An Olympic sailor from the Swedish Artemis Racing team died Thursday when an America's Cup sailboat capsized during a training run in the San Francisco Bay. Another sailor was reported injured.
America's Cup officials identified the deceased sailor as British-born Andrew "Bart" Simpson, someone the team is "immensely" sad about losing. The 36-year-old Olympic gold medalist was the team's strategist. He had won gold in China in 2008 and silver in 2012.
He joined the team, which docks in Alameda, in February, providing his crew with weather and tactics support, according to the America's Cup website.
Crews performed CPR on Simpson for about 20 minutes, after the 1 p.m. accident just north of Treasure Island, according to San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. But just after 2 p.m., fire paramedics stopped life-saving efforts. He had been in the water for about 10 minutes, probably trapped under the AC 72 vessel, Hayes-White said.
“It is with immense sadness that Artemis Racing confirms the tragic death of crew member Andrew 'Bart' Simpson today in San Francisco,” said an official America's Cup statement. “Simpson, however, was trapped underneath the boat and despite attempts to revive him, by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore, his life was lost."
"Andrew was an immensely popular and respected member of the sailing community, and his two Olympic medals were testament to his talent," the statement read. "His easy-going personality made him loved by many; always friendly, always smiling and always supportive of others."
“The entire Artemis Racing team is devastated by what happened,” said CEO Paul Cayard, himself a seven-time world sailing champion, a six-time America's Cup veteran and two-time Olympian. “Our heartfelt condolences are with Andrew's wife and family.”
Eleven other sailors were aboard the 72-foot long craft, and the other 10 were taken to a support boat operated by Oracle Racing, which is defending the America's Cup title from 2010 in San Francisco this summer. One of those 10 sailors was injured, but his condition was not considered life-threatening. Artemis Racing is the "challenger of record" for the 24th America's Cup.
Sailing fans gathered in Alameda where Team Artemis docks on Thursday evening bringing flowers and well wishes for Simpson, a husband and father. Friends remembered him as a fine sailor and a man with a sunny disposition.
The death prompted sailor Stan Hammond to wonder if racing the massive yachts is too dangerous.
"I'm scared," he said. " You don't want to see anybody else die. You don't want to see a train wreck or NASCAR on the water but this is the edge of the edge."
This it is the third America's Cup training accident — though the first fatal one — in the last two years.
It's unknown why the boat capsized. Winds at the time show the average gusts to have been between 25 mph and 35 mph, waves between four to six feet high, and water temperatures about 55 degrees -- nothing out of the ordinary.
Sailing in the San Francisco Bay is both exhilerating and dangerous — mostly because of the winds.
"It has ideal winds," said Rich Jepsen, of OCSC Sailing in Berkeley. "But at that speed, there is no room for error." Seventy-two-foot catamarans like the Artemis can travel between 40 to 50 mph.
Back in October, a nearly $8-million, 72-foot catamaran used by Oracle Team USA capsized near the Golden Gate Bridge. No one was injured when that happened. But there was at least $2 million in damage to the wing of the AC 72 boat, a massive vessel with a 13,000-pound hull and a 131-foot mast.
To see some video of the Team Oracle boat capsizing in October 2012, click here:
There was another accident in June 2011, with the same Oracle team.
Artemis has had technical problems, as well. Last fall, Artemis said the front beam of its AC72 catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat's christening. A year ago, Artemis' AC72 wing sail sustained serious damage while it was being tested on a modified trimaran in Valencia, Spain.
The America's Cup race is scheduled to run from July through September, and the teams are training on the bay in specially made 72-foot catamarans.
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NBC Bay Area's Kyle Bonagura, Tim Bollinger, Gonzalo Rojas, Jean Elle and Jeff Ranieri contributed to this report, as well as the Associated Press.