LONDON (Reuters) - The British sailing community was mourning the death of Olympic champion Andrew Simpson after the 36-year-old drowned when his vessel capsized in San Francisco Bay during training for the America’s Cup on Thursday.
Simpson, who won gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, died when he became trapped as giant catamaran the Artemis, Sweden’s entry in the America’s Cup, overturned.
“We’re devastated by the news from San Francisco,” RYA performance director John Derbyshire said in a statement from the Royal Yacht Association and British Sailing Team.
”Andrew is someone I’ve worked closely with since the age of 16 - he was a great talent, and a key figure in our world class programme over many years culminating in his well-deserved Olympic success.
“He was a huge inspiration to others, both within the British Sailing Team and across the nation and our deepest sympathies go out to his family at this terrible time.”
Simpson, nicknamed Bart after the cartoon character, also won a silver medal at the London Olympics last year and was a close friend of four-times Olympic champion Ben Ainslie.
A statement from Ainslie’s Oracle team read: ”Today is a sad day for all of us in the sailing community.
”Andrew Simpson was a great person, a terrific sailor, and a good friend to all of our team.
“Our thoughts are with his family and the entire Artemis team. He will be dearly missed.”
The RYA’s Olympic team manager Stephen Park said Simpson would be sorely missed.
“Andrew was a fantastic sailor who got the best out of everyone he sailed with,” he said. “He was much loved.”
Simpson’s twin-hulled boat was performing a so-called “bear-away” maneuver, turning away from the wind, when one bow dropped under the water’s surface, and the vessel flipped over, America’s Cup spokesman Tim Jeffery told Reuters.
Simpson ended up trapped beneath the boat in the water and had to be pulled out by rescue divers, who tried and failed to revive him.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ossian Shine