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Dorset's Andrew Simpson dies in US sailing accident
Updated 9:55am Saturday 11th May 2013 in News
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Tennis player Rafael Nadal has paid tribute to Andrew Simpson.
He said: "A tragedy what happened in the Americas Cup. All my support to the family of the great Andrew Simpson."
America's Cup bosses have promised a full investigation into the accident in which British Olympic gold medal winner Andrew Simpson died.
Simpson, 36, was sailing with the Swedish Artemis Racing team in San Francisco Bay when his catamaran capsized yesterday and he became trapped underneath.
The sailor, affectionately known as ''Bart'', was one of 11 crew members aboard the 72ft vessel which flipped over at about 12.30pm local time.
He was trapped underwater by the AC72 catamaran's platform for about 10 minutes, his team said, and doctors both in the water and on the shore could not revive him after he was freed from the wreckage.
Tributes from the sailing world and beyond have poured in for the married father-of-two, who won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Stephen Barclay, the chief executive officer of the America's Cup Event Authority, said an investigation would address why the accident occurred.
He said: ''One of the things about accidents such as these is that there is lots of speculation about various aspects of what happened.
''What we do know is that he was trapped underneath and it was for a few minutes, we're not sure if it was one, two, three or 10.
''I imagine that'll be in the evidence when we review what actually happened.
''These boats are very fast and if these sorts of things happen then there are procedures and those sorts of things that we follow.
''We have boats follow these vessels, there's divers and doctors in case such things like this happen and those procedures were followed.''
The accident is reported to have happened near Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Footage showed the yacht's sail lying on the water's surface and one of its two red hulls raised in the air as rescue boats surrounded it.
Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said: ''Andrew Simpson's death is a huge loss to sailing, the Olympic movement and British sport.
''I got to know him a little as he prepared for London 2012 and as well as being a talented sailor, was one of the nicest and most genuine people you could wish to meet. My thoughts and sympathies are with his family and friends.''
Andrew Simpson visited Ferndown First School on a number of occasions, and head Jo Di-Pede said the whole school was saddened to hear of his death.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Andrew Simpson and our thoughts are with his family,” she said.
“He was a friend of Ferndown First School and such a positive role model for our pupils, representing our core values. He visited our school several times and was very popular with the whole school community. We will be supporting our staff and pupils through this difficult time.”
Andrew Simpson with son Freddie at last year's Olympics parade through Weymouth
The type of super-fast boat involved in the accident which killed sailor Andrew Simpson was known to be a ''potential death trap'', a sailing expert has said.
The Olympic gold-medal winner died when his AC72 catamaran flipped during a training session for the America's Cup off the coast of California.
The accident has raised questions about the safety of the boats, which reach speeds of 46mph, after they were introduced to this year's competition.
In October, Australian Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby and yachtsman James Spithill were involved in a dramatic capsize in their Team Oracle catamaran in San Francisco Bay. The incident virtually destroyed the multimillion-pound boat but the men escaped serious injury.
Gael Pawson, editor of Yachts and Yachting magazine, said safety concerns were raised after last year's accident.
She said: ''A number of people said when the October crash happened that these are potential death traps and this was an accident waiting to happen.
''They are 72 feet long and sail at really high speeds which creates safety issues. These boats lift up as they sail and fly above the water. As soon as something hits, even clipping a wave, it will flip right over.
''They are sailing boats right on the edge of control and are pushed to the limit.''
The lack of oxygen underneath the catamaran after it capsized would also have created huge dangers, Ms Pawson added.
The death of Simpson, 36, has rocked the sailing community.
Sir Keith Mills, the deputy chairman of Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) was due to be made a Knight Grand Cross - the highest grade of knighthood - today but pulled out following the sailor's death.
Simpson, affectionately known as ''Bart'', is not the first sailor to have died during training for the race.
In 1999, Martin Wizner of the Spanish Challenge was fatally injured after being struck on the head by a broken piece of equipment, and a British crewman was also reported to have died in 1935 while training off Southend.
Simpson, educated at Pangbourne College, a mixed boarding school in Berkshire, was also a keen footballer but it was sailing that had really taken his heart, with his talent soon spotted by former UK national racing coach Jim Saltonstall.
He started his sailing career in the Laser class, a single-handed dinghy, eventually moving to sail the heavier Finns alongside Percy and Ainslie.
