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AC Warhorses Stabled While Safety Reviewed

The tragic death of British Olympian Bart Simpson last Thursday has sharply focused the Bay Area boating community on issues related to safety on the water. The specially formed America’s Cup Review Committee charged with scrutinizing the Artemis 72 incident met for the first time yesterday, and its first recommendation was to suspend AC72 and AC45 training for a week. 

You may find it eerily ironic that the moratorium will take place during national Safe Boating Week (May 18-24).

"A sunny day on the water can turn deadly in seconds," Yvonne Pentz wrote recently on behalf of the National Safe Boating Council. "California ranks number two in the nation for boating fatalities and boating accidents, with boating mishaps causing 52 deaths in the state in 2011 alone. 

"I’m helping the National Safe Boating Council increase life jacket safety awareness, as approximately 84% of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents were not wearing a life jacket (US Coast Guard 2011 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics)."

The statistics confirm that sailing is one of the safest of all watersports – especially if you’re wearing a PFD.

© Mike Reed

Simpson, of course, was wearing a life jacket, as doing so is a basic requirement for all America’s Cup team members. It remains to be seen, however, whether the practice (by all competing teams) of wearing crew shirts outside of their PFDs contributed to the challenge of freeing the two-time Olympian from the wreckage of the cat nicknamed Big Red. 

In any case, the much-loved British sailor’s untimely death should remind all boaters that, even though sailing is a relatively safe sport — only 28 of 2011’s 758 boating deaths nationwide were among sailors — bad things can happen quickly out on the water, no matter what sort of vessel you’re in.

For more on watersports safety, click here.

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Thomas Siebel’s MOD70 Orion screaming across Banderas Bay. © 2013 Robin Stout "On May 10 I looked up from the cockpit of our Aleutian 51 Mermaid which was anchored at La Cruz, and saw this trimaran screaming across Banderas Bay," writes Robin Richardson Stout.