Posts Tagged ‘death’
We’re fortunate to have made some very intelligent friends over the decade or so we’ve been working for Sailing Anarchy, and when they ask us serious questions about our reporting, we listen. So when we got an email a couple of months ago about the tone of some of our America’s Cup editorials from one of the top people at a highly respected team, our ears perked up – partly because this dude is almost frighteningly smart and extremely respectful, and partly because his questions were reasonable and not defensive. He agreed that much of our criticism of the ridiculous delays and the lack of transparency in the AC was accurate, but asked me if ‘killing the event with negativity is really a step forward?’ He also challenged me to ‘explain what changes in the AC would encourage us that things are changing?’
With the full competitor lineup about to be released during today’s dog-and-pony in London, it’s time for me to answer his questions.
Q) Is negative criticism or ‘killing the event with negativity’ a step forward?
A) Whether criticism is a ‘step forward’ is irrelevant; we don’t work for the America’s Cup and we have no duty to ‘move the AC forward’; this is similar to the criticism we’ve gotten for writing about regattas that allow littering in the sea and for writing about classes that are being run into the ground, and our answer is always the same: We are firm believers in transparency, and to us, letting the sailing public know what is really going on behind the scenes is always a step forward, especially over the long term, and even more especially when reality is shrouded in secrecy and bullshit.
We advocated for and applauded the move to catamarans when the majority of the world’s sailing publications were shrieking tradition and sacrilege – actually, we’ve been asking for it since about 2003. We approved of the format for AC34 and prayed for a great venue like San Francisco. And we lauded the beautifully sorted and widely available coverage for the most exciting regatta in sailing history. But we could not remain quiet in the face of the mounting fuckups while ACAlphabet paraded their stunning incompetence in front of the world. That’s what the other publications did, and if no one questions the bullshit, it will always be repeated. We’d prefer not to see an AC35 with the same problems as AC34: Woefully low North American ratings and broadcast pickup, failure to meet any of the in-person audience/SF occupancy/ACOC sponsorship raising goals, a fatal accident whose cause has – until today – still not been properly reported on, safety rules that changed the outcome of the event, and a venue that feels lied to and abused by the sport of sailing.
What my friend was really asking was “do we understand that our negativism is actually hurting the America’s Cup?” My answer is very simple: That’s not our problem. We didn’t cheat. We didn’t fuck up the broadcast deal. We didn’t cut the promotional budget to pieces halfway through the cycle. We didn’t make up a bunch of ridiculous projections for the SF government and fail to get close to them.. And we certainly didn’t cover up the cause of death of a famous sailor. So quit blaming us.
Q) What moves would encourage you that things are changing?
A) As we’ve said ten million times, lack of transparency is one of the sport’s biggest problems. It’s got its own language, complicated and esoteric rules, centuries of history and tradition, and is mostly run – at least in America – by a cultish bunch of odd rich people in archaic clothing. AC33 had the potential to change all that in huge ways, yet it failed spectacularly, and somehow, the guy responsible has never even acknowledged his abject failure or explained how he will prevent the exact same failures from happening again. That’s what we would need to see in order to think about getting behind the next AC – a little openness and honesty instead of the same old back room deals that have governed the America’s Cup for a century. So when you are watching the press conference today, consider the following questions that we’d like answered; get us that, and we’ll believe that times are changing. And consider the fact that, for four years, Russell Coutts has consistently refused to sit down for an interview with the world’s most widely read sailing website. There’s only one explanation for that: Fear.
WHY DID BART DIE?
As we’ve said over and over, we’re not at all happy that there still has not been a single official comment on the cause of the accident that led to Andrew Simpson’s death, and we frankly don’t understand it. We remember Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna’s death all too well, and while the public investigation process was not an easy one, it’s amazing to us that AC organizers did not insist on even the most basic investigation or transparency for Andrew Simpson’s cause of death. The Senna case resulted in a finding against Williams co-founder Patrick Head after a massive investigation that included a 600-page analysis of the crash; while Head would never go to jail for his ‘omitted control’ culpability, at least the Italian courts provided closure for hundreds of millions of Senna fans around the world.
