Australian Olympic gold medallist Nathan Outteridge was steering and two other Australians were on board an America's Cup catamaran which crashed, killing British sailing champion Andrew "Bart" Simpson in San Francisco Bay.

Outteridge was helming the Swedish-owned Artemis boat on Friday - though there is no suggestion he was at any fault.

Artemis Racing's SC72 boat, capable of speeds in excess of 70km/h, was executing a turn in a 20-knot breeze when it pitched under the water, tossing the vessel into the air and causing it to break into pieces on Friday morning (AEST).

The accident, which happened just north of Treasure Island, left Beijing Star class gold medallist Simpson pinned under the boat for 10 minutes, where he drowned.

The cause of the accident is not yet known but it has raised further concerns about the SC72 catamarans being used at the 34th America's Cup.

Yachting Australia Vice President Matt Allen described them as "experimental".

"Clearly this is a very different end to the sport from what we see on Sydney Harbour," added Allen, a 22-time Sydney-Hobart veteran.

"These boats are going very fast and it's the pointy end of the sport so the risk is a lot greater."

Australian Olympic gold medallist Tom Slingsby and compatriot yachtsman James Spithill were involved in a dramatic capsize in their Team Oracle SC72 catamaran on San Francisco Bay in October.

That incident threw most of the Oracle sailors into the water and virtually destroyed their $8 million boat. Nobody was seriously hurt.

Iain Jensen, won a gold medal with Nathan Outteridge in the 49er skiff at the London Games, was on board as a sail trimmer.

Rodney Daniel, a 12-time Sydney-Hobart veteran, was the third Australian aboard. All three were unhurt but were very shaken by the tragedy.

Another Artemis crew member, New Zealander Craig Monk, suffered minor injuries.

Olympic bronze medallist Monk won the America's Cup with Team New Zealand in 1995.

Tributes flowed for Simpson, a 36-year-old married father of two, who was Artemis Racing's strategist having won the Star class silver medal at the London Games with crewmate Iain Percy.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Andrew Simpson's family, wife and kids," Artemis Racing CEO Paul Cayard told a media conference.

"And also with the rest of the teammates - it's a shocking experience to go through."

The British sailing team and British Olympic windsurfer Nick Dempsey were among those to pay tribute to Simpson, who had long held ambitions of winning the America's Cup.

"Going to miss you Bart," Dempsey wrote on his Twitter account.

Allen insisted the America's Cup series will go ahead, despite the safety concerns.

The Oracle crash raised a number of questions about how fast the SC72 boats sail, with Spithill saying at the time: "You see professional race car drivers crash cars and why do they crash?

"Because they push hard and they are trying to get everything out of the cars.

"We are no different. We push as hard as we can but we have to be careful."

The America's Cup challengers series begins on July 5 and runs through to the end of August. The winners of that series will face defenders Oracle Racing in the cup match, which is scheduled for September 8-22.

 

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