Photo by Dave Bloch.
New safety gear, more support boats and third-party structural reviews of racing vessels are among the more than three dozen changes America’s Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray announced Wednesday, concluding a safety review that followed the death of an Artemis Racing sailor during a practice run on San Francisco Bay.
Reduced wind limits, which Luna Rossa Challenge owner Patrizio Bertelli insisted on as a condition of his team’s participation after Andrew “Bart” Simpson, 36, died when the 72-foot racing catamaran he was sailing in broke up on the Bay earlier this month, are among the 37 changes being put in place.
The Cup’s managers are also reducing the number of races in the Louis Vuitton Cup round robins to be held this summer from seven to five.
“Producing and implementing the safety plan is within the scope of the America's Cup, as the sponsoring organization for this summer’s racing,” America’s Cup Chief Executive Officer Stephen Barclay was quoted as saying in a press release issued Wednesday evening. “This America’s Cup safety plan is a necessary component of the permit application submitted to the Coast Guard for their consideration.”
One change Murray did not recommend: Abandoning the AC72 sailing vessels that some have complained are too dangerous to sail in favor of the smaller 45-foot vessels Cup racers sailed in 2011 and 2012.
The changes will be incorporated into a revised safety plan to be forwarded to the U.S. Coast Guard.
Murray’s list of recommendations includes a third-party structural review of the platform and wing of each of the AC72 yachts, which are custom built by each team. The new rules will also set a maximum sailing weight and ban guest racers on the yachts.
Safety equipment will include crew restraints, high-visibility helmets and body armor, along with life vests with quick-release mechanisms, hands-free oxygen tanks and self-lowering equipment.
Limits on support boats will be lifted and rescue boats staffed with rescue divers and swimmers and paramedics and stocked with safety nets for retrieving crew members tossed into the Bay will be required.
The limit on wind speeds racers may sail in was reduced by 10 knots, to a maximum of 23 knots, or 26 miles per hour. If a yacht capsizes its competitor will be declared race winner in order to direct attention to the distressed yacht. And fines for not competing will be removed.
Under the new safety rules, America’s Cup Race Management will develop common safety and rescue procedures between the four competing teams.
Simpson, Artemis’ newly hired strategist, died May 12 when the catamaran he was sailing broke up in the Bay and he was trapped underneath. The capsize of the yacht – the second of the roughly $8 million racing vessels to succumb to the Bay over the past year – prompted an internal review which included participation from America’s Cup teams and halted most Cup sailing as the review took place.
The cause of the capsize has not yet been released.
Both the Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa teams are based at Alameda Point.