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America's Cup to continue despite fatal accident

May 14, 2013|By Maria L. La Ganga
  • The Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran, an America's Cup entry from Sweden, lies capsized after overturning during training in San Francisco Bay.
The Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran, an America's Cup entry from Sweden,… (Noah Berger / Associated…)

SAN FRANCISCO — Five days after a sailor was killed during a training run on San Francisco Bay, officials announced that the America’s Cup would go on as scheduled and named a six-person panel to review the incident and make safety recommendations for the high-profile event.

“Every indication is that the teams will go forward and the event will go forward,” said Tom Ehman, vice commodore of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which is an America’s Cup trustee. “There has been no serious consideration about not continuing this summer…. We have every reason to believe that, yes, all four teams are continuing.”

Ehman and America’s Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray addressed reporters Tuesday afternoon after a meeting of the four teams scheduled to take part in the summer racing series.

Murray described the teams as “obviously very subdued” after last week’s accident, which claimed the life of Andrew “Bart” Simpson, a British Olympic champion and member of the Swedish team, Artemis Racing. The incident also seriously damaged Big Red, the Artemis' 72-foot catamaran.

“There’s an incredible amount of emotion particularly from the sailors,” Murray said. “It’s a tight-knit community. Everyone is united. We have a lot of really good teams here. We just need to look at what we’re doing and focus our efforts and resources on, not performance, but making this a better place to be.”

Ehman said that sailing authorities were waiting for the results of a San Francisco Police Department investigation, which is expected soon.

Each team designs its own boat. Since the Artemis vessel crashed last week, questions have arisen about whether boat design has outpaced the sailors' ability to control their craft and ensure safety.

But Murray defended the controversial craft and said that “they have exceeded all expectations.” He said that the boats “can certainly sail in those conditions” on the choppy San Francisco Bay and promised that “we can manage the expectations…and look at all times at the safety of the crew.”

That is what the committee, made up of members from the United States, New Zealand, France and Australia, will do in coming weeks, Murray said.

“We will look at everything from the type of racing, the race courses, the times we sail,” he said. “We have an open book as to what we’re going to look at.”

Racing is scheduled to begin in early July, with teams from Italy, Sweden and New Zealand competing to see which will take on the defending champion, Oracle Team USA. The finals are scheduled for early September. Before racing commences, the Coast Guard must issue a permit for the event.

“The Coast Guard supports the America’s Cup effort here,” Capt. Matt Bliven told reporters during the news conference. “Regardless of whether the incident happened last week or not, we’d still be evaluating the process.”

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maria.laganga@latimes.com

Twitter: @marialaganga

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