The devastating news of the loss of one of British sailing's true legends, Andrew 'Bart' Simpson, was like a bad dream. Unfortunately waking this morning, the nightmare was very much a reality.
It was late at night UK time as the news broke of a horrific accident in San Francisco. Initially, all we knew was that the Artemis America's Cup AC72 had capsized during a training session in San Francisco Bay. Then shocking reports emerged of the tragic loss of life of one of the 11 crew members. After what seemed like an eternity, but was only a matter of an hour or so, the identity of that crew member was revealed, and the British sailing community reeled in shock. Andrew Simpson, affectionately known as 'Bart', one of the sport's nicest guys, was confirmed as the casualty. For those who were awake, it seemed like a bad dream, while others woke to the shocking news, which put sailing at the top of the news bulletins, for all the wrong reasons.
First official confirmation of the rumours regarding the dead man's identity came via the Artemis website, which stated: "It is with immense sadness that Artemis Racing confirms the tragic death of crew member Andrew 'Bart' Simpson today in San Francisco." Apparently Bart was trapped under the giant multihull when it capsized. Attempts to revive him, both afloat and subsequently ashore, were unsuccessful.
“The entire Artemis Racing team is devastated by what happened,” said Artemis Racing CEO Paul Cayard. “Our prayers are with Andrew Simpson’s family, his wife and kids, and also the rest of my teammates. It’s a shocking experience to go through, and we have a lot to deal with in the next few days in terms of assuring everybody’s well being."
An accident waiting to happen?
After last year's capsize of Oracle's AC72, fortunately without any injuries, there had been much speculation about the power of the new generation of America's Cup boats, and the potential for serious injury. Everyone hoped that the fears would prove unfounded.
Deaths in sailing are rare, the last one related to America's Cup racing was when a Spanish crewman died in 1999 prior to the 2000 Cup. Before that you have to look back to 1935. Previously the biggest danger was that of being hit by a part of the boat's powerful rig, but the new mutihulls, with their high speeds and threat of capsize, bring new hazards. Simpson's death will undoubtedly fuel the debate over whether the current generation of boats is simply too powerful and dangerous.
A true Olympian
Bart, as he was universally known, won Olympic Gold in the Star class in 2008, sailing with life-long friend Iain Percy, and in 2012 the duo took silver. But that's just part of Bart's story.
Read on: Tragic Loss of British Sailing Legend Andrew Simpson