Tim Jeffrey, a spokesman for the America's Cup, was a long-time friend of Simpson.
He said: "I've watched him grow up sailing and go through three Olympics classes and he was the heart and soul of the British sailing team.
"He lifted the spirit of a large group because he was happy.
"I remember some of the photo shoots ahead of the Olympics where the photographer wanted the guys to look mean and moody and portray synthetic aggression and he just couldn't do that. He was a perpetual grinner. He was given an extra large happy gene."
US Coast Guard Lt Jeannie Crump said the extent of the damage to the boat is unknown, but she said a salvage boat was on scene to tow the catamaran to Clipper Cove.
She added Coast Guard officials are not sure what caused the catamaran to capsize, but an investigation has been launched.
Double gold medal winning Olympic rower James Cracknell tweeted: "Tragic, Olympic sailor Andrew Simpson's death in San Fran. Reminder no situation totally safe/controlled. No words enough for Leah & Freddie."
Another team member suffered minor injuries and was treated at the yacht club, said Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge. The other sailors were taken to the team's base in Alameda, where they milled about in tears, comforting one another.
It was not immediately known what caused the boat, a 72-foot catamaran with a 131-foot-tall wing sail, to capsize. Winds were about 20 mph, authorities said.
The boat's bright-red underside was visible from the northeast shore off Treasure Island as a dozen other boats surrounded it and towed it to the island.
Residents in Simpson's home town paid tribute to him today.
The Olympian lived in a terraced house close to the centre of historic Sherborne with his wife, Leah, and their two young children.
The family had temporarily moved to San Francisco so he could focus on training for the America's Cup.
A statement with the title ''Sad News'' was posted on a neighbourhood noticeboard close to their home today.
The tribute, from Fosters Field Residents' Association, read: ''It is with great sadness that we learned of the news of the death of Andrew Simpson in San Francisco yesterday.
''He was working as coach to the Swedish America's Cup Challenge Artemis and the boat capsized.
''He was trapped underneath and revival was impossible when they finally rescued him.
''Many of us will remember him from the celebrations of his Olympic gold medal from Beijing and his silver medal from Weymouth last year and also just walking round Fosters Field with Leah and their two little boys.
''Our sympathy and heartfelt condolences go to his family.''
John Tweed of the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy at the academy today where he paid tribute to Andrew Simpson
Andrew Simpson died despite a frantic effort to save him, it has been revealed. When he was found beneath the catamaran, teammates hauled him aboard a support boat. A San Francisco police officer from the department's marine unit then jumped aboard and began performing CPR as the boat raced toward an ambulance waiting on shore near the St. Francis Yacht Club, said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.
Rescuers continued to perform CPR on the dock of the nearby marina until finally declaring Simpson dead, the chief said.
"Your heart just sinks," said Bob Naber, commodore with the Bay Area Multihull Association. "This was a spectacular young man. A two-time medal winner and a father. ... There's just a big sadness."
Swedish Artemis team member Magnus Augustson told Sweden's daily newspaper Aftonbladet he was shaken by the accident and greatly saddened by the loss of a friend.
"I was the one who found him. It is the worst thing that has ever happened," he told the paper.
"We had been sailing for a couple of hours and everything had been going great, but then suddenly the boat tipped over. I don't really know what happened, I haven't seen any pictures since I am still very shaken by it."
The boat was built using special materials to be as lightweight and good as possible, he said.
"The whole thing was very scary. I fell off the boat, but jumped on board again. We knew how many people had been on board but we hadn't found everyone. So we started searching, lifting and looking around. But it is a very large boat and everything is so heavy, and there was a lot of wind."
Augustson told Aftonbladet it had taken "a long while" to find Simpson. "We have a medic with us and he did everything he could to try and resuscitate him. But there was nothing we could do," he said.
"Now this makes you wonder ... it feels a bit ridiculous to be doing sports right now. It feels unnecessary. He had a kid and a wife. And he was a good friend."
Poole Olympians Lucy and Kate Macgregor have also paid tribute to their London 2012 team-mate.
Lucy Macgregor, 26, said: “He was an absolutely incredible guy, as many of the tributes have already said.
“For us personally, he helped us out so much in the run-up to the Games. His wisdom and experience was just amazing for us. He really supported us and was always there when we needed a sounding board for some ideas or advice.
