‘I should have died rather than Andrew Simpson’, SAYS OLYMPIC AND AMERICA’S CUP TEAM-MATE IAIN PERCY
Iain Percy says he wishes he, not Andrew Simpson, had died in the accident in May which killed his Olympic and America’s Cup team-mate.
Simpson, 36, died when Team Artemis’ catamaran capsized in San Francisco Bay while the team were in training for the America’s Cup.
Percy, who partnered Simpson to Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in Weymouth last summer, held his lifelong friend – affectionately known as Bart, after the television character Bart Simpson – as he died and can hardly bear to recall the incident.
“We were in good spirits,” he told the Daily Mail. “The training had been pretty uneventful, the wind was only around 18 knots (23 mph). One moment we’re chatting away next to each other; the next we’re in the water and the whole world has changed. It just doesn’t feel right that something so important, so brutal, can happen that quickly.
“The first thing you always do when you capsize is have a head count and it only took a few seconds to realise that Bart was missing. In the end the divers found him and the paramedics got to work but too much time had passed. I just held him as they tried to save him.”
Percy’s thoughts were with Simpson’s wife Leah and their two young sons, prompting his wish to switch places.
“I keep asking myself why it had to be Bart,” he said. “I don’t want to be melodramatic and say I wish it had been me, not him, but it would have been better for practical reasons if it had been.
“Bart’s left behind a wonderful, happy life and a wonderful family. My immediate thought was for Leah. I had to be the person to break the awful news of Bart’s death to her and I’m so glad I could tell her face to face, even though it was the hardest thing I will ever have to do.”
The incident robbed Percy of his competitive drive and he admits it was hard to return to action with Artemis – even before considering his ongoing safety concerns over the crafts used.
“If it had been completely down to me I wouldn’t be here now. I would have liked more time,” he said. “I may have even packed in sailing altogether but it’s not just about me. There are 140 people working on Artemis and I owe it to them and their families as well, but I’m struggling to muster the competitive spirit I used to have in abundance.”
He added: “These boats are full-on. They’re sailing’s equivalent of Formula One cars. They’re incredibly over-powered and that means they’re always on the edge. I predicted that there would be three capsizes before the America’s Cup was over. So far we have had two.
“I just hope that such an awful thing happening to a man who was a true great in the sport – like Ayrton Senna’s death in Formula One – has finally made everyone sit down and realise that safety has to be the focus as much as speed.”