Paul Elias, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The America’s Cup regatta director has released 37 recommendations made by a group of sailing experts intended to increase safety in the race nearly two weeks after a practice run on San Francisco Bay turned deadly.
The group unveiled the proposals Wednesday evening, hours after the head of Artemis Racing said his team would compete in the America’s Cup only if conditions are deemed safe on the wind-raked bay this summer.
Artemis chief executive Paul Cayard’s statement posted on the team’s website was his first public comment since May 9, the day crew member Andrew “Bart” Simpson died when Artemis’ catamaran capsized. Cayard said a decision to race would depend on what safety changes America’s Cup organizers adopt after completing their review of the May 9 incident.
Cayard said officials are still investigating what caused the 72-foot catamaran to capsize and break into pieces.
Among Wednesday’s recommendations are equipping crews with body armor, hands-free breathing apparatus and high visibility helmets. The group also suggests a flexible start time for the race, based on wind and projected tidal flows, wind limits and a safe buffer zone around course boundaries and obstructions.
“Producing and implementing the safety plan is within the scope of the America’s Cup, as the sponsoring organization for this summer’s racing,” said Stephen Barclay, the CEO of the America’s Cup. “This America’s Cup safety plan is a necessary component of the permit application submitted to the Coast Guard for their consideration.”
The catamarans of the four teams vying for the America’s Cup have proven hard to handle. The wing sail looks and acts like an airplane wing, improving the yacht’s speed and maneuverability. The 7-ton boat’s hulls are lifted out of the water and it skims along the waves on “foils,” reducing the drag on the boat and increasing speed dramatically.
The owner of the Italian entry Luna Rossa had proposed a prohibition on racing if winds are deemed too strong. Others have recommended better ways of foiling, which is technically barred in the official regulations of the America’s Cup but the teams still have found legal ways to foil.
The three teams vying to take on defending champion Oracle Racing begin competing in July.