What will fatal accident mean for America's Cup?

May 13, 2013 8:56:44 PM PDT
Last week's fatal accident aboard an America's Cup catamaran is fueling speculation about the impact it will have on the event. The 72-foot vessel broke apart on the bay last week, killing Olympic medalist Andrew "Bart" Simpson.

But it seems the tragedy could have a positive impact on the event.

The Artemis team and those others who knew Simpson are understandably grief stricken. But as for the impact on the event, Simpson's death has increased public awareness of the event and will likely result in a larger audience.

The picture of the crumbled racing yacht was flashed around the world. Stories of what happened in every major paper and network newscast. There was so much attention, organizers felt compelled to hold a news conference on Friday to help ease the pressure of reporters' questions on the Artemis team members.

More than one reporter asked if Simpson's death and the collapse of the Artemis yacht could cause the event to be cancelled.

"What I said was, nothing is off the table, we will look at what happens," America's Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay said.

But while Barclay says everything is on the table, the reality is shaping up to be something less open ended. Building a new class of America's Cup yacht can't be done in the time remaining and cancelling the event seems improbable.

"Yeah, I don't see that; I mean there's been a lot of planning, a lot of people involved, a lot of dollars on the table," IMG Worldwide Executive Vice President Steve Tseng said.

IMG is a sports marketing firm that advised the city during early negotiations over the America's Cup. ABC7 News asked Tseng what impact the accident will have on the event.

"I actually think it draws people in; unfortunately it's sort of the NASCAR model," he said.

Tseng says after Dale Earnhardt crashed in the Daytona 500, more people tuned in to watch.

"Unfortunately, that draws people in because they're like, 'Wow this is amazing, I can't believe there is a car accident,' or whatever it may be there so dramatic and that does attract people," he said.

That is not the response Mayor Ed Lee gave when asked what he thinks the impact will be on the event.

"As excited as we are for the race, I think safety is the No. 1 concern and we'll all be paying attention to that," Lee said.

ABC7 News asked the head of the organizing committee who has led the private fundraising for the America's Cup what he has heard of suggestions that the boats should be changed or the event postponed.

"Quite the opposite in everything I've heard," Mark Buell said. "It's peaked some interest in these boats and in this kind of racing and I think we'll see more interest in seeing that it happens in a positive way."

Tuesday the teams will meet and the organizers will talk with reporters about the progress of the investigation.


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