Fatal America's Cup sailing accident on Bay raises safety questions

May 10, 2013 12:00:03 PM PDT
The death of Artemis Racing crewmember Andrew Simpson is renewing concerns by sailing experts about the safety of the multimillion-dollar class of boats, like the Artemis AC72, in the very challenging San Francisco Bay.

This is crash number two; Oracle already crashed an AC72 in the Bay last fall.

We spoke with a sailing expert who tells us it's not necessarily our Bay, people sail safely here every day, but that this is an extreme sport.

Video from the Artemis Racing website gives us an idea of just how intense these competitors are. They're pushing the limits and they're doing it in super lightweight catamarans with a sail that's shaped like a wing.

Sailors, and myself, we all want to point out that we do not know what happened Thursday. It could have been as basic as hitting a log.

But sailors say this will continue the discussion that was already going on over how safe people are while sailing these catamarans

"I mean, these boats are pushing the limits," Sailing Magazine publisher John Arndt said. "Sailors sail this Bay year-round, 365 days a year, I sail it all the time for 30 years now. The Bay, fundamentally, is a great place to play; it's a great recreational spot. But I guess, as I've been thinking about this, this is like IndyCar Racing. I mean, you can drive your TV van around the Indianapolis Speedway perfectly safely. But if you go ahead and get out there in an IndyCar, it gets very dangerous."

The AC72 belonging to Larry Ellison's Oracle Team that flipped last fall in the Bay also happened during a training exercise.

If you add the power of these sails to the high winds and the tough current that we have in the San Francisco Bay it is very challenging and a dangerous situation.

The sailor that we spoke with says these sailors are trained, very well trained. They do have safety training and they have precautions, they talk about safety frequently.

He says at this point there isn't any talk about setting limits, but he says you can be that race organizers are going to take a look at this and are going to be re-evaluating things.


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