Sport

Artemis crew member labels AC72s yachts 'death traps'

"I hope like hell that whoever survives this thing and wins it changes the boat class to anything safer than these God-forsaken death traps."

That statement from a crew member - on the condition of anonymity for himself and the team - summed up the general reaction to the death of 36-year-old Artemis sailor Andrew Simpson when the hulls of his America's Cup team's training yacht snapped in relatively mild wind conditions on San Francisco Bay on Friday.

Members of all the teams competing in the America's Cup qualifying regatta have stayed silent, publicly at least, as they contemplate how to react to one of the biggest crises faced by the event in its 162-year history.

Privately, one reflected the view of many when he said, "I hope after all of this, the only place people see these yachts is in museums and pictures."

America's Cup organisers have yet to decide what happens next, but the series, scheduled to be contested against defending champion Oracle from July 7, is definitely in doubt.

Stephen Barclay, chief executive of the America's Cup Event Authority, said, "Nothing is off the table. We need to know what happened."

Already there is talk both the challenger series and America's Cup might be contested in scaled-down AC45s rather than the AC72s.

A meeting involving the organisers and all teams is scheduled for Wednesday (US time), where more will be revealed on how the event progresses.

For now, the Coastguard has impounded the boat and police are still involved.

Lawyers are understood to be circling.

A source with a team in San Francisco says the Artemis designers might be the first to need legal counsel: "Their arses will be on the line. I don't know how they can avoid it the way the boat just crumpled."

"Those boats (AC72s) are so finely tuned to factors like who can build the lightest mast. Something was always likely to be compromised in design," another team member said.

Another complicating issue is the mental state of Iain Percy, the sailing director of the Artemis team.

Percy had originally encouraged Simpson, the best man at his wedding, to take up a contract with the team, and speculation was rife he may abandon his role and return to England.

It all seems such a world away from the America's Cup the whole of Australia embraced when John Bertrand skippered Australia II to victory against Dennis Conner's Liberty in 1983, the first time the Americans had lost the trophy in 132 years.

Topics:  accident, america's cup, fatal, sailing, san francisco


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