'His greatness will inspire a generation'
Tears flowed as moving tributes were paid to a sailing legend who ‘achieved more in his 36 years than most people do in their lifetime’.
Hundreds filled Sherborne Abbey yesterday and dozens more gathered outside to hear the funeral service of double Olympic medallist Andrew Simpson.
Andrew, who was nicknamed Bart, was tragically killed in an America’s Cup training accident in San Francisco on 9 May 2013.
Andrew’s hometown of Sherborne was dressed with Union Flag bunting yesterday as family, friends, the sailing community and members of the public came together to honour the man ‘who gave so much’ to others.
The Reverend Canon Eric Woods, Vicar of Sherborne, welcomed the mourners and gave particular mention to Andrew’s wife Leah and two young sons Freddie and Hamish.
The hymn ‘Lord of all hopefullness’ was followed by a reading of 1 Corinthians 13. 4-13 by Miles Bradbury, a choral performance of ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay and a reading of The Book by Paul Meadows, read by James Donaldson.
Quadruple Olympic gold medallist and silver medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, Andrew’s close friend, gave a reading called ‘What is dying?’ by Bishop Brent.
This was followed by the hymn ‘Praise him, Praise him’ and a heartfelt tribute by Andrew’s best friend and sailing partner, triple Olympic medallist Iain Percy, which he had written in conjunction with Andrew’s family.
Iain Percy’s tribute
Iain said: ‘This is going to sound like a bit of an exaggeration. Everything sounds fantastical about Andrew, bigger, brighter.
‘But all of us that experienced him the most will know that it is all true.
‘In fact, no words will ever do him justice. He was more loved and in love, more jolly and outspoken, more kind and generous and compassionate.
‘Andrew was not normal, he was special in so many ways. He was an example to all of us that met him and for the next generation too.’
Iain described Andrew as someone ‘so many turned to for guidance’ and tearfully said he had ‘never needed him more’.
He recalled how Andrew ‘always entered the room with a beaming smile and a kind word for everyone’ and said Andrew was always happy but he ‘became complete’ when he met his wife Leah and was the proudest dad of Freddie and Hamish.
Iain added: ‘He was driven, but never at the expense of his values. His friends and family were always number one.
‘He worked to win every race but if he didn’t, he wasn’t sad. He had won already, every day, every second for the rest of his life.’
A choral performance of ‘One day like this’ by Elbow followed a sermon by the Reverend William Ridding, Rector of Stalbridge, and was particularly poignant for the British Sailing Team as it had been performed at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games last August.
The service came to an end with prayers, the Jerusalem hymn, a blessing by the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, and a choral chant of ‘Sailing’ by Gavin Sutherland.
Andrew’s pallbearers included Iain, Sir Ben, Olympic gold medallist Paul Goodison.
Many well wishers from further afield, who could not attend the service, paid their respects and followed the proceedings via the dedicated @AndrewSimpsonTribute Twitterfeed.
British Sailing Team member Nick Thompson wrote: ‘The most incredible send off for Andrew Simpson today. The tribute by Iain Percy was the most moving and fitting speech I have heard.’
Andrew’s Memorial Service was followed by a celebration of Andrew’s life at Sherborne Castle, where two Royal Navy helicopters did a fly past in his honour.
Close friends and family pay tribute to Andrew:
Leah Simpson (Wife)
‘Andrew, was a wonderful person. He was a loving husband and a devoted father to our two boys. I am so pleased that so many of his friends and family are here today to celebrate his life and achievements. He will be forever in our thoughts and hearts.’
Amanda Simpson (Sister)
‘Andrew has been my inspiration for 33 years and I am so extremely proud of all his achievements. 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 and which way paid up the beat.
‘More recently, both having young children, meant we enjoyed spending our time as families and we both adored each other’s siblings. 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.’
‘I feel privileged to be around so many people that loved Bart, on the day that we celebrate his life. I was so lucky to have Bart as a sailing partner and as a friend, his passion and dedication for our team was beyond anything I’d seen in the sport, but that was insignificant compared to the love he had for his wife Leah and amazing two boys, Freddie and Hamish.’
‘I would just like to thank everyone for being here today and say a few words on behalf of Andrew’s wife Leah and his parents Pamela and Keith and all of their close family and friends.
‘We are all devastated by Andrew’s loss and of course it has been a very difficult period for all of us as we come to terms with his passing. Andrew was a devoted husband, adored father of Freddie and Hamish, son, brother and friend to so many of us.
‘The fact that so many people all over the world have come here today to show respect for Bart’s life is truly amazing and it goes to show what a fantastic person he was and how many people he came in to contact with and inspired.
‘Whether Andrew met a young kid learning to sail or a four time America’s Cup winner, everyone loved Bart because of the person he was. He always had a word for everybody. He always had a smile on his face.
‘One of the things Andrew was truly passionate about was helping young sailors get in to the sport and for that reason we are looking at setting up a charity in the near future in Bart’s memory, to help young sailors in the sport of sailing.
‘I would like to thank everyone, who in the last three weeks, has gone out of their way to help the family get through this tragedy, given their support or shown their respect to help get through this tragedy.
‘Leah very much sees today as a way to celebrate Andrew’s life and to remember Andrew as we all knew him. In many ways Bart was understated in life, this is really the occasion to celebrate his life and to remember what a huge impact he has had on us all. This is a fitting tribute to a man who gave so much.’
A sailing charity in Bart’s memory
A sailing charity to benefit children is being set up in Andrew’s memory.
Anyone wishing to donate to the cause is asked to send cheques payable to ‘Peter
Jackson Funeral Services Charity’ to:
Peter Jackson Funeral Services, Mons Bungalow, High Street, Henstridge, Templecombe, Somerset, BA8 0RB
Please write ‘Simpson’ on the reverse of the cheque or enclose a covering note.
Alternatively, donations can be made via bank transfer (whether from the UK or overseas) to:
Lloyds TSB Bank, Sort code: 30-90-92, Account No: 00965801
Account Name: Peter Jackson Funeral Services Charity
IBAN: GB82 LOYD 3090 9200 9658 01
Please reference transfers with the word ‘Simpson
Round The Island race tributes
Several sailors competing in today’s Round the Island Race, including Olympic class Finn sailor Mark Andrews are doing so wearing t-shirts in tribute to Andrew.