America's Cup sets schedules, Artemis to miss early races

June 11, 2013 6:53:26 PM PDT
The schedule for the July run-up to the America's Cup is almost set. The Swedish team will not be competing for most of the month, following a fatality during training in May.

"We still have a mountain to climb, but our plan is to launch our new boat in early July and get ourselves in a position where we can race by the end of the month," Artemis CEO Paul Cayard said in a statement Friday. "When the sailing team is satisfied that the boat can be pushed hard in race conditions, it will join the competition."

Cayard did not return a call seeking further comment.

British sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson, a two-time Olympic medalist, was killed May 9 when Artemis' 72-foot catamaran capsized on San Francisco Bay, trapping him under the wreckage of the 7-ton boat.

"It's fantastic they've made a decision to keep the challenge alive, to get that second boat on the water," Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the America's Cup, told The Associated Press by phone. "The great news is we'll see the second boat on the water, assuming it comes through testing, in early July. They just won't be ready to race until the later rounds.

"The capsize was obviously a day none of us wanted to happen," Barclay said. "If you look at where we are today, with the review committee recommending 37 safety improvements and the fact all the challengers are committed to the competition, the result of that is that the preliminary rounds are a bit more spaced out and one of the teams won't be participating in the first couple of rounds or however it pans out. It could have been a lot worse, couldn't it?"

Artemis returned to the water earlier this week, training aboard a 45-foot catamaran.

The Louis Vuitton Cup for challengers is scheduled to begin July 7 with a race between the only other challengers, Emirates Team New Zealand and Italy's Luna Rossa.

Until Artemis is ready to compete, the number of days with actual races will be severely curtailed.

The number of round-robins was reduced from seven to five as part of numerous safety changes after the death of Simpson, who won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and a silver in 2012. More days off have been worked into the schedule to allow syndicates more time for maintaining the high-tech catamarans, which are the fastest, most extreme boats ever sailed in the 162-year history of the America's Cup.

Artemis is scheduled to sail against the Kiwis on July 9 and against the Italians on July 11 in the first round-robin. Luna Rosa and Team New Zealand will still have to sail around the course to earn a point on days they're scheduled to race against Artemis.

Under the original schedule released long before the capsize, there were 21 races between July 7 and Aug. 4. If Artemis misses all five round-robins, there would be only five races between July 7 and Aug. 1.

Organizers originally envisioned 12 challengers signing up for the series that will determine the opponent for America's Cup champion Oracle Team USA, but only three have made it this far.

Artemis' first 72-footer was destroyed in the capsize. Investigators have yet to announce whether a structural problem caused Artemis' 72-foot yacht to flip, or if the capsize broke the boat. Last fall, Artemis said the front beam of the catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat's christening.

If there was a structural problem with the first boat, there's a chance there could be a similar problem with the second boat.

Barclay said the other syndicates have offered Artemis engineering and structural support "to ensure themselves that the boat is appropriate for the conditions in San Francisco. They're going through a rigorous testing program and that's where it sits."

Police and coroner's reports have yet to be released.

Two weeks after Simpson's death, regatta officials made several safety recommendations, including equipping sailors with body armor, hands-free breathing apparatus and high visibility helmets. They also suggested a flexible start time for races, based on wind and projected tidal flows, wind limits and a safe buffer zone around course boundaries and obstructions.

The cutting-edge catamarans have 131-foot mainsails that look and act like a jetliner's wing, improving speed and stability. In a recent development, carbon-fiber hydrofoils lift the hulls out of the water and make the boats go even faster.

The team that's leading after the round-robins has the choice to advance straight to the Louis Vuitton Cup final, leaving the other two boats to contest the semifinals beginning Aug. 6. The Louis Vuitton Cup final will begin Aug. 17, with the winner advancing to face Oracle in the 34th America's Cup beginning Sept. 7.


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