More on the Artemis capsize

CEOs of ACRM and ACEA Iain Murray and Stephen Barclay attempt to bring us up to speed

Friday May 10th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Stephen Barclay and Iain Murray, CEOs respectively of the America’s Cup Event Authority and Race Management spoke to the press today. This, they said, was to take the pressure off Artemis Racing and to allow the team's grieving process to begin following the drowning yesterday of the Swedish challenger’s strategist, the popular, talented and much admired British double Olympic medallist Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson.

“Obviously we’re all deeply affected by what’s happened,” commented Murray to start out with. “Bart was a mate to us all. At the end of the day for the America’s Cup, the people, the personnel, the team, on shore staff, engineers, etc it is a great loss and our thoughts are with his family. We have lost another larger than life figure in the America’s Cup that we have several of.”

Murray has been tasked with carrying out a review of what happened in the incident. At present he says he has seen no video of the incident itself. However what he does know is that the Artemis Racing AC72 was out training on San Francisco Bay and that Oracle Racing was out with their AC72 too. “They were doing their own things and happened to be in the same space of water and doing similar manoeuvres.”

At the time of the incident, 1300 local time yesterday, the tide in the Bay was flooding at around 2-3 knots and the wind was 18-20 knots and gusting a little more. “So ideal sailing conditions, flat water - a very typical San Francisco day,” said Murray. “Neither crew out on the Bay was doing anything they hadn’t done many times before. They practice, they bear away, they reach, they go into gybing manoeuvres and generally that is how they fulfil their day as they try to perfect the performance of their boat and their crew skills, to acquire data while work on their manoeuvres in one day. I experienced it first hand and there was nothing out of the ordinary yesterday.”

According to Murray, the Artemis Racing AC72 had sailed upwind and was bearing away on starboard tack to sail downwind when the incident occurred. “The end result was that the boat ended up capsizing, breaking up and the whole boat inverted, wing on top and hull broken off.” At the time Nathan Outteridge was helming and Iain Percy was on board as sailing master.

He continues: “The crew went into the process that they are meant to do. They were two crews out there so there were a lot of support boats. They went looking for the people. Unfortunately Andrew was missing and couldn’t be found for some time. There were people scouring both in power boats on the water and through the broken boat and unfortunately he was trapped under some solid sections of the boat, probably as a result of it breaking apart.

“He was recovered and taken into the boat for emergency help. CPR was applied in the chase boat and when he was taken to St Francis [Yacht Club] dock and the fire department, who lead the onshore emergency rescue medical rescue, performed CPR [there] for another 25 minutes.”


We asked Murray to confirm whether it was a case of bear away-break-capsize or bear away-capsize-break. He wouldn’t: “If you go back to Oracle it was very clear that the boat capsized and broke up some time later. In the case of Artemis, without seeing any evidence of it, we know that the crew took the boat into a bear away manoeuvre and the end result was it capsized, and by the time it was visibly upside down it was broken. There are all sorts of opinions about what came first, but we don’t know. That is part of what we need to understand.”

Our sources tell us that it was the main cross beam on the port side that broke and this is confirmed by the images. Following this key failure, the port hull snapped just forward of the aft beam and the rest of the boat capsized to port/leeward over the top of the remnants of the port hull (hence why the port hull is still upright and the rest of the boat capsized on top of it in the photos).

By coincidence this is similar to the way the destruction of the Fujifilm ORMA 60 trimaran occurred during a storm in the 2002 Route du Rhum, which was skippered by none other Artemis Racing’s other skipper, Loick Peyron. However with the Fuji trimaran the cross beam and subsequent hull breakage occurred on the starboard side to windward and there was an additional hull there to prevent her capsizing.

Unconfirmed, but reported by Wired, is that the Artemis AC72 had a history of issues with the engineering/building of her crossbeams. If there is any truth in this, then quite how a cock-up of this magnitude, and with such tragic consequences, could have occurred is a mystery given that Artemis appears to have the biggest team of designers/technical staff ever assembled for a yacht racing campaign (check out their website - 33 on the design side, 72 on the technical side, including builders).

Sadly Iain Murray says he isn’t in a position to confirm any of this until his investigation is complete. Stephen Barclay then told us that no deadline was being placed on Murray’s investigation in order to ensure it was thorough. Richard Gladwell made the valid observation that the Louis Vuitton Cup is due to start in less than two months time and shouldn’t they perhaps get their skates on, if Murray is to make any recommendations that might in any sort of profound way affect the boats (it is a little late in the day to be adding scantling requirements).

In conjunction with Murray’s work, the San Francisco Police Department is also carrying out its own investigation, which we understand is standard procedure following any such incident that involves the loss of life. They are interviewing all witnesses and significantly, have also secured the wreck in order to CSI it.

While the Oracle capsize appeared to be a genuine sailing error which presumably could be resolved by more practice, if the Artemis Racing capsize was caused by a structural failure then there is not a lot of legislation that ACRM can introduce to prevent recurrence of this at this late late stage.

Bernie Wilson from AP asked the not unreasonable question – “after two capsizes and one death – are these boats too dangerous?” While Stephen Barclays ducked this, referring to the future publication of Murray’s investigation, Murray put the incident into context: “There have been a lot of fatalities. There were five off San Francisco last year and that wasn’t judged to be too dangerous and ocean racing has continued since. Larry Klein the 1989 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year drowned after simply falling overboard in San Francisco Bay in 1994. I was involved in the Sydney Hobart race when six people died. We have to live with these things and we have to go forward in the best way that we can. The AC72s are progressing sailing. We have come a long way from the 12m with cotton sails to Kevlar sails or carbon fibre masts or five rounds of the ACCs boats. It is progress. It is what these guys want to do - they want to take sailing to the next level and these boats provide that platform.”

One wonders if Artemis Racing will continue with their campaign after this. We have already heard that the German Youth America’s Cup team has pulled the plug on the basis that they cannot subject their young sailors to such dangers. We hope Artemis continues – it is unquestionably what poor Bart would have wanted.



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