Five-time Olympic sailing medalist Sir Ben Ainslie paid a poignant tribute to Andrew “Bart” Simpson, who died in an America’s Cup training accident on San Francisco Bay, at his longtime friend’s funeral last Friday in his hometown of Sherborne in Dorset, England.
“Whether Andrew met a young kid learning to sail or a four-time America’s Cup winner, everyone loved Bart because of the person he was,” Ainslie said outside Sherborne Abbey as hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral. “He always had a word for everybody. He always had a smile on his face.”
Click play for Ainslie's eulogy.
Simpson, 36, was trapped under the Artemis Racing team’s AC72 catamaran after it capsized May 9 during a training sail on the bay. He leaves behind his wife, Leah, and two young sons, Freddie and Hamish.
Ainslie, who won a silver medal in 1996 and gold in 2000 in the Laser, and gold medals in the Finn in 2004, 2008 and 2012, grew up sailing with and against Simpson in British youth fleets, starting in the Optimist. Ainslie is now a helmsman on Larry Ellison’s Oracle Racing Team, the defender in this summer’s America’s Cup.
In the second video, Ainslie talks to a BBC reporter about Cup organizers making changes so the AC72 class is safer and suggests that the boats “probably need to be simpler because they’re very technical.”
Click play to watch Ainslie talk about the tragedy in a BBC interview.
Simpson himself was a two-time Olympic medalist, winning a gold in 2008 and silver in 2012 crewing for Iain Percy in the Star. Percy is a helmsman on Artemis.
“[Simpson] was not the loudest nor the most celebrated in our Great Britain team, but he was the kindest, the wisest,” Ainslie wrote in a tribute in The Daily Telegraph on June 3.
Ainslie dedicated a record-breaking victory in the Round the Island Race in an AC45 cat the day after the funeral. He said he and his crew decided that Simpson would have wanted the race around the Isle of Wight to go on. They finished in two hours, 52 minutes — 16 minutes better than the previous record.