Yacht racing in big boats pushing the technological envelope has always been dangerous and it will always be dangerous if only because of the degree of forces at work the inherent need in a competitive environment
to push equipment
and crew to their limits for the sake of boat speed. In this respect, yacht racing is in the same league as the racing of any other machine. The only reason that NASCAR or Formula 1 is statistically safer is that there is a tremendous amount of experience and oversight at work over a long period of time.
Beyond that, it's hard to cite these guys for pushing too hard when our national bloodsport, football, is responsible for brain injuries in thousands of amateur teenage athletes every year. These sailors know the risks and they make a conscious decision to participate on these teams. And I'm going to bet every last one of them is loving every minute of it.
As far as Ellison's second objective, creating a format that his teenage kids
would want to watch, he's making a point, and it's a valid one. To think he literally wants the AC to be the next snowboarding sport misses the point entirely. He's trying to make yacht racing entertaining, and he's succeeding. The AC has been the exclusive province of billionaires since it's inception and it is being transformed into something more than that. If it's successful in generating enough media exposure then corporate sponsors will be doing the heavy lifting and the sport will have broader international participation and generate more interest and exposure. I for one don't think that is a bad thing at all. Ellison was speaking euphemistically. What he really meant was "no one wants to watch wealthy yacht owners creep along a long course for an hour or two, particularly the younger audience that is the key to transforming the sport from a sponsorship perspective."
I think it is worth noting as well that technological advances funded by the wealthy trickle down fairly rapidly to the rest of us. New expensive features come out in the top models of cars and a few years later make their way into Civics. The same is true for yachts. We directly benefit from what these teams learn about design, materials, and construction.
It is tragic that a life was lost
in this event. While it's cynical to point out that Simpson's death will generate increased interest in the event, it's also just plain true. But if Simpson's death results in more interest in the sport and a thorough review of safety
in the AC, then it will have not have been entirely senseless. The man loved sailing, was superlative at it, and lost
his life participating in it at the highest level. Godspeed to him and condolences to his family
for their loss.