We know that Artemis Racing conducted their own investigation into Simpson’s death, yet no one we’ve met will admit to seeing it. We know the Coast Guard had a think about it too. And we know that the San Francisco police are required to investigate any death. Yet when we asked the America’s Cup where those documents were, they had no answer, and that’s ridiculous. These reports should have been required by ACRM to be released to the public, and an open inquiry into the design, build, and management of Big Red – and the responsibility for her failure – should have been undergone immediately after the accident. We don’t blame Artemis for the silence – they have good reason to be quiet. But the event’s organizers have a duty to do more if they want to be considered anything but a failure and a joke.
We hate that we’ve had to, but we’ve done a pile of sleuthing ourselves, and thanks to Johntommy Rosas and the America’s Cup Trust, we finally got our hands on the SFPD’s official 86-page investigation into the Artemis accident, and for the first time today, we’re sharing it with the world. We’ll leave the conclusions to you guys, but it’s not brain surgery; as we all knew when he loudly acted like he never said it, Nathan Outteridge’s words to his dad were pretty accurate – the boat ‘folded like a taco’ when it dug the hull in during a bearaway. There wasn’t a pitchpole – according to Artemis design coordinator Adam May’s witness statement, the hull failed. Why did it fail? Is anyone responsible, as they were for Senna, or was it just a non-racing ‘racing incident’? We don’t know, but if the America’s Cup is to be the ‘tier 1 sport’ that Coutts, Ellison, and new AC Commercial Commissioner Dr. Harvey have repeatedly claimed is their goal, it’s time to act like a tier 1 sport, where you investigate deaths and hold people accountable for them.
Until then, the only place in the world you can find the investigation report is right here. Warning: It’s not for the faint of heart.
Why Did AC34 Miss Every Media/Comms/Audience Target?
We’re not going to re-hash this one – we’ve done it too many times. The dismal ratings are public knowledge, as was NBC’s refusal to pick up the final races for a national broadcast audience – even when the comeback was in full swing. But Russell Coutts has somehow not been called to the carpet to explain this abject failure. Were they the wrong targets? Is it impossible to make sailing a mainstream sport in America? We’d all like to know.
What Happened To Continuity?
Coutts told us a dozen times that one of the AC’s big issues is continuity; that it’s incredibly tough to run a commercially viable sports league when it isn’t owned by a reliable group. This is surely true, and Coutts’ solution the last time around was a financial windfall of several million dollars for the winner of the AC if they maintained some part of the AC event management structure he planned in AC34.
Yet when Oracle won, there was no continuity. Near as we can tell, there was no management; just Russell and a couple of trusted advisors secretly shopping venues around and trying to create a bit of a bidding war. The incredible action we saw in San Francisco? Forgotten. The ‘reliable pro-sports league’? Gone. Instead we have a year of silence while all the excitement fades into the background, and we’re right back on the same old Coutts train. And we’d like to get off it.
If you would too, start asking the AC folks the same questions we have, and don’t let up. Hit them over here and over here. If Russell Coutts or his new commercial chief are serious about what they claim, they’ll answer.
But if all the talk is bullshit and smokescreen, designed to cover up the fact that Coutts’ job is really to win the Cup and neither he nor Larry gives a shit about the rest of it, they’ll continue to say nothing, admit nothing, and accomplish nothing – besides retaining the Cup, of course.
September 9th, 2014 by admin
In heartbreaking news from England’s South Coast, the body of one of Britain’s top young sailors was found late last week near a car park in the New Forest. 17 year-old Jess Eales uploaded the pic you see at left to Facebook just hours before her death, which neither police nor coroners have explained, though news reports say they are not treating it as suspicious. There are only a few scenarios where a dead 17-year old in a car park in a forest isn’t suspicious, but it shouldn’t be long before we all know more so we’ll just keep our mouths shut until the government has a chance to explain. Jess had celebrated her 17th birthday the day before she was found.
Jess had just returned from the Youth Worlds in Portugal, a rising star in skiffs and cats. We’re told her sailing circles in the Lymington and Hayling Island communities are in shock; despite not knowing Jess, we’re pretty shocked too. This shit isn’t supposed to happen to 17 year olds.
