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Bermuda sailing fraternity pays tribute to Olympic gold medallist Simpson

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The local sailing community is mourning the death of multiple Olympic medallist Andrew (Bart) Simpson who died after the catamaran he was sailing capsized during a training run for the America’s Cup in San Francisco Bay last week.

News of the Englishman’s death sent shock waves throughout the international sailing community, including Bermuda where Simpson coached and sailed with compatriots Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy in the Argo Group Gold Cup. Skipper Ainslie, Britain’s most decorated Olympic sailor, won back-to-back Gold Cups in 2009 and 2010.

“Andrew is such a well known sailor that everybody in the sailing fraternity knows him or knows of him,” said past Royal Bermuda Yacht Club (RBYC) Commodore and international sailing judge and umpire Peter Shrubb. “He was a gentleman who loved coming to Bermuda and sailing here. He was an all round nice guy and everybody who met him won’t forget him. He was a very good sailor and was a pleasure to have at the club in the Gold Cup.

“I was at the Olympics (2012) and he was there also so I saw him on a daily basis and he was just a nice guy. He was always friendly and it’s a tragic loss and a real shame but we have to move on from here.”

Former local Olympian Peter Bromby also has fond memories of his late Star Class rival who was a crewman for skipper Percy in the double-handed dinghy.

“He and Iain was one of the toughest teams that I’ve ever sailed against in the Star,” Bromby recalled. “He was a fantastic competitor, always fair and worked really hard at it. I knew him quite well actually and it was not unusual for us to go and sit at the same dinner table after sailing against each other.”

Simpson, who won a gold medal in the Star Class at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, was sailing on the Artemis, Sweden’s entry in the America’s Cup, when the catamaran overturned during a training run last Thursday.

The twin-hulled boat was performing a bear-away manoeuvre (turning away from the wind) when one bow dipped below the surface of the water and the vessel flipped over.

Simpson, who also won a silver medal in the Star Class at last year’s Olympics in Weymouth, England, ended up trapped beneath the boat in the water and had to be pulled out by rescue divers whose attempts to revive the sailor went in vain.

“The sad part is he has two young kids who I saw over in Weymouth when we were over there,” Bromby added. “It was interesting to see him juggling his dad life as well and now they don’t have a dad anymore which is awful. My condolences go out to his family.”

The catamaran Simpson was sailing on suffered extensive damage during the accident that has raised safety concerns over the new AC72 class of yachts chosen for the 2013 America’s Cup.

“I think a lot of people have been worrying about the safety of the America’s Cup since they have gone to these 72 -foot catamarans,” said Shrubb, who officiated at the 2007 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain. “These boats are so big and powerful that you see the crew now wearing crash helmets and I think everybody was sort of concerned about the safety factor of these boats.

“I guess this is really going to make the organisers stop and figure out what the next move is going to be with these boats because they are so big and powerful that things go wrong so quickly and they have to do something to ensure the safety of the sailors.

“I’m sure they (organisers) are going to review the whole situation to try and figure what the next step is to make the sport safe because clearly when you get boats that big and powerful and that fast the potential for danger can happen in a split second.”

Late multiple Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson and Ben Ainslie pictured here with local Optimist sailors during the Argo Group Gold Cup (Photo by Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association)
Late multiple Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson (right) shown here relaxing with team skipper Ben Ainslie during the Argo Group Gold Cup (Photo by Bermuda Optimist Dinghy Association)

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Published May 13, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm)

Bermuda sailing fraternity pays tribute to Olympic gold medallist Simpson

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