Hundreds Expected For Olympic Sailor's Funeral

31 May 2013, 06:57 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Family, friends and fellow sporting champions are gathering today for the funeral of Olympic sailing gold medallist Andrew 'Bart' Simpson.

The service takes place at Sherborne Abbey, in his hometown of Sherborne in Dorset, followed by a private family burial.

Simpson, 36, respected both at home and abroad as a talented but fierce competitor, was killed while training for the America's Cup in San Francisco Bay on 9 May.

The father-of-two died after being trapped under his super fast AC72 catamaran when it nosedived, capsized and broke into pieces while training with Artemis Racing.

Simpson's small hometown of Sherborne has been especially dressed with red, white and blue bunting as it bids farewell to one of its greatest sporting heroes.

He won gold alongside his best friend Iain Percy at the Beijing 2008 and silver at the London 2012 Olympics in the Star discipline.

Percy, who was not only his childhood friend and the best man at his wedding, now faces the task of being a pallbearer at the funeral.

Four-time Olympic sailing champion Sir Ben Ainslie, another close and long-term friend, is also among the pallbearers.

Simpson is survived by his wife Leah and sons Freddie and Hamish.

The family plan to set up a grassroots sailing charity in his memory.

"I am so extremely proud of all his achievements," his sister Amanda told the Press Association.

Describing her brother as "my inspiration for 33 years", she added:

"As many people have told me in the last few weeks Andy has accomplished more in his 36 years than most people do in their lifetime.

"We have been deeply moved by all the beautiful tributes received during this immensely sad time.

"When we were young I annoyed him as all younger siblings do, but as we matured our relationship changed. He would look out for me at sailing events and would always be there to help pull my boat up the beach and we would discuss tactics.

"I look forward to teaching both Freddie and Hamish how to sail so they can also share in our passion for sailing.

"Andrew's presence will be greatly missed by our whole family and we look forward to setting up the charity to carry on inspiring grass roots sailing in Andrew's memory."

There will be reception after the funeral, billed as a celebration of his life, at Sherborne Castle.

Mourners have been asked to bring their photographs of Simpson which will be used to create a memory wall "for people to share and his family to treasure," a family spokesman said.

Jan Paterson, the British Olympic Association's deputy chef de mission at London 2012, said:

"Andrew was a hugely valued member of Team GB at both the Beijing Olympic Games and most recently at our home Games in London.

"His numerous achievements are a credit to the extraordinary effort which he dedicated to his sport.

"He was a highly respected British Olympian and I am sure that his spirit will live on in all those who had the privilege of knowing him.

"He was an inspirational figure not only within the sailing fraternity but also with the wider Olympic Team.

"Andrew will be greatly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends today."