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aACAySailing must constantly evolve' - Dee Caffari.

Dubai: Sailing must continually evolve to ensure safety improves at the same rate as performance, according to Oman Sail skipper Denise aACAyDee' Caffari.

Her comments come after British Olympian Andrew aACAyBart' Simpson died while training for the America's Cup in San Francisco Bay, California, earlier this month.

Simpson, 36, of Swedish Artemis Racing, got trapped under the wreckage of an AC72 class catarmaran after it pitchpoled (flipped forwards) and broke up in rough conditions near Treasure Island. His funeral is due to take place in the UK later this week.

Even before Simpson's death the safety of the revolutionary $10 million AC72 class yachts, made specifically for this year's America's Cup, was called into question.

Team Origin pulled out of the event due to safety concerns with the AC72 in 2011 and Oracle Racing's yacht pitchpoled and was swept under the Golden Gate Bridge in October 2012. The yacht was badly damaged but there were no injuries.

Capable of top speeds in excess of twice the windspeed, the AC72 consists of netting stretched between two 72-foot-long hulls that are only a foot wide with foils that lift the boat out of the water. Built for extreme speed and manoeuvrability, the yachts have been dubbed "an overpowered death trap" by critics.

Despite an ongoing investigation into Simpson's death, the America's Cup will go ahead as planned in San Francisco from September 7-22. The Luis Vuitton Cup development series, using the same yachts, will take place from July 4 to September 1.

While Caffari, 40, who became the first woman to sail single-handedly and non-stop around the world in both directions in 2009, encourages the sport's development, she believes it can't be at the expense of safety.

"In the America's Cup, the sport is pushing the boundaries of design and technology," Caffari told Gulf News. "We are going further in our sport than ever before and this will require a period of discovery. I am sure rules and designs will continue to evolve, but what we need to be sure of is that it does not happen at the cost of further lives."

In reference to the 1979 Fastnet tragedy, in which 15 sailors and three rescuers died in a storm off the coast of Ireland, when six people perished in a similar storm off the coast of Australia, Caffari said: "Both of these events saw terrible and unnecessary deaths and safety measures were updated and improved as a result.

"Our sport is constantly evolving. The Vendee Globe has seen devastating keel failures and rig damage that have stopped races before the end for the sailor. These issues have been looked at and rules have been made to ensure an increased level of safety in hope that these failures will not be seen again."

Asked if performance should be curtailed for the sake of safety, Caffari said: "In comparison, if we look at the history of Formula 1 motorsport, we will see safety measures evolve and designs change to meet new standards. At no time did the sport stop racing, or did they get told to slow down.

"As a sport, sailing is pleased it moves forwards, breaking new ground and trying to use new technology. I hope this can continue but not at the cost of life."

Of the controversial new craft design, Caffari added: "I have not been in a position to sail onboard an AC72. They look remarkable and the teams training on them have not only been very open about the physical nature of the boats and therefore the change in their physical preparations, but also have taken extra measures for their own safety. They have carried spare air bottles, which are new, and I am sure further measures will be made as experiences are shared and conversations held.

"The facts at present state the team were on a regular training day completing manoeuvres that they had done many times before. The sailors are learning to sail these machines efficiently and effectively. What is unknown is what actually happened at the time of the incident. I am sure further studies will soon reveal if the failure was structural or not," she added.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 25, 2013
Words:710
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