemis boat was going, because it would be part of the investigation.

Americas Cup chief executive Stephen Barclay repeatedly declined to speculate on what happened, saying Murray had been tasked with conducting an independent review.

Asked if AC72 boats could be barred from the race, or if the race itself could be canceled, he said: "Nothing is off the table. We need to find what happened."

But a few questions later he said: "I've got absolutely no doubt that the event in San Francisco will be a fantastic event."

Simpson was an experienced yachtsman, winner of Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008 and Olympic silver in 2012 in the keelboat star class.

He had moved to San Francisco with wife Leah and sons Freddie and Hamish to train for six months. He wrote in March of his excitement, saying the move had been "pretty hectic" but the America's Cup "should be fun."

On Friday, his British Olympic teammate Iain Percy posted on his Facebook page: "Yesterday I lost my closest friend of over twenty five years, the friendliest and kindest man I have ever met."

"I cannot believe he is no longer with us," added Percy, who had known and sailed with Simpson since the age of seven.

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