We will update you when there is more information available. Until then, share your thoughts in the thread. As for the title, it’s rare that Morrissey and sailing ever mix, but there’s a first time for everything. NOTE: Don’t click if you don’t want to be even more depressed. It’s a Smiths song, after all.
August 5th, 2014 by admin
Just two hours before some of the the Cal 25 Nationals fleet would sail through the same spot on the way back to Bayview Yacht Club from Port Huron, MI, our own Mr. Clean was on hand to witness a horrific accident in the St. Clair River. While a picture may say a thousand words, this was a truly bizarre one, and we go to Clean for more on yet another big summer boating accident. The lesson to sailors? Never stop scanning your horizon for the marine environment’s real killers: Go-fasts with drunken idiots behind the wheel.
In a lifetime on the water, I’ve never seen anything quite so nasty happen, and I just happened to have a front row seat. Remember when that moron in the speedboat on the Lake of the Ozarks caught a wake at speed and nearly flipped, beating the hell out of the occupants?
We had a similar situation here last night but with much worse consequences, when a 25 or 30 foot Baja cigarette-style boat, running at least 50 mph, decided to go through the wake of a big Bayliner cabin cruiser without throttling back, and at a terrible angle. I happened to be less than 200 feet from it all; having slowed down for the Bayliner’s wake, I saw the speedboat approaching at mach 2 and decided to watch the action, actually saying to myself, out loud, “This is gonna be good.”
The Baja caught the first wave and got heeled to the left in the air, then caught the second at a worse angle, which launched it back in the air, now with 20 or more degrees of heel to the right. By this time, even if the driver were still hanging on to the wheel, he was just along for the ride. The Baja hit the third wave at a terrible angle – the boat was bow-up and heeled hard to the right when it hit – and it literally launched itself completely clear of the water by 4-6 feet – aimed directly at the Bayliner’s flying bridge. The heel on the Baja had rounded the boat up on the final wave, turning it to the left instead of straight through as intended by the driver. The Baja didn’t so much hit the Bayliner (and the six people on the bridge) as landed on top of it, then continued over it, and landed in the river. The entire upper deck of the Bayliner was torn off its supports, and barely remained connected to the main deck by a few hoses and wires.
After calling 911, I moved. The Baja was between the cruiser and me, so I snapped a pic of the culprits to make sure no one made a run for it. They were pretty shaken up, and responded that ‘everyone’s fine’ when asked. I gunned it over to the stricken vessel, and they were shouting that there was someone in the water. As I searched downriver and mentally tried to figure out how much water had moved in the 5 minutes since impact, (there is 2-3 knots of current in the river at this point), I kept yelling for every boat I saw to join in the search. Shortly thereafter, with more than a dozen boats now on scene helping out (but still no official help) a woman’s body was pulled out by a pontoon boat, and 20 minutes of CPR didn’t help her.
As the body was pulled from the water, I noticed the Baja drifting downriver, nearly out of sight. As I headed back to them, a crowd hollered at me on shore, and I ran over to a house to pick up the local Fire Chief, who I dropped off on the Bayliner to help with the rescue. As I handed him off, I saw the second body in what used to be the cockpit of the boat – a man in his 50s – also unresponsive after a few minutes of CPR. A third casualty – a woman in her 60s – looked to be going into shock, or cardiac arrest, or both.
I hung around for long enough to see the freighter traffic start to idle through the channel again, as it just didn’t seem right to buzz over to the lake and go fishing after the carnage I’d just witnessed. After giving my number and info to the Marine Police and USCG as a witness, I overheard the Sheriff who had the Baja’s driver in custody talking to the neighboring police boat. ”You take the statements from the passengers; I’m taking this one in.” I couldn’t hear the next question from the deputy, but the Sheriff’s response made that clear. ”Yep, he’s been drinking.”
It’s unlikely that a sober Baja driver would have done any better in that situation, but that’s not the issue. A sober person – at least one with an IQ over 50 – would never have taken that wake at that speed. Once again, the equation holds: Horsepower + (Alcohol OR Youth) + Inexperience = Death.
Title comes from one of the 80′s best cult films, also about a river, death, and stupid people.
