Structural reviews of competing America’s Cup catamarans, a lower wind limit and improved safety equipment for sailors are being recommended to prevent a repeat of a training accident that killed an Olympic yachtsman.
The 37 recommendations set forth yesterday by Regatta Director Iain Murray are designed to increase the safety of the sailors by calling for buoyancy aids, body armor, crew locator devices, hands-free breathing apparatus and high visibility helmets as well as ensuring the seaworthiness of the vessels.
“Producing and implementing the safety plan is within the scope of the America’s Cup, as the sponsoring organization for this summer’s racing,” Stephen Barclay, the chief executive of the America’s Cup, said in a statement. “This America’s Cup safety plan is a necessary component of the permit application submitted to the Coast Guard for their consideration.”
Andrew Simpson, 36, died May 9 after he was trapped beneath a section of a capsized yacht, out of sight from other vessels and divers searching for him, according to Murray. Simpson won a gold medal for Britain in the Star class at the 2008 Olympics as crew for Iain Percy, now Artemis’s sailing team director. The pair won a silver medal in 2012.
The accident was the second involving the new 72-foot (22-meter) boats being used in the Cup. Powered by 131-foot carbon wing sails and capable of skimming above the water on hydrofoils at speeds exceeding 40 knots (46 mph, 74 kph), they are among the fastest sailboats ever built. Larry Ellison’s Oracle Team, the defending champion, destroyed a wing during an October training accident.
Patrizio Bertelli, chief executive officer of the Italian racing team Prada SpA (1913), said last week that the wind speed limit at the start of the America’s Cup finals should be reduced to 25 knots from 33 knots.
Murray’s recommendations call for decreasing the wind limit by 10 knots to 23 knots maximum, as well as checking the integrity of the vessels.
“We will only race if our sailing team believes they are safe racing AC72s,” said Paul Cayard, chief executive of Artemis Racing. “This confidence will be dependent on many criteria, one of the most important of which is the new safety criteria and rules changes that the America’s Cup organizers and competitors will adopt.”
Murray will now form committees to bring in experts to define additional technical recommendations for specific safety items such as protective gear for sailors.
“All four competing America’s Cup teams have cooperated in an open, helpful and constructive way,” Murray said. “The Review Committee noted there is a clear desire on the part of the teams to ensure the safety of the America’s Cup as much as possible.”
The Louis Vuitton Cup regatta is July 4 to Aug. 30 in San Francisco, followed by the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup on Sept. 1-4 with the America’s Cup Finals running Sept. 7-21.
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