Yacht was 'not fit for purpose' says mother of sailor killed in training
A racing yacht used by a British Olympic medallist who died training for the Americas Cup was "not fit for purpose", his mother has said as a coroner ruled the sailor’s death was accidental.
Pamela Simpson claimed the boat her son Andrew Simpson – known by his nickname Bart Simpson – was on was not up to the job when it capsized and killed him as he took part in training.
A coroner ruled that the death of the married father of two, who won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games and silver in the London 2012 Olympics, was a tragic accident and a “tremendous loss to the sailing community.”
Mr Simpson, 36, had been training on the £6.5 million Swedish Artemis Racing team yacht when it toppled over, trapping him underwater for 10 minutes at San Francisco Bay. He is thought to have become trapped beneath the platform of the catamaran, which stretches between its two hulls and was pronounced dead after efforts to revive him failed.
Mrs Simpson, speaking after the 20 minute inquest in Bournemouth, said: "The boat was not fit for purpose - the boat had an accident previously and was not up to the job."
But she said her son loved the sport and added: “It is every sailor's ambition to do top sailing and he loved it.”
Mr Simpson’s father Keith has previously said his son had raised concerns about the handling of the vessel at the beginning but that the Olympic medallist later enjoyed it.
Since Mr Simpson’s death it has emerged several sailors have raised concerns about the AC72 boats being used for the Americas Cup being too powerful to control. The boats are the fastest ever built and can travel at more than twice the speed of wind.
The craft has masts higher than 130ft and weighs around seven tonnes.
The boat, which had recently been modified to increase its speed, was turning away from the wind – a ‘bear away’ manoeuvre - when one bow became submerged and the boat flipped over. There were 11 crew on board at the time.
When the accident took place winds were between 15mph and 20mph and waves between 2ft and 6ft, but visibility was good, the inquest heard.
Richard Middleton, the coroner, did not hear any live evidence at the inquest, choosing instead to read reports from San Francisco police officers and the city's medical examiner.
He also did not consider any evidence about the design or condition of the 72ft racing yacht Mr Simpson had been on.
*An earlier Artemis Racing yacht participating in the San Francisco Round, 2012.
Officers from the marine unit at San Francisco Police were called at about 12.48pm on May 9 last year after the boat capsized half a mile from Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, the inquest heard.
An Artemis chase boat following the yacht had plucked Mr Simpson out of the water and the team had started to revive him, but he was taken ashore and pronounced dead about an hour later.
A report from Dr Amy Hart, a San Francisco medical examiner, said the yacht was sailing at 30knots, with a wind speed of 20knots when it capsized as it was bearing away.
The report said Mr Simpson's helmet was crushed in the impact, and he was stuck underneath the boat. He was also wearing a wetsuit and a floatation device at the time.
Dr Hart said Mr Simpson died "blunt trauma with drowning," and classified the death as an accident.
Mr Middleton recorded an accidental death verdict, and said: "I'm satisfied it's probable Mr Simpson's death was caused by a deliberate human act which has unfortunately and unexpectedly took a turn to cause his death."
The assistant coroner for Dorset added: "From the numerous tributes I have read, it is clear that Mr Simpson will be a tremendous loss to the sailing community."
Mr Simpson, of Sherbourne in Dorset, had recently moved to San Francisco with his wife Leah and their two young sons aged three and six months.
Sir Ben Ainslie said at the time of Simpson’s death that he was a “great person, a terrific sailor and a good friend to all of our team.”
*On the 21st of September 2014, there will be a global sailing event in honour of Andrew Simpson's memory.