Andrew Simpson tributes: Olympic sailor was 'amazing' family man
The grief-stricken widow of West Country Olympic sailor Andrew Simpson has paid a moving tribute to her late husband as the world of sailing struggles to come to terms with his tragic death.
Leah Simpson, who had moved temporarily from the West Dorset town of Sherborne with Andrew and their two sons earlier this year, so he could train in San Francisco for the America’s Cup, said he was an “amazing” husband and father.
Leah, who was celebrating her 35th birthday on the day of the tragic accident, told The Sunday Telegraph: “I cannot explain in words how amazing Andy was as a father and a husband.
“We will miss him every moment of every day.”
Simpson’s team-mate and best friend Iain Percy also paid emotional tribute, after the 2008 Olympic champion died after being trapped under his AC72 catamaran when it nosedived, capsized and broke into pieces while training for the America’s Cup with Artemis Racing. Simpson linked up with Percy in the Star class event in 2006, with the pair winning the Olympic title in Beijing two years later before adding silver last year at the London Games.
Simpson recently turned his attention to the America’s Cup – a trophy he admitted before London 2012 was his biggest goal.
He had hoped that dream would come true as strategist for challenger Artemis Racing, whose sailing team director and tactician is Percy.
Percy said on Saturday: “Yesterday I lost my closest friend of over 25 years, the friendliest and 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. Andrew has more friends than anyone and we will continue to support his family with all our hearts.”
Four-time Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie said he took some solace from the fact Simpson “died doing something which he loved”.
Ainslie is helmsman with defending champions Oracle Team USA and he released a statement.
It read: “This is such a tragedy. Andrew was such a wonderful husband, father, friend and one of the nicest people you would ever meet.
“The only solace I can find is that he died doing something which he loved. I have such fond memories of growing up sailing together as kids and then as adults. I will miss him so much. My thoughts and prayers are with Leah, their two boys and their family.”
America’s Cup regatta director Iain Murray fought back tears as he gave more details of the tragedy at a press conference.
The Australian said: “The boat nose-dived and all we know from that point in that manoeuvre is that the boat ended up upside down, capsized, broken into many pieces. All of the crew except for Bart [Simpson] were located immediately. It appears Bart was trapped under some of the solid sections of the yacht out of view, out of sight to the myriad of people on board trying to locate him, including proper divers with apparatus. All of the crews on these boats have been trained in underwater and all carried oxygen and were meant to be prepared for the worst.”
Murray confirmed a thorough investigation would be undertaken, saying: “We need to understand the detail and we will draw conclusions and inform people and discuss with the teams and the event authority what our findings are.”