British Olympic sailing champion Andrew Simpson has been killed during a training session for the upcoming America’s Cup when his vessel capsized in San Francisco Bay yesterday.
The 36-year-old, who won gold in the Star class at Beijing 2008 and silver in the same discipline at London 2012, was sailing on Sweden’s Artemis as part of an 11-man crew when the catamaran overturned while performing a “bear-away” manoeuvre.
Simpson, who was team strategist, got trapped under the boat and remained under water for up to 15 minutes before he was recovered. Efforts to revive him were fruitless.
“It is with immense sadness that Artemis Racing confirms the tragic death of crew member Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson in San Francisco,” read a statement on the team’s website.
Artemis Racing chief executive Paul Cayard added: “The entire Artemis Racing team is devastated by what happened. Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew’s wife and family.”
Winds were blowing on the water at 18 to 20 knots, or about 23 to 25 miles per hour, which race organizers described as typical for the bay.
“The boats are designed to sail and compete in winds of up to 30 knots…so this wasn’t excessive,” an America’s Cup official explained. “It was windy but not super-extreme.”
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) led the tributes from the British sailing community.
“We’re devastated by the news from San Francisco,” RYA performance director John Derbyshire said in a statement from both his organization and the British sailing team. “Andrew is someone I’ve worked closely with since the age of 16 – he was a great talent, and a key figure in our world class program over many years culminating in his well-deserved Olympic success. He was a huge inspiration to others, both within the British sailing team and across the nation and our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this terrible time.”
British four-time Olympic champion Ben Ainslie also paid tribute to Simpson, who was a close friend.
“Today is a sad day for all of us in the sailing community,” read a statement. “Andrew Simpson was a great person, a terrific sailor, and a good friend to all of our team. Our thoughts are with his family and the entire Artemis team. He will be dearly missed.”
RYA Olympic team manager Stephen Park said Simpson “would be sorely missed.”
“Andrew was a fantastic sailor who got the best out of everyone he sailed with,” he said. “He was much loved.”
The British Olympic Association (BOA) also released a statement following the “tragic” accident.
“Andrew was a treasured and accomplished member of Team GB, both at the home Olympics in London 2012, where he won silver with childhood friend Iain Percy in the Star class, and at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where he won the gold medal also sailing alongside Iain,” it read. “Andrews’ talent and humor was an inspiration to others and he will be sorely missed by the Olympic Family.”
One other sailor from the Artemis crew was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries and later released.
The incident is believed to be the first fatality in connection with the America’s Cup since the early 1990s, when a crew member from a Spanish team died in a training accident off the coast of Majorca in the Mediterranean.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.