Hundreds take to the water in memory of inspirational sailor

Rt. Rev. George Bell. Picture: PA Wire

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THOUSANDS of people took to the water in a fundraising event in memory of an Olympic sailor who died in a training accident.

More than 100 boats competed in the annual Bart’s Bash at Stokes Bay yesterday in honour of sailor Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, who died while preparing for the America’s Cup in San Francisco in May 2013.

Stokes Bay Sailing Club, in Gosport, was just one of hundreds of clubs across the world that participated in order to raise funds for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation, set up in Andrew’s name to use sailing to improve the lives of young people, as well as teach them marine skills.

Commodore of the club, Nick Harrison, who was also Andrew’s coach for the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he won gold, said: ‘He would have been really proud.

‘He loved sailing and he would have loved seeing all the children involved today.

‘He was really friendly and a really inspiring man.’

Scores of cadets from the club took part and many brought friends along for the Bart’s Buddies event, which allowed club members to take a friend out on the water in the afternoon to experience sailing.

Minnie Massey, 15, from Bursledon, was at the club with her friend Imogen Beard, 14, from Hill Head.

Minnie said: ‘It is all about getting people involved. It’s been great.’

Also sailing were brother and sister Charlie, 11, and Eliza South, 10, from Funtington.

Eliza said: ‘I think it is really great that we are going out sailing for Bart’s Bash because I really enjoy sailing and it is nice that we are remembering him.’

James Gray, 32, had come from Guildford for the event. He is a member of Stokes Bay Sailing Club and became one of Andrew’s friends after training with him.

He said: ‘He would have been really pleased to see how the event has developed.

‘He was really down-to-earth and approachable and likeable.’

Other clubs that took part yesterday included Emsworth Sailing Club & Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club, Clipper Race Yacht Club, Hayling Island Sailing Club, Portsmouth Harbour Yacht Club and Portsmouth Sailing Club, plus many more.

In January 2015 Bart’s Bash was named as the largest sailing race in the world by Guinness World Records.

Last year, it raised more than £366,391.95.

Go to bartsbash.com for more details.