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No deaths have been recorded during the actual racing since its inception in 1851.
Simpson and his partner Iain Percy won an Olympic gold medal for England in 2008 in the Star class of sailing. The duo was expected to repeat in London in 2012 but was upset by a Swedish team and settled for silver.
Artemis Racing has had its share of upheaval in the buildup to the 34th America’s Cup. Late last year, skipper Terry Huthinson of Annapolis, Md., was released. He was replaced by Nathan Outteridge of Australia, who won a gold medal at the London Olympics.
The team has had technical problems, as well. Last fall, Artemis said the front beam of its AC72 catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat’s christening. A year ago, Artemis’ AC72 wing sail sustained serious damage while it was being tested on a modified trimaran in Valencia, Spain.
The Artemis wasn’t the first America’s Cup boat to capsize on the wind-swept San Francisco Bay. Oracle’s $10 million boat capsized in 25-knot winds in October, and strong tides swept it four miles past the Golden Gate Bridge.
No one was injured, but the rough waters destroyed the 131-foot wing sail.
Stephen Barclay, CEO of the America’s Cup Event Authority, said officials were investigating Thursday’s accident. He said it was unclear what effect the death will have on the America’ Cup races, which are scheduled to run from July to September.
It was too soon to answer questions about the safety of the high-tech boats on the San Francisco Bay, Barclay said.
"Obviously a catamaran is more prone to capsizing than a mono-hull," he said. "Whether boats are safe or unsafe, we’re not going to speculate on those things."
In addition to sailors wearing crash helmets and life vests, chase boats carry doctors and divers, Barclay said.
"There are lots of precautions that are taken, and some of those are as a result of Oracle’s mishap last year," he said.Next Page >
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