“He was an amazing, naturally talented sailor but also extremely intelligent and he really brought that to sailing and moved the sport on, along with Iain (Percy), in a lot of ways. In the Star, they were just incredible to watch in terms of their attention to detail and just always wishing to push the bar that bit higher. As many people have said, a real inspiration for other sailors.”
Kate Macgregor, 22, added: “He was one of the most helpful people in the team. If you had a bad day, he was there to help you. He was always willing to offer his advice and he was an inspiration to us all.
“He was so technically minded as well as an amazing tactician. If you weren’t sure about something, he was the person to go to, and he was always willing to help because of that. He was just the most knowledgeable sailor.
“The amazing thing about Bart was that he could get on any boat and make it go quick.”
Olympian Matthew Pinsent said: "Waking up to the news about Team GB Olympian Bart Simpson. Horrendous. RIP."
Flags fly at half mast at the sailing academy on Portland today
Stephen Barclay, chief executive of the America's Cup event authority, said officials were investigating but it was too soon to answer questions about the safety of the high-tech boats on the San Francisco Bay.
"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." The catamarans are much faster than the traditional sloops that historically competed for the trophy but have proved hard to handle.
The America's Cup race is scheduled to run from July through to September. The Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers starts on 4 July, with the final in September.
Portland's Olympic silver medallist Luke Patience said: "Devastated. Bart, you are a true inspiration."
TRIBUTES have been paid to a larger than life character, a great competitor and a gentle giant who had a friendly word for everyone.
John Tweed from Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy said that the whole team's condolences and sympathies went to Andrew Simpson's wife Leah and family.
He said: "We are in a deep shock really as this profoundly distressing news from San Francisco.
"We will remember Bart with deep affection. He was a really great character."
Mr Tweed said he had seen the Star sailors take the gold in China, when it was 'pretty unexpected,' and then watched in the home Games when the pair 'dominated' the racing all week but sadly lost out on the gold medal in the medal race.
Mr Tweed said: "Bart was a larger than life character and a gentle giant really.
"So friendly, and had a friendly word for everyone.
"And he was so proud of his wife and young family."
He added: "It's a great loss to sailing and a great loss to Dorset which was his adopted home and a great loss for his family."
Mr Tweed added that as a sailor Andrew would be remembered as a 'great competitor.'
He said: "And you know to achieve what they have achieved you have to be one of the best of the best and Bart was."
Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy issued the following statement: "A profound loss to the sailing world. Bart Simpson was a true British Olympic sailor showing huge grit and determination throughout his life.
"A success on and off the water Bart was a family man and always a celebrated team player.
"Greatly admired around the world, the global sailing fraternity has lost a true gentleman. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.
Andrew Simpson. Video from RYA
Olympic cycling champion Chris Hoy said: "Shocked to hear of the death of Andrew Simpson, Olympic Champ sailor. Met him a number of times, great guy. My thoughts are with his family."
Weymouth bobsleigh star Serita Shone tweeted: "Very sad news about Andrew Simpson - my thoughts are with his friends and family. The Sailing Town of Weymouth are thinking of you x
Dorset's Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Devastating news for Dorset to wake up to, Andrew Simpson was a legend....awful, thoughts to family and friends."
Staff at the Boat that Rocks restaurant in the shadow of the sailing academy on Portland paid tribute.
A statement said: "Very sad news about Andrew Simpson, our thoughts go out to all his family, friends and team mates."
Deputy Labour leader and shadow culture, media and sport secretary Harriet Harman wrote on Twitter: ''Such sad news about Andrew Simpson. My thoughts are with his family, friends and all
In a message on Twitter, Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ''Saddened by death of Olympic sailor Andrew Simpson. My thoughts are with his family and team mates at this tragic time.''
This is the second time a sailor has died during training for the America's Cup.
In 1999, Martin Wizner of the Spanish Challenge died almost instantly when he was hit in the head by a broken piece of equipment.
Bart Rugo, a member of the US Coast Guard, said winds in the area the boat had capsized were 'a little above normal' when the tragedy happened.
He said: 'You always have to pay attention to the wind. If you don’t make a turn at the right time with a boat like that, it’s easy to go over. With that much sail, the margin of error is small.'
