SAN FRANCISCO — Olympic gold medal-winning sailor Andrew "Bart" Simpson's death during an America's Cup training run on San Francisco Bay last week was the latest and most glaring setback to befall an event that had already encountered its share of rough waters.
Now, questions are being raised about the safety of the $10 million high-tech boats that can obtain speeds of 45 mph and how Simpson's death will affect his team, Artemis Racing, and the America's Cup itself. It's unclear if Artemis will compete, as planned, now that one of its two boats has been destroyed.
From the moment billionaire Larry Ellison proposed holding the event in San Francisco after winning the trophy in 2010, America's Cup organizers ran into vocal political opposition, lawsuits and community protests over the public cost of the event to the city's treasury and environment.
"This is not the first time a bunch of starry eyed politicians have been bamboozled by a tycoon," said former city supervisor Aaron Peskin, who settled his lawsuit last year that sought to stop the event. "Usually when things get hyped that much they turn out to be too good to be true. This was too good to be true."
Up to a dozen sailing teams were expected to set up operations for months around the bay, injecting a significant boost to the local economy, but only three competitors showed up to take on the defending cup champions Oracle racing.