Stuart Alexander on Andrew 'Bart' Simpson tragedy: Some see these super-powerful 72-foot catamarans as death traps

 

Sailing Correspondent

A major investigation into the cause of the catastrophic capsize which led to the death in San Francisco of British Olympian and America's Cup sailor Andrew 'Bart' Simpson will be led by the US Coastguard.

Other city and state bodies, including those concerned with the port, safety, and sport, will be joined by members of Simpson's Swedish-based Artemis team and experts brought in by the America's Cup defender and organiser, Oracle Racing USA, which is owned by computer software billionaire Larry Ellison.

A main focus will be on whether there were specific circumstances which led to the disaster or was this was an accident waiting to happen? This is the second of the new breed of super-powerful 72-foot catamarans to crash in training. Some see them as death traps.

Not only do they use a giant wing instead of conventional sails, they also lift out of the water to skim across the surface on foils. The Kiwi challengers seem to have made most progress in keeping their boat stable, but they are continually on a knife-edge.

Since the new design was stipulated by the defender, Oracle, there have been predictions of major accidents and of injury to crew members, who are themselves under huge physical pressure.

They are also at risk of injury in the event of the boat breaking up in such a way that shards of carbon fibre can hit them with life-threatening or permanently damaging force.

Full details of exactly what happened to Andrew Simpson are expected to be given at a press conference in San Francisco later today but it appears that he died as a result of being trapped under the boat when it apparently broke up.

So far, there has been no hint that the public authorities will try to stop America's Cup 34 going ahead, nor that the Swedish team would want to withdraw. A British crewman was killed in 1935 training off Southend and a Spanish crewman was killed in training prior to the 2000 America's Cup in Auckland.

But none of the challengers is keen on the choice of boat for America's Cup 34, which starts elimination races between the three challengers on 5 July ahead of the Cup Match between the winner of that series and Oracle in a best of 17 starting on 7 September. Whether either could survive a full schedule over the 14 days allocated is a matter for speculation. The boat is also very expensive to build, maintain, and campaign.

Oracle said it expected to race in anything between three and 30 knots of wind over a course that is close to the shore between the Golden Gate Bridge and the ferry terminals. Such a wide range of conditions greatly affect the handling characteristics, set-up and equipment used on the boat.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn