Bart Simpson: One year later

Published on May 8th, 2014

Andrew “Bart” Simpson, a British double Olympic medalist, died May 9, 2013 when the Artemis Racing AC72 catamaran capsized while training on San Francisco Bay. Simpson was one of the 11-man crew aboard. All other crewmembers were successfully rescued.

Artemis Racing was the Challenger of Record for the 34th America’s Cup. Simpson, who was 36 years old, was trapped underneath the boat and despite attempts to revive him, by doctors afloat and subsequently ashore, his life was lost. Officials believe he was trapped underwater for about 10 to 15 minutes.

One year later, in an exclusive report in The Independent, Sir Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy share the pain of dealing with their friend’s death and how opening a sailing centre in Weymouth is helping his name live on.

One has flown in from California, the other from China, united in friendship and grief, and as determined as they have been in the pursuit of gold to ensure that Friday plays another part in guaranteeing that their best friend’s name – and impact – lives on.

Sir Ben Ainslie arrived Wednesday from racing in the Extreme Series in Qingdao, the 2008 Olympic venue where he won the third of his magnificent four Olympic gold medals. Iain Percy, a double Olympic champion, arrives Friday morning from the San Francisco base where he leads Team Artemis in the pursuit of America’s Cup glory.

Both are home for one reason: to be in Weymouth (UK) for the opening of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. It is the latest stage in the extraordinary rise of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation borne out of the universal love from their sport following the tragic drowning of “Bart” Simpson on 9 May 2013 in San Francisco Bay when Artemis capsized on a training run. He was 36.

The new centre – officially opened on Friday in the company of Ainslie, Percy, other key members of the British sailing community and, perhaps most poignantly of all, Simpson’s widow, Leah – is designed to provide the chance for children of all ages and backgrounds to sample not just the sport of sailing, but opportunities to work in the sailing industry.

“It would have been almost the perfect day for Bart,” Ainslie explains. “It meant so much to him to provide the chance for all to sail or gain employment in the business. Ridding the sport of any remaining elitist perceptions was a huge goal for him, and he’d devote much of his time to helping others, advising anyone who asked. I just wish he was here to see it. I’d give anything for that.” – Read on

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