SBD/May 13, 2013/Events and Attractions

America's Cup To Go Forward After Sailor's Death; Calls For Reevaluation Of Rules Grow

Barclay says the America's Cup could make changes after the death investigation
America's Cup Event Authority CEO Stephen Barclay on Saturday said that he expects the event to "go forward" after sailor Andrew Simpson was killed during a training run on Thursday in S.F. Bay, according to Paul Elias of the AP. Barclay added that he would "await the results of an internal examination of Thursday's accident before making the formal decision," and that a decision on whether to "make safety changes to the boats or the course will be made after the results are released." He said that investigators are "expected to announce a probable cause of the wreck" early this week (AP, 5/11). Race organizers on Friday said that the investigation could "force changes to this summer's event." Barclay said, "Nothing's off the table." In S.F., Kane & Cabanatuan noted with races "scheduled to start in just two months, the America's Cup Authority is under pressure to make some quick decisions." Barclay: "We will not be held to a timetable, but we recognize the time issue" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/11).

TOO FAST FOR THEIR OWN GOOD? CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Rybaltowski noted Thursday's accident "was not the first in San Francisco Bay during training for the Cup." Oracle Team USA, the defending Cup champions, also "had a boat capsize, amid strong currents last October." With the added speed boats now have due to technological advances and two accidents over the last eight months, safety concerns have "mounted" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/11). Cup organizers said that with Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison as the competition's financier, their decisions to bring the race to S.F. Bay for the first time and to make the boats faster were "made to change the perception that their sport was boring and confusing" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/11). USA TODAY's Douglas Robson wrote the fatal accident is "likely to bring into focus the debate about the speedy and risky multi-hull class of yachts." Catamaran boats can "travel up to 40 knots (46 mph) and sailors typically don helmets and other protective gear due to the speed and dangers involved" (USATODAY.com, 5/10). In N.Y., Christopher Clarey wrote the question is whether the America's Cup has "gone too far in its high-technology hunt for modern-day relevance and market share" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/11).

CHANGES NEEDED: In S.F., Al Saracevic wrote under the header, "Changes Needed After Cup Tragedy." Race organizers made the changes to the competition in part because they were "trying to figure out how to make this sport more palatable and marketable to the general public." The race historically has "taken place far out to sea, with no viewing public nearby." It was "decided that this America's Cup will be raced close to shore, with grandstands and viewing platforms constructed on Crissy Field" in a bid to "spice up the proceedings." The boats will "have TV cameras on them," and the course will "involve a series of figure-8 maneuvers and straightaways along a relatively narrow strip of water just off shore." That means the boats will be "reaching high speeds quickly, only to slam on their virtual brakes before making hairpin turns." The promise was this setup "would make for exciting racing, better television and the specter of danger." But the "reality has been much more troubling." Is it time for Oracle Team USA and Artemis Racing, the two teams who decided on the catamaran design, to "get back together and reach a more reasonable solution in terms of boat design and course design?" Saracevic: "The answer in this corner is a resounding yes" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/11).
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