America’s Cup race officials today said no plans have changed for the regatta in San Francisco following the death of a team’s sailor during training last week, but said they have convened a panel to review all procedures before the races start in July.
Andrew “Bart” Simpson, a British sailor who was a member of Sweden-based Artemis Racing, died after his team’s 72-foot boat capsized during a practice run in the Bay at about 1 p.m. last Thursday.
Regatta director Iain Murray said he will chair the six-person panel, which plans to review the safety measures in place for the America’s Cup sailors and will recommend changes, if necessary, for the practices and races.
Murray said although racing starts on July 5, there was no estimate yet for when the panel would return with its recommendation.
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“I don’t want to put a deadline on when we’re going to have something, but it’s going to be shorter rather than longer,” he said.
The panel was agreed upon by all four teams participating in the races—the defending champion Oracle Team USA and the challengers Artemis Racing, Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge, said Tom Ehman, vice commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, the trustee of the America’s Cup.
The teams all gathered at race headquarters this morning to talk about the state of the races following Simpson’s death.
Ehman said there was “no discussion about calling the event off” at today’s meeting and said “we’re moving fully forward.”
None of the teams, including Artemis Racing, have indicated they plan to drop out of the regatta, Ehman said.
Murray said if one of the teams does drop out, the races would still go on but that the format would probably have to be changed for the preliminary races prior to the America’s Cup Finals starting Sept. 7.
Sailing Team Germany announced over the weekend that safety concerns following Simpson’s death have prompted its youth team to drop out of the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup in September.
Murray said plans are also still the same for those races, which run from Sept. 1-4 and involve sailors ages 19 through 24, and added that “there are a number of teams waiting to take their place.”
Murray said all of the sailors in the various races are “obviously very subdued” following the death but will return to practicing on Thursday after a weeklong break in honor of Simpson.
The other members of the six-person panel announced today include Sally Lindsay Honey, John Craig and Chuck Hawley, three Americans who all also participated in the independent review of a capsizing that killed five people during a separate sailing race near the Farallon Islands last year.
The last two members of the panel are Vincent Lauriot-Prevost from France and James Farmer from New Zealand, who have extensive expertise and experience in sailing, race organizers said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News