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Olympic sailor killed after Artemis overturns in San Fran Bay

BRITISH sailor Andrew Simpson has been killed in a training accident on the Swedish America's Cup challenger Artemis on San Francisco Bay.

Simpson, who won gold in China in 2008 and silver in 2012 with Iain Percy in the Star keelboat, was trapped under the 72-foot catamaran when it capsized in training.

"It is with immense sadness that Artemis Racing confirms the tragic death of crewmember Andrew 'Bart' Simpson today in San Francisco," said an official statement.

"Andrew, a British double Olympic medallist, was one of the 11-man crew aboard Artemis Racing's AC72 catamaran which capsized during training on San Francisco Bay ahead of this summer's America's Cup. All other crew are accounted for."

Simpson, however, was trapped underneath the boat and despite attempts to revive him, by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore, his life was lost.

"The entire Artemis Racing team is devastated by what happened," said CEO Paul Cayard.

"Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew's wife and family."

Simpson was 36.

San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said two people were injured when the Artemis Racing catamaran tipped over about 1pm near Treasure Island, a former naval station in the bay.

Reports suggest some crew were trapped for up to 10 minutes under the platform.

Talmadge said both were brought to shore and taken to the St Francis Yacht Club, where paramedics performed CPR on Simpson, but he was unable to be revived.

Officials said the other person's injuries were not life-threatening.

There are several New Zealanders working at Artemis on and off the water including crew members Craig Monk, Sean Clarkson (wing trimmer), Andrew McLean (grinder), Phil Jameson (pit).

An Emirates Team New Zealand chase boat was on the scene.

The class was designed to to make the America's Cup more exciting and spectator friendly, though there have been concerns raised about the boats' stability at high speeds, particularly while foiling in high winds.

Foiling is the practice of getting the boat up on the foils, not the hulls. It increases speed but also the risk.

The sailors are equipped with crash helmets, body armour knives and oxygen tanks to help in the event of a capsize, but even then the risks are serious.

The wind strength was measured at 22 knots gusting to 31 at the time of the capsize, but Coast Guard officials were as yet unsure what caused the boat to pitch pole.

America's Cup defender Oracle had a spectacular capsize in October and although no one was seriously hurt, the boat sustained major damage, taking three months to rebuild.

This accident will throw the spotlight on whether safety has been sacrificed for speed.

The race is scheduled to run from July through September, and the teams are currently training in the bay.

The Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers starts July 4, with the winner facing Oracle in the 34th America's Cup beginning September 7.

The capsized craft is the Swedish team's first boat, and is understood to be seriously damaged. Video footage shows the red hulls of the Artemis boat submerged with the wing sail

Artemis have been riddled with problems from outset, damaging their wingsail when they launched the first boat.

That kept them off the water for months, before re-launching only to find their catamaran was way off the pace of their Oracle counterparts in practice racing, which forced them back into the shed again for modifications.

It is believed they are close to launching a second boat, but the future of the team has been thrown into doubt given today's tragedy.

There are just three challengers for the America's Cup - Artemis, Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa.

Topics:  accident fatal sailing san francisco water sports yachting


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