Sweden's Artemis to stay in America's Cup but start regatta late

SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 Fri Jun 7, 2013 2:02pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO, June 7 (Reuters) - Sweden's Artemis Racing said on Friday it will remain in the America's Cup sailing regatta following a fatal accident last month, but that it will not be ready in time for the start of preliminary races scheduled for early July.

The participation of Artemis in the regatta, scheduled to begin on July 4 and go into September, was thrown into doubt after its 72-foot (22-metre) catamaran capsized and broke apart on May 9 during a training session, the second time one of the controversial multihulled boats has flipped in San Francisco Bay.

The Artemis accident killed British Olympian Andrew Simpson, who was trapped underwater by the wreckage, and raised questions about the fundamental soundness of the huge, lightweight boats, which can reach speeds of close to 50 miles per hour (80 kmh).

Artemis had warned that it might not compete if its sailors felt that planned rule changes were insufficient. Organizers have since adopted several proposals to improve safety.

"We are working around-the-clock to get our new boat ready, in the water and to prepare our team to race," Artemis Racing CEO Paul Cayard said in a statement on Friday. "We still have a mountain to climb, but our plan is to launch our new boat in early July and get ourselves in a position where we can race by the end of the month."

A late start by Artemis in the Louis Vuitton Cup series of round robin elimination races, currently scheduled to go through August, would not leave it out of the running for the final two-boat America's Cup match races in September.

Following the Artemis accident and an incident in October when Oracle Team USA's catamaran capsized and was swept out to sea, criticism has grown that the boats may be too hard to maneuver in San Francisco's Bay's heavy winds and rip currents.

Organizers have said they plan to adopt a proposal to reduce the number of races in the Luis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which will challenge America's Cup defender Oracle Team USA, backed by software billionaire Larry Ellison.

An America's Cup Event Authority spokesman declined to comment.

Fewer rounds in the Luis Vuitton Cup would give the three teams -- Artemis, Italy's Luna Rossa Challenge and Emirates Team New Zealand -- more time for boat maintenance.