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Ex-skipper changes tune on boat in fatal capsize

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SAN DIEGO (AP) Former America's Cup skipper Terry Hutchinson has backed down from his contention that Artemis Racing was sailing an unsafe boat when it capsized on San Francisco Bay last year, killing British Olympic star Andrew ''Bart'' Simpson.

In an interview with Maxim magazine earlier this month, Hutchinson was quoted as saying that he ''had a massive falling out with the owner of the team and the CEO about the safety of our yacht so they decided to terminate me. Ten weeks after my argument with the owner about the safety of the Artemis boat, the boat capsized in the San Francisco bay and one of the sailors was killed. It was a known thing that the boat was not safe. It was a tragedy. The guy that was killed was a good person and a father.''

Simpson, an Olympic gold and silver medalist, was killed on May 9, 2013, when the 72-foot catamaran flipped and crumpled while on a training run.

On Friday, Hutchinson said on his Facebook page that the Maxim interview ''included some untrue statements and inaccurate remarks I made about Artemis Racing.''

''To be clear, Artemis Racing is a well-organized and responsible professional sailing team that considers safety an absolute priority,'' Hutchinson wrote. ''My departure from the team more than five months prior to the tragedy of May 9, 2013 was on agreeable terms with the owner and my teammates. No one could have anticipated what occurred, and I meant no disrespect to the memory of Andrew ''Bart'' Simpson or to any current or past members of the Artemis Racing team. I deeply regret any misunderstanding that was drawn from the Maxim interview.''

Hutchinson said in an email to The Associated Press that he wasn't going to comment further on why he recanted his earlier statement.

Officials with Artemis also didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The syndicate is owned by billionaire Torbjorn Tornqvist, a Swedish oil trader.

The San Francisco Police Department, which handled the accident investigation, has declined to make its findings public.

Simpson suffered extensive trauma to his head and neck and drowned after being trapped underwater for about 10 minutes, according to the autopsy report. There were serious cuts and bruises to Simpson's head and neck, and foam inside his crash helmet ''was irregularly separated consistent with being crushed,'' the report said. The cause of death was listed as ''blunt trauma with drowning.''

This isn't the first time a sailor has clarified a comment about the capsized boat.

Following the accident, Tony Outteridge, father of Artemis Racing*s Australian helmsman Nathan Outteridge, told his local newspaper that his son said the boat folded like a taco shell.

Nathan Outteridge later issued a statement saying, ''The description of the accident in the Newcastle Herald while quoting my father is not correct and does not reflect the facts. Unfortunately it has been relayed by other media. Right now, we are all still mourning and working to understand what happened.''

Artemis had technical problems before the capsize. In the fall of 2012, the syndicate said the front beam of the catamaran was damaged during structural tests, delaying the boat's christening.

Simpson's death prompted race organizers to implement 37 safety recommendations, including equipping sailors with body armor, an air tank and breathing tube and underwater locator devices.

In other America's Cup news, Bob Nelson, the chairman of the board of commissioners at the Unified Port of San Diego, said local officials met earlier in the week with America's Cup officials to work through some issues regarding San Diego's bid to host the 2017 regatta. Nelson said most of the issues are regulatory and environmental.

''We narrowed the issues down to the point where I think we can resolve them all and win the competition,'' Nelson said Saturday.

San Diego is competing with Bermuda - a British territory - to host the 35th America's Cup. A decision is expected in the fall.


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