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America's Cup expected despite death

 
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SAN FRANCISCO

The head of the America's Cup planning effort expects sailing's most prestigious event to go ahead after the death of British Olympic champion Andrew Simpson while training in San Francisco Bay.

In an interview on Saturday, Stephen Barclay said he would await the results of an internal examination of Thursday's accident before making the formal decision. Barclay also said a decision on whether to make safety changes to the boats or the course will be made after the results are released.

Reggata director Iain Murray is heading the probe.

Simpson, 36, was killed when he was trapped under the wreckage of the Artemis Racing catamaran that capsized during a training run. Barclay said investigators are expected to announce a probable cause of the wreck early next week.

"There's a lot of speculation of what happened," Barclay said. "We want to end the speculation."

Murray said at a news conference that the 72-foot (22-meter) catamaran was attempting to change direction and turn downwind when it capsized. Though difficult, the maneuver was normal, he said.

"The boat nose-dived, and all that we know from that point in that maneuver is that the boat ended up upside down, capsized, broken into many pieces," Murray said.

One hull snapped. Investigators will have to determine whether a structural problem caused the yacht to flip, or if the capsize broke the boat. Last autumn, Artemis said the front beam of the catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat's christening.

A structural engineer has been included in the investigation, Barclay said. He added that organizers are planning to meet with the America's Cup teams on Tuesday to discuss the probe. Oracle Racing, the only team now capable of practicing, has agreed not to sail until at least Monday.

Oracle Racing won the America's Cup in 2010 in Spain, and its owner, billionaire Larry Ellison, picked San Francisco Bay to defend the cup. Three teams have signed up to challenge and are scheduled to begin racing one another in July to determine who will take on Oracle. The finals against Oracle begin in August.

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