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America's Cup death: Boat broke into many pieces, official says

The boat that capsized in San Francisco Bay, killing an Olympic gold medalist nose-dived as it was changing direction and later broke into many pieces, America’s Cup officials said Friday.

In a news conference at Pier 27 in San Francisco, officials provided new details on the apparent accident that killed British Olympic gold medalist Andrew "Bart" Simpson.

Simpson was part of an 11-man crew aboard Artemis Racing's AC72 vessel, training for the upcoming America's Cup. The boat flipped northwest of Treasure Island about 1 p.m. Thursday, officials said. Simpson, 36, served as the Swedish team's strategist.

The incident comes about seven months after a similar yacht owned by the Oracle USA team capsized in October, also while training in San Francisco Bay. No injuries were reported, but the vessel was damaged.

The AC72 is capable of speeds in excess of twice the wind speed.

Friday, officials refused to discuss possible consequences or changes in the wake of Simpson's death.

"Nothing is off the table," Stephen Barclay, chief executive of the America's Cup Event Authority, told the Oakland Tribune, adding that Artemis had "absolutely not" dropped out of the race. 

Artemis is one of three teams of top sailors competing for the chance to challenge Oracle Team USA in the 34th America's Cup, set for this summer in San Francisco.

America's Cup Regatta Director Iain Murray said the Artemis boat was on the water with another boat "training in what they had been doing for months … and looking frankly quite good."

Murray told reporters that the Artemis boat was being steered away from the wind when its bow unexpectedly nose-dived.

"The boat nose-dived, and all that we know from that point in that maneuver is that the boat ended up upside down, capsized, broken into many pieces," Murray said at the news conference.

"All of the crew, except for Bart, were located immediately," Murray continued. "It appears Bart was trapped under some of the solid sections of the yacht, out of view, out of sight." 

Simpson and the others were rushed to shore, but despite CPR efforts, officials said he was pronounced dead at the nearby St. Francis Yacht Club.

At least one other sailor suffered cuts but declined to be taken to a hospital.

A Coast Guard spokesman told The Times that the San Francisco Police Department will lead the investigation.

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