Andrew Simpson (sailor)
17 December 1976|
Chertsey, Surrey, England
|Died||9 May 2013
San Francisco, California, USA
|Updated on 10 May 2013.|
Andrew James Simpson, MBE (17 December 1976 – 9 May 2013), nicknamed "Bart", was an English sailor. He won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, as crew for skipper Iain Percy in the Star class representing Great Britain. Simpson was killed in the capsize of the catamaran he was crewing on 9 May 2013, while training for the America's Cup in San Francisco Bay.
Simpson started his competitive sailing career in the Laser class, before switching to the heavier Finn class. He claimed the bronze medal at the 2003 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cadiz in the Finn class; his training partner Ben Ainslie took the gold, with Great Britain topping the medal table.
Simpson then moved to the two-man Star class, partnering lifelong friend Percy; they won a bronze medal at the 2007 ISAF Sailing World Championships in Cascais to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The pair won the gold medal in Beijing in the Star class. After winning the Olympic gold, Percy and Simpson took a break from Star sailing and were in the TeamORIGIN afterguard for the 2010 America's Cup. In 2010, he and Percy won the Star World Championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Simpson and Percy made the podium in every meeting of the ISAF Sailing World Cup in 2012, including gold at the Hyeres French World Cup regatta. They competed at the 2012 Olympic Games, again in the Star class, failing to defend their title despite being in the lead throughout the competition, but winning the silver medal. After the Star class was removed from the Olympic sailing disciplines, Simpson turned his attention to the America's Cup, moving to San Francisco to train in March 2013. He was known for his athleticism, and for his attention to detail in preparing the boat to obtain the best possible performance.
Simpson was killed on 9 May 2013, during training for the 34th America's Cup, when the Swedish Artemis Racing team yacht he was aboard capsized near Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The yacht, a 72-foot catamaran with a rigid, wing-like sail, was turning downwind and bearing away when it flipped over and broke into pieces. Simpson was trapped underneath its hulls for approximately ten minutes, and attempts to revive him by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore were unsuccessful. The cause of the accident is unknown. An investigation was initiated by the United States Coast Guard which involved San Francisco police and the America's Cup management.
In the aftermath of the accident, safety concerns were raised over the new AC72 class of yachts which had been chosen to compete in the 2013 America's Cup. This was the second accident involving the class; in October 2012 an Oracle Team USA AC72 also capsized in San Francisco Bay during training, causing substantial damage but no serious injuries. Christopher Clarey, writing in The New York Times, described the class as "high-speed and high-risk." Stephen Park, who heads the British Olympic sailing team, commented: "they're very high powered and the loads on them are huge ... these boats are untrodden waters for sailing. A lot of the loads and a lot of the equipment is new and there are a lot of unknowns and things being tested." Sailing journalist Stuart Alexander, writing in The Independent, stated that the AC72s are seen by some as "death traps." Simpson is the third sailor to be killed during training for the America's Cup. A steward was knocked overboard and drowned in 1935, while Spanish sailor Martin Wizner died in 1999, after being struck on the head by a piece of equipment that became detached. In early-June 2013, it was announced that the programme of events for the 2013 America's Cup would be significantly reduced in response to Simpson's death. Later that month, a review committee presented 37 proposed modifications to the event to an international jury which the committee deemed necessary to be fulfilled in order for the event to go ahead altogether.
John Derbyshire, performance director of the Royal Yachting Association, described Simpson as "a huge inspiration to others, both within the British Sailing Team and across the nation". Other tributes were paid by fellow sailors Ainslie and Percy, Olympian sport shooter, Peter Wilson, British Olympic Association's director of elite performance, Clive Woodward, and British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, amongst others. His funeral was held at Sherborne Abbey in his home town of Sherborne in Dorset.
Born in Windlesham, Surrey in 1976, where he lived and moved to Sherborne. He first learned to sail aged four or five, while visiting his grandparents at Christchurch, Dorset, and later sailed in a Seafly dinghy with his father, Keith. His talent brought him to the notice of Jim Saltonstall, who coached him in the Royal Yachting Association youth squad. Simpson attended Pangbourne College, a mixed boarding school in Berkshire, which originated as a nautical college, coaching students in sailing, seamanship and navigation. He studied at University College London, gaining a degree in economics. In addition to sailing, he was a keen footballer.
Affectionately known as "Bart", after the character Bart Simpson, from the American animated series of the same surname. Simpson was described as having "steely determination and focus" but being "diplomatic, softly spoken". He is survived by his wife Leah and their two sons, Freddie and Hamish.
Bart’s Bash is a fund raising event supporting the Andrew Simpson Foundation in memory of Andrew (Bart). Launched in 2014, it is the world’s largest sailing event that is run by sailing clubs, community sailing programmes, sail training centres, yacht clubs, scout groups, sea cadets and even groups of sailors, all around the world.
The main aims of the event are to increase international awareness of participation in sailing, and to raise funds for the Foundation to help support a range of sustainable projects, using sailing to improve the lives of children and young people globally.
The first Bart’s Bash inspired over 700 sailing clubs from more than 60 different countries to take part in their own individual Bart’s Bash race at their location, helping to encourage more people to get on the water and enjoy a day’s racing. In January 2015, Bart’s Bash was awarded a Guinness World Record for staging the largest sailing race in 24 hours.
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