British sailor Andrew Simpson died yesterday when his AC72 yacht capsized during training for the America’s Cup in San Francisco. Now, many are questioning the safety of these racing boats.
A high-performance yacht these days doesn’t so much sail as it hovers, says Ben Farnborough, associate publisher of Boat International Media.
“None of it is in the water other than the rudder and a daggerboard, so it’s essentially flying,” he says.
Flying faster than ever before. And Farnborough says because the yachts move at such high speeds, we’re seeing new safety precautions.
“The guys on the AC72’s are wearing crash helmets, which is something that we’ve not seen before in sailboat racing,” he says.
Lee Tawney is the executive director of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. He says say events like the America’s Cup need yachts that are at the forefront technologically. And that comes with risk. “Safely one could ask the same kinds of questions when you fly a new kind of airplane, or test anything that’s on the edge,” he says.
Tawney says the race does need to be safe. Unfortunately, slower yachts just aren’t as exciting to watch. Stuart Streuli,senior editor at Sailing World Magazine, says these high-speed yachts are meant to draw a crowd.
“They want the competition to be exciting enough and easy enough to comprehend, so that non-sailors who saw it on TV would stop and watch and not turn away,” Tawney says. “And in the past, that’s been a big problem.”
And sailors in the America’s Cup can use all the advertising dollars they can get. After all, these boats can cost more than $10 million each.
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