August 4th, 2014 by admin
It’s the one-year anniversary of Andrew “Bart” Simpson’s death aboard the JuanK AC72 known as Big Red, and also Bart’s wife Leah’s birthday, and no one can say that Bart’s friends – guys like Iain Percy, Nathan Outerridge, Paul Goodison, and Ben Ainslie – have let the memory of the man fade away, even for a few moments. They’ve spread his name all over the UK in countless ways, with major time and money going into the creation of the record-attempting Bart’s Bash and todays ‘s dedication of the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre in Weymouth.
It all seems so uplifting until you realize that there still hasn’t been a single word of the investigation into Bart’s death released by anyone, anywhere, at any time – if one was ever completed at all. We asked the San Francisco PD whether their investigation was ever completed, and they said, “what investigation?” We asked last year for the results of Artemis’ investigation, and never heard a word. Not a single federal or state agency has said a word about culpability for Bart’s death, and we don’t expect them to.
Is every one of Bart’s friends willing to just say ‘shit happens’ instead of finding a shred of responsibility or accountability for the fuckups in design, construction, and/or sailing that killed their teammate? We expected it from disgraced team CEO Paul Cayard, who said next to nothing and basically became invisible after Bart’s death until being booted from the team after Artemis’ ignominious exit from the LV Cup. But to get the same silence from real leaders; guys like Ainslie and Percy and Goodi who’ve never been bashful about speaking their mind, we expect better.
If this was Formula One, someone would be in court or jail right now, or at the very minimum, hauled before a governmental investigation panel. But this is sailing, something no one in public office cares about for more than 12 seconds, and if Bart’s friends inside the sport don’t make noise, no one will. While we think it’s awesome they are raising all this money – much of it going to Bart’s widow – we also wonder if maybe, the best way to remember Bart would be to find out exactly why his boat killed him after folding itself into little pieces on a typical day in San Francisco. You don’t hold people accountable out of vengeance, or anger – you do it so history doesn’t repeat itself.
CLARIFICATION: There’s been a lot of discussion about our editorial above, and we’d like to clarify a bit: We are not questioning the integrity of any of Bart’s friends or family. We are questioning why a death on an AC72 is any different than a motor sports, air racing, or traffic accident, or for that matter, any of the numerous life-ending sailing tragedies we’ve seen over the past couple of years, and we are questioning why people close to Bart haven’t demanded more. Low Speed Chase went up on the rocks just a few miles from San Francisco last year in a crewed race, killing 5 crew of the 8 aboard. An extensive, expensive, nearly year-long investigation took place thanks to US Sailing, with a lot of important lessons learned by the hundreds of thousands around the world following the tragedy, and some closure for the families and friends of the deceased sailors.
Meanwhile, there’s been no such response by US Sailing, ISAF, the USCG, the State, or anyone else for Simpson; rather, there have been a few open-and-shut inquiries by police departments with no apparent interest in delving into an area that’s totally unfamiliar to them, with every move watched over by legal counsel to billionaire businessmen. There has been an internal investigation by Artemis without a single page released to anyone outside a tiny circle of Artemisians. What about the tens of thousands of fans Bart had? What about an English public that cheered he and Percy on so strongly during the Games? Do they not deserve more than silence?
CORRECTION: Richard Butcher is Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, the charity formed in memory of Bart, and he wanted to correct our piece. Over to him.
The purpose of the charity is principally educational, via the sport of sailing. This will partly be met by encouraging into the sport those youngsters who would not otherwise have that opportunity. One of our aims is to help find marine related apprenticeships for some of these youngsters. Yesterday, we achieved a historic milestone in the charity’s short period of existence by opening the sailing centre in Weymouth. This enables us to have a focus at a world class facility. Every bit of the amount raised is destined to help fulfil our objectives, and we have every ambition of this becoming a world-wide charity once funding permits.
There was a serious inaccuracy in the item you published yesterday. None of the monies raised for the charity will go to Leah, Bart’s widow. It will only go towards the fulfilment of our objectives. Leah is one of our Trustees and it would not, in any event, be permissible for her to benefit from the charity. It is most important that those making donations to the charity, whether it be by Bart’s Bash or otherwise, are not in any way misled as to what will become of their donations.
May 9th, 2014 by admin