Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting: Teams asked to stay off water until midweek

America's Cup teams will stay off the water until the middle of next week as experts continue to assess the safety of the AC72 class after Artemis' fatal training accident last week.

After voluntarily suspending their sailing programme following the death of British sailor Andrew Simpson, who drowned after becoming trapped under the platform of the Swedish boat when it capsized in a training run last Friday, Cup defenders Oracle had indicated an intent to return to the water yesterday.

But after the first meeting of the America's Cup review committee in San Francisco, teams have been asked to suspend all sailing in both the AC72 and the smaller AC45 catamarans until at least midweek.

The committee is scheduled to meet the teams for the first time today to hear their recommendations on what needs to be done to avoid further tragedy in the lead-up and duration of the America's Cup.

The boats' return to the water will be seen as a key milestone for the event, as organisers battle to convince sponsors and the public that the regatta remains on track. But with a panel of experts still investigating the safety of the high-powered catamarans, it would be foolhardy to allow the teams to resume their testing until their preliminary findings are known.

An extra few days of reflection will likely be welcomed by the sailors as they recover from the shock of losing one of their own.

Artemis Racing yesterday held a private ceremony in San Francisco to commemorate the memory of their fallen teammate. After eight bells, a wreath was cast upon the water by representatives of the four teams of the 34th America's Cup.

With Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa still setting up their operations in San Francisco, the only team in a position to sail are Oracle, who were out on the water with Artemis when the capsize occurred.

Luna Rossa, who packed up their Auckland base a few weeks before Team New Zealand, were close to being ready to take their AC72 for its maiden sail on San Francisco Bay before last week's tragedy.

But there are question marks over the Italian team's desire to continue in the event, with owner Patrizio Bertelli expressing his reservations over the safety of the class.

Luna Rossa yesterday said Bertelli was flying to San Francisco to "follow closely and personally" the handling of last week's deadly capsizing. In a statement, the Luna Rossa Challenge team sponsored by Prada said Bertelli might have a news conference today depending on developments.

Last week, Bertelli cast doubts over his team's participation in the prestigious regatta when he was quoted by the Italian yachting press as saying he would leave the decision up to the sailors.

- NZ Herald

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