The owner of the Italian team that's competing in the America's Cup race in San Francisco called today for better safety measures in the wake of the death of a sailor on another team last week.
Patrizio Bertelli of Luna Rossa said at a news conference at the team's headquarters in Alameda that he thinks that wind speed limits should be lowered and sailors should have improved helmets and wear body armor.
Bertelli also said that water ambulances with paramedics, professional divers and helicopters should be ready to treat or evacuate sailors who have accidents who participate in the America's Cup, which is scheduled to start on July 5.
On May 9, Andrew "Bart" Simpson, a British sailor who was a member of Sweden-based Artemis Racing, died after his team's 72-foot boat capsized during a practice run in San Francisco Bay. Bertelli, who used the services of a team translator, said, "The America's Cup has always had its ups and downs but this is much more serious than situations in the past."
Regatta director Iain Murray is chairing a six-person panel to review all procedures before the races start. But Bertelli said it was "quite a shock" when he and other team leaders learned today that the panel only has the power to recommend improved safety measures and the decision on whether to implement them will be left up the race's organizers.
He said that because the race rules are still up in the air, "Right now there are not many things that are clear to us." Currently, the maximum wind speed under which the four America's cup boats will be allowed to sail is 25 knots in the early rounds, 28 knots in the semifinal rounds and 33 knots for the final round.
Bertelli, who's also the chief executive of the Italian fashion company Prada, whose name is emblazoned on the sails of the Italian team's yacht, proposed today that those limits be lowered to 20 knots in the early and semifinal rounds and 25 knots in the final round. "We want to increase the safety of the sailors and look at any technology and tools to make us safer," Bertelli said. He said wind speed limits are a "fundamental" factor in the sailing race. "We don't want them too low or too high," Bertelli said.
He said if the Luna Rossa team is unhappy with the wind speed limits that ultimately are decided upon "we could pull out of the event." Asked about a newspaper article in which he was quoted as saying the Italian team would refuse to participate in a "slaughtering game," Bertelli said his words were mistranslated and he meant only to say that his team wouldn't take risks.
If Luna Rossa pulls out of the America's Cup, only three teams would be left in the race. In addition to Luna Rossa and Artemis, the other teams are the defending champion Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand.