TRIBUTES have been pouring in for Olympic gold medal winning sailor Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson who was killed while training for the prestigious Americas Cup.
The 36-year-old, who had strong links to Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC), was hailed as a ‘pioneer’ of extreme sailing boats.
He died on Thursday when he became trapped underneath his team Artemis’ 72-foot catamaran when it capsized in San Francisco Bay.
His best friend and Olympic sailing partner, Iain Percy, from Emsworth, is also part of the Swedish Artemis team.
He said: ‘Yesterday I lost my closest friend of over 25 years, the friendliest, kindest man I have ever met. I cannot believe he is no longer with us. Now all our thoughts should be with his wife and two amazing boys who meant the world to him.’ Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who lives in Old Portsmouth, runs the Clipper Round-the-World Yacht Race. He said: ‘We are all devastated by the death of Andrew Simpson. In successive Olympics he won a gold and silver medal in the star class. This is a heavy boat with a large sail area that requires fitness and stamina, but for years he was the man to beat. To lose him at the young age of 36 is a terrible loss to his family, and to British sailing. He will be missed.’ In November Mr Simpson visited HISC to give a talk to young sailors.
Ann Marie Wood, Rear Commodore (youth). said: ‘He gave an inspirational talk to the sailing youth.
‘He had many friends here and his death will be felt throughout the south by many, many sailors.’
Olympic sailor Mark Covell, who won silver in the star class at the Sydney Olympics, knew Mr Simpson for many years.
Mr Covell, from Westbourne, said: ‘It has come as such a shock. Andrew was one of the most genuine and honest characters you could ever wish to meet.
‘He could recount a story in the bar with all his expletives and adjectives and if he was meeting royalty – we often met Princess Anne – he wouldn’t remove any of the expletives or adjectives.
‘There were no sides to him. He was completely genuine.’
Doctors battled to revive Mr Simpson both on the boat and on land but were unsuccessful. He leaves behind wife Leah and sons Freddie and Hamish.