Safety concerns regarding the boats used in the America’s Cup have again been raised after competitor a Swedish competitor tragically died during training in May in the US. As reported in The Australian, Mr Andrew Simpson, who was sailing on Sweden’s entry in the America’s Cup, the Artemis, became stuck underneath the AC72 catamaran for ten minutes after it capsized off San Francisco Bay. He was sadly later pronounced dead at the Saint Francis Yacht Club. The safety of “super-fast” catamarans used in the Cup was brought into question late last year after an AC72 capsized and threw the entire Team Oracle overboard during training. The $8 million Oracle boat was destroyed in the incident, and while the team “narrowly escaped” injury, the Cup’s Managing Director at the time pointed out that the risk of becoming stuck under the boat once capsized is high. Yachtsman James Spithill was involved in the Team Oracle capsize, and told Nine News that sailing was like professional car racing in that accidents result from competitors “pushing as hard as they can” to try to get the most out of the respective vessels and vehicles.
While the use of such high-tech boats, capable of speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, have undoubtedly invigorated the Cup, they also place “exacting demands” on the sailors and support crews. As the President of sailing company OCSC told GPB News, they are “hard to control” and their safety is “really questionable”.
The Cup’s Regatta Managing Director Iain Murray reported to Yahoo News that during training, it is the entrant teams (and not the Cup’s organisers) who are responsible for setting their own safety procedures, including a procedure for dealing with a capsized boat. He pointed out that the Cup’s organisers do however have a responsibility for managing safety during official practices and regattas, and have rescue plans in place including paramedics “in wetsuits in jet boats with stretchers in case in there is an accident”. He noted that teams have been adopting the same crisis management procedures that the Cup has detailed in its race manual that has been put together by “well-trained former military personnel”.
According to a report by BBC News, the Artemis CEO Paul Cayard said that “assuring everybody’s wellbeing” was a priority for the Artemis crew, and offered his condolences to Mr Simpson’s family. The Cup series begins in early July and will run until the end of August 2013.