Iain Percy, the Artemis Racing team manager and skipper, says the death of former team-mate Andrew Simpson has brought the Swedish challenger closer together and added more fuel to their burning desire to win the America’s Cup in Bermuda next year.
Simpson, who won Olympic medals and world championships sailing with fellow Englishman Percy in the Star class, was killed while training for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco on board Artemis’s AC72.
He was trapped underneath the boat’s hulls for approximately ten minutes and attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
“In the last America’s Cup we had a dramatic and traumatic experience but we came out of that very driven and together,” said Percy, who was also on board Artemis’s foiling catamaran that day in May 2013. “In the last year and a half we’ve become very determined and very professional.
“We have certainly entered this competition for one reason, and that is to win. We’re pushing very hard to push on and get quicker every day, and so far so good.”
A near capsize while training in their AC45S test boat in the Great Sound last week evoked memories of the accident that claimed the life of Simpson nearly three years ago.
The crew lost control while executing a foiling gybe screaming along at 40 knots but avoided wiping out after regaining water flow over the foils on the boat’s rudder.
“The boat got 30 degrees to heel which normally means you are capsizing but somehow we managed to save it,” Percy said.
“What happens sometimes on these boats when you’re flying high is you lose steerage so whatever you are doing with the steering wheel doesn’t change what you are doing and we had an incident like that at 40 knots.
“When you turn up into the wind it’s a lot of heeling force and fortunately the rudder literally attached and got flow back, and the grip came back on our tyre, if you like, and we managed to steer back down.”
Some of the safety protocols now in place came as a result of the Artemis tragedy in the lead up to the previous America’s Cup.
“It’s a full on sport but fortunately in the America’s Cup arena the safety and first response teams have been advancing at the same speed as the technology,” Percy said.
“A lot of work is done by the teams about safety response because you can’t expect to not capsize these boats and we need to be ready to respond to injuries or being trapped.
“These boats are dangerous but are quite tried and tested in terms of their structural integrity so they are holding together, which makes a big difference. It’s a little like a dinghy capsizing, only bigger.”
This story appeared in the Royal Gazette on April 19th, 2016.