America’s Cup Accident – Is it a case of poor planning or simply extreme sailing?

Published on May 13th, 2013

By Captain Michael Dailey
First and foremost my sympathies to the family and friends of Andrew Simpson. Please don’t let my comments be taken as an offense to any of them. It was, and continues to be, a very sad accident for everyone involved.

Having been there on the scene trying to help when the Australian boat sank in the 1995 America’s Cup, and when we lost a couple of rigs in the ’92 Cup campaign, I know how well known to everyone who sails at this level that what they do is inherently dangerous. We were just lucky then that no one was injured or killed.

To those of us who make our livings at sea, even when we are not sailing competitively, death is ever more present and happens unfortunately even more often than in sailing.

AC Management’s (daft/unfortunate) comments only serve to underscore the level of unpreparedness that seems pervasive within this Cup effort. When Oracle damaged their boat in October to a capsize, and found themselves west of the bridge on an outgoing tide, that also smacked of a team woefully unprepared to take care of their own.

I note in Scuttlebutt 3837 there was an attempt to keep Bart alive with escape bottles. But it only brings the question to mind of why there wasn’t an adequate supply of breathing air available for just such an instance? Or if there was a qualified rescue diver/safety swimmer in the support RIB, how come it took too long to reach him? I hope these are questions being asked by the team.

Anyone who can appreciate the speed and power these rigs are capable of producing is also well aware of the dangers they can also represent. That means everyone involved, from the sailors themselves through to team management. And the responsibility lies directly at the feet of the teams themselves to provide adequate safety measures are in place for their individual teams.
So no matter what inane comments come from within or outside of the AC world, it is ultimately the sailors and their team who are directly responsible.

Now, the US Coast Guard, who knows absolutely nothing about big boat sailing, and the SF Police who know even less, are going to weigh in with their opinions along with all the others who only watch safely from the sidelines as to how it “should be done”. I reckon Bart was already sailing “as it should be done” and was caught in an unfortunate accident.

Let’s hope this serves to further illustrate that there is a lack of preparedness that can be corrected from within and that sailors at this level can continue to compete and push the envelope of what is possible within our sport.

How many years did it take the Round the World crowd to institute ice gates? After all, it was only a matter of time in that competition too before someone was killed. Fortunately no one was killed before they did institute the gates.

SOLAS is a direct result of the fact that the Titanic sank without enough lifeboats for her embarked passengers. The list goes on.

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