San Francisco Fire Department spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said that Simpson was taken to St Francis Yacht Club where paramedics performed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, but was pronounced dead.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2322218/Andrew-Simpson-dead-British-Olympic-champion-killed-sailboat-capsizes-practicing-Americas-Cup.html#ixzz2SsRoWvdi
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The Artemis team, which Simpson joined well after it was formed by Swedish billionaire Torbjorn Torqvist and managed by Californian Paul Cayard, has been plagued with difficulties since it began training in Valencia. The wing of a specially modified training yacht collapsed and the new boat, the first of two, suffered major structural problems as it was being given its test to in San Francisco.
The second yacht, due to contest the Louis Vuitton Cup elimination trials, which begin in San Francisco on 5 July, has been delayed in the search for performance improvements and is due to begin its own trials early in June.
The first of two yachts being built by the defender, Oracle Racing, headed by Sir Russell Coutts and for whom quadruple Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie is a prominent team member, also capsized in San Francisco Bay and had to be almost completely rebuilt. No-one was seriously injured in that accident.
The new style of yacht stipulated by Oracle is a 72-foot, twin-hulled catamaran with a towering and immensely powerful hard wing instead of conventional sails. They are very difficult to sail and America’s Cup Race Manager Iain Murray had predicted: “There will be injuries.”
Simpson, who served as the Swedish team's strategist, was one of 11 members of crew on board the 72ft catamaran.
He was sailing alongside his childhood friend and Olympic partner Iain Percy, who is the sailing team's director and tactician.
Six weeks ago, Simpson tweeted: "Moving the family to San Fran for 6 months is pretty hectic!!! The cup should be fun though!!"
John Robertson from the Sonar team put on Facebook: " Speechless, thoughts with Barts family and friends. Awesome bloke, legend."
Councillour Sandy West put on facebook: "RIP Andrew "Bart" Simpson Double Olympic Medalist, can't tell you what an honour it was to have met you, now sailing across the heavens."
UK Sport tweeted: "Thoughts are with the friends, family and @BritishSailing family of Andrew "Bart" Simpson following the tragic news of his death."
Andrew Simpson caught the sailing bug when he was a young boy, despite being born in 1976 in the landlocked town of Chertsey in Surrey.
While visiting his grandparents in Christchurch, Dorset, he took to the waves with his parents when he was just four or five in their Sea Flyer boat, according to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).
Even at such tender years he raced through the surf faster than his father, and it was not long before he had a boat of his own in which to hone his craft.
Simpson, known affectionately as ''Bart'' after the television character, grew up racing two boys who would become Olympic legends in their own right - Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, the latter being his childhood Lego-building friend, sailing partner and best man at his wedding.
Last year Simpson told the RYA and the British Sailing Team: ''They are both fantastic sailors. Sometimes you thought you were lucky to be sailing against those guys because they're such good sailors and sometimes I'd beat them although more often than not they would beat me.
''They're that little bit better for reasons I learned later in life; that they worked harder at it not necessarily because they're much more talented.''
At the start of his career Simpson sailed in the Laser class, plugged away for many years behind Percy and Ainslie in the Finn class, before moving to sail Finns himself.
In 2001, having missed out to Percy for Olympic selection the previous year, he took silver at the 2001 Finn European Championships, following it up with bronze at the World Championships in 2003.
He missed out to Ainslie for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and the following year joined the America's Cup challenger +39 Challenge as helmsman.
With Ainslie so dominant, Simpson teamed up with Percy in 2007 in the Star class, TeamGB said. The partnership flourished immediately, and the pair won World Championship bronze.
A year later was perhaps their finest triumph as a team, when they won gold in the Star class at the Beijing Olympics. He was later made an MBE in the 2009 New Year Honours list.
Speaking of how he felt at the time, Simpson told the RYA: ''You win a gold medal with your best friend and you're on the podium and the national anthem is played and you've just had a really tough regatta, it's not like we won it easy, it was a real war.
''Iain looked like he was going to cry so I put my arm around his back and said, 'Nice work mate'.
''He was just exhausted or about to cry, I'm not sure which, but he is quite a tough lad so he kept it in.''
Simpson and Percy went on to take Star gold in the 2009 European Championships and the 2010 World Championships.
But they could not quite manage gold at last year's home Olympics, taking silver behind the Swedish pair despite heading into the medal race with an eight-point lead.
Simpson leaves behind a wife, Leah, and a young son, Freddie.
Tragic PA picture from the scene:
The accident is reported to have happened near Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Footage showed the yacht's sail lying on the water's surface and one of its two red hulls raised in the air as rescue boats surrounded it.
