Alec Wilkinson says the tragic death of Andrew Simpson highlights the safety concerns with the new AC72 boats
Alec Wilkinson says Andrew Simpson's death highlights safety concerns with the new AC72 boats.
Last Updated: 10/05/13 12:10pm
The expensive new design of catamaran was set to be used in September's America's Cup, but questions are now being asked over their safety following the death of Britain's double Olympic medallist, who was killed when his boat capsized while training in San Francisco.
Wilkinson explained on Sky Sports News that concerns were raised following an incident involving the Oracle team a few months ago and this tragedy now raises a number of serious issues for the sport.
"Clearly there are issues with these AC72's," he said.
"We started with the AC45 which was almost a prototype. There were accidents and capsizes, but they were spectacular and people loved them, but those accidents and crashes became less and less as the sailors learned how to handle them.
"The AC72's haven't been on the water that long and the sailors don't have that much experience. In many ways for the last few months these crews have been like test pilots for the boats.
"Crashes became normal and part of the spectacle with the AC45, but no-one really got hurt and there were no serious injuries.
"This incident is the second major incident involving the AC72. Given that there aren't that many of these boats on the water, that's a significant number of crashes in seven months."
Wilkinson does not expect the America's Cup to be postponed, despite evident anxiety about the new boats raised by many within sailing.
He says there have been a number of safety measures introduced in recent months and these will be looked at again once the sport has come to terms with the loss of Simpson.
Wilkinson added: "The first time we saw the potential for disaster was last year with the Oracle, who took their boat out in San Francisco Bay.
"That showed what could happen on the smaller boats, but on the bigger boats the crashes are bigger and more serious.
"It led to survival training for the crews and better equipment; they now wear body armour and helmets and carry oxygen bottles.
"A death like this obviously shouldn't have happened, but you'd think they'd prepared for this.
"I've spoken to a few sailors today and a few of them have said that's it for the AC72; that is a staggering statement.
"I think everybody's in shock and it's the wrong time to speculate, but as far as the sailing fraternity and the America's Cup family is concerned, right now they are just dealing with the loss of Bart Simpson.
"A lot of money has been spent, not just on the boat and the teams, but on the infrastructure. One would think the America's Cup is going to continue."