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.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on