Former America's Cup sailor Andy Green had known Simpson for many years.
He said: ''He was questioning whether he wanted to continue sailing, but because his friend Iain Percy was at Artemis he went over there in February and started racing with them as a valuable asset. He will be sorely missed by them.
''It's particularly poignant for a British audience that this tragedy has happened because of his history in the Olympics, but I can only hope that Britain goes on to get involved in the Americas Cup and win it back, with this very firmly in mind.''
Paul Cayard, Artemis' chief executive, said the entire Artemis Racing team was ''devastated'' by what had happened.
He said: ''We obviously had a tragic day today on the bay and our thoughts and prayers are with Bart Simpson's - Andrew Simpson's - family, his wife and kids, and also with the rest of the team-mates.
''It is a shocking experience to go through and we have a lot to deal with in the next few days in terms of assuring everybody's well-being.
''The boat itself is under control, but it is certainly not the first of our concerns. We are focused on the people.''That is what we are working with and on and we will give you more information when we are able to.''
The cause of the accident is so far unclear.
The US Sailing Team also spoke of its shock and sadness at the news, saying: ''A tremendously sad day for the sport of sailing. Our thoughts are with the family of Olympic Champion Andrew Simpson, and Artemis Racing.''
Sir Clive Woodward, British Olympic Association director of sport at London 2012, paid a Twitter tribute: ''Totally shocked to hear Olympic star Andrew 'Bart' Simpson died after Swedish America's cup catamaran capsizes - thoughts with his family."
Simon Shaw, sailing double world match racing champion, added: “Today we lost a courageous sailor. A true friend from school, till now, my heart is with his family.''
The British Sonar team, made up of John Robertson, Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas, also took to Twitter to post a tribute.
The team, who all live on Portland, said: ''Devastated by the news from Artemis racing... Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bart's family and team, a true sailing legend...''
Olympic silver medallist windsurfer Nick Dempsey said via his Twitter account to pay tribute to Andrew Simpson, tweeting: ''Going to miss you Bart'', while Luke Patience, who took silver in the men's 470 class at London 2012, said: ''Devastated. Bart, you are a true inspiration.''
A statement from Sir Ben Ainslie's Oracle team read: ''Today is a sad day for all of us in the sailing community. Andrew Simpson was a great person, a terrific sailor, and a good friend to all of our team.
''Our thoughts are with his family and the entire Artemis team. He will be dearly missed.''
AN OLYMPIC gold medal winning sailor, who learnt to sail in Dorset, has died after his yacht capsized off the California coast.
Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, was originally from Sherborne in Dorset and spent much of his time training on the Olympic and Paralympic sailing waters at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy.
He and his Star crew mate Iain Percy wowed the crowds at the Nothe Gardens during last summers games, clinching a silver medal on day nine of the competition.
Simpson was taking part in training in San Francisco Bay ahead of this summer's America's Cup when the catamaran he was in turned over and he became trapped underneath, a statement from Artemis Racing said.
The statement said: "It is with immense sadness that Artemis Racing confirms the tragic death of crew member Andrew 'Bart' Simpson today in San Francisco."
Simpson was one of 11 members of crew on board the catamaran when it capsized.
Despite attempts to revive him both in the water and on the shore, he was unable to be saved, the statement said.
Simpson, 36, who was affectionatly nicknamed Bart after the television character of the same name, had previously won gold in the Star class in the 2008 Beijing Games.
Born in Chertsey, Surrey, he started sailing at the age of six with his father in Christchurch, Dorset. He was awarded an MBE in the 2009 New Year Honours list.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and British Sailing Team said they were ''devastated'' to confirm Simpson's death while sailing the 72ft yacht yesterday.
John Derbyshire, RYA's performance director: ''We're devastated by the news from San Francisco today.
''Andrew is someone I've worked closely with since the age of 16 - he was a great talent, and a key figure in our World Class Programme over many years culminating in his well-deserved Olympic success.
''He was a huge inspiration to others, both within the British Sailing Team and across the nation and our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this terrible time.''
Stephen Park, RYA Olympic manager, added: ''Andrew was a fantastic sailor who got the best out of everyone he sailed with.
''He was much loved and will be sorely missed by everyone in our close knit team. Our thoughts today are with Andrew's family.''
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