Doubts over America's Cup after death of Olympic gold medallist Andrew Simpson


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The Independent Online

Doubts over whether the America's Cup will be able to go ahead at the beginning of next month have resurfaced in San Francisco with the event authority appearing to ask an international jury to impose additional regulations following the death of British Olympic gold medallist Andrew 'Bart' Simpson.

A review committee headed by the boss of America's Cup Race management, Iain Murray, came up with 37 recommendations, some to do with safety, some to do with technical requirements for the 72-foot wing-powered catamarans stipulated by the defence.

Only two of the 37 have so far been agreed and two international jurors have been asked to start a mediation process on Thursday to settle the concerns of the three challengers plus the defender.

The event authority's ceo, Stephen Barclay, has issued a long statement explaining the procedures which have to be undertaken, including satisfying the United States Coastguard that it can issue the permit(s) needed to stage the event on San Francisco Bay.

The USCG has made it very clear that it is our (ACEA's) responsibility regarding safety and in its guidance said Barclay, quoting the USCG as writing: “If the district commander or the captain of the port has concerns that the event sponsor will be unable to ensure the safety of the participants then the application should be denied unless the event sponsor provides additional information, in writing, that demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Coast Guard that the sponsor has a safety plan in place that will mitigate these concerns.”

Barclay adds that the application for a permit to the USCG had all 37 recommendations attached. So ACEA is seeking a mediation process because changes to the rules require a majority of the four teams to agree and, so far, the defender, Larry Ellison's Oracle Racing, and the challenger of record, Sweden's Artemis, with whom Andrew Simpson was training, have lined up on one side, and, on some items, the other two challengers, Emirates Team New Zealand and the Prada-backed Italians in Luna Rossa on the other.

If mediation does not work then, Barclay says, Murray will ask the international jury “for a determination that the competitors be required to satisfy all 37 safety recommendations”.

He says: “I think Iain will be successful with the jury, maybe not in mediation but with the determination” adding “In a couple of weeks we will see.”

A couple of weeks also see a scheduled opening ceremony on 4 July. Visitors to the event are still being invited to buy spectator tickets for that, though tickets sold for the first month of Louis Vuitton Cup challenger elimination racing, starting 7 July, have been refunded.