Despite the public’s clamoring for information about Artemis’s crash and Bart’s death there were no real answers given at ACRM’s somewhat fluffy Press Conference, and neither Iain Murray nor Tom Ehman offered a timeline for when they can be expected. While the newly appointed Investigation Panel includes a list of people that no one can accuse of being whitewashers, it’s a bit troubling for someone as invested in the event as Murray to lead it as Chairman – though without him, the process of investigating and solving the safety issues would likely take way too long.
Meanwhile, Artemis continues to treat any information about the incident as ‘top secret’, and Kiwi reporter Amanda Gilles found that crews of every other team have been given gag orders as she reported in an excellent piece after flying all the way across the Pacific to cover the story. At the same time, AC head boss Stephen Barclay continues to bitch about speculation from the media and public, claiming that it’s ‘disrespectful’, and that ‘no one…knows what happened.’ Others say the public has no ‘right to know’ anything about the incident; Artemis is a private team practicing for a privately owned regatta, and they can stay as quiet as they want, crying and moaning about those irresponsible reporters disrespecting the memory of a sailor who didn’t make it. The public may have no right to know. But here are some rights they do have?
- -They have the right to ask questions. And as our exploding forum traffic has shown, they are doing just that.
- -They have the right to speculate.
- -They have the right to attack silence
- -They have the right to fire up others who also want to know
- -They have the right to make the silent look like the guilty.
If this were any past America’s Cup, no one would be the least bit surprised at the silent treatment from a team or the event in tragic circumstances. The AC has always been about secrecy, and the sailing was always miles away from the public eye. But this one was supposed to be different; “to bring the fastest boats and the best sailors together” in a format that brought the excitement and the drama right to your computer or TV screen. It was meant to be transparent, and young, and to dispel the perception of yacht racing as a sport for the Thurston Howell IIIs of the world. It was meant to stand with Formula 1, and the World Cup, and NASCAR, and the other tier 1 sports.
But if its leaders immediately turn into epaulette-gilded yachties, pulling their heads in to hide amongst committees and panels at the first sign of difficulty, they will lose all those fans they gained by advertising themselves as ‘extreme’ and ‘modern’ and ‘the F1 of sailing’ and so on. Vulgar or not, the AC gained an absolute shit ton of exposure from Simpson’s death – most of you know our own site got blown out for a few hours, with traffic peaking more than 1000% over our average and millions of pageviews in minutes – but silence from all parties will not create an air of mystery – just one of incompetence. The made-for-youtube series was called AC Uncovered – not AC Covered Up…
Because while Barclay says “no one knows what happened,” we all know better. Artemis’ RIB saw the whole thing, and their crew included a videographer and photographer along with half a dozen other coaches and watchers. Oracle’s RIB watched some portion of it too. The sailors – at least those not grinding – saw most of what happened. There were a dozen waterproof cameras on and around the boat, filming the whole thing. Perhaps no one really saw what happened to Bart, but that doesn’t excuse the silence on everything leading up to it. Perhaps they don’t know exactly what led to the failure, but they know what broke and where.
The public may not have a right to know, but they deserve to know, and the PR arm of any other major sport would be way out ahead of this story, not covering up. Simpson’s thousands of fans back in the UK and around the world, and everyone who has invested their time and money on following the AC over the past year has earned that bit of respect.
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