The event in memory of Olympian Andrew 'Bart' Simpson looks set to smash a Guinness World record

A celebration of sailing in memory of Olympic medallist and America’s Cup sailor Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson attracted more than 18,000 people to take part around the world.

Organisers of Bart’s Bash said they were ‘genuinely proud to be involved’ in the event, which has raised £161,500 and counting for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation (ASSF) – a charity that works to enable more children to experience the sport.

Bart’s Bash looks set to smash the Guinness World record for the biggest ever sailing race (within 24 hours) – although this awaiting officially verification.

Around 200 people registered to race in the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre-run event at
the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy including the family of the late Olympic star known as Bart, who tragically drowned in an America’s Cup training accident in May 2013.

Iain Percy OBE, who achieved gold and silver medals in the Star class with his best friend Bart at the Beijing and London Olympic Games, raced with Bart’s eldest son Freddie, aged four, in their old Star keelboat, along with Australian Olympic sailor Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter.

A poignant day

Percy admitted it was an emotional experience to be sailing their Star keelboat again, still with Bart’s writing all over it; course markings and wind directions.’

The double Olympic champion and skipper of America’s Cup challenger Artemis Racing said: ‘It was weird to be back in the Star, very sad not to be with Bart in it but being with Freddie was a great second best.

‘It was his first race ever and that’s been echoed so many times today, it was the first time my nieces and nephews had been on a boat.

‘Nocka said it was so nice to be doing a race for a bit of fun. And that’s the thing, you can take whatever you want from it, for us who race seriously it was great race for fun.’

He joked: ‘That’s what I’m telling everyone before the results come in.’

Percy added: ‘Wow what a day. I’ve just been completely and utterly overwhelmed. It’s been an incredible Mexican wave that started last night at midnight in New Zealand and there have been tens of thousands of sailors taking part in events, just like this one.

‘The thing that kept coming back to me, tinged with sadness is how much Bart would have loved today. He loved family and children, for him seeing children sailing for the first time would have meant much more than winning events in a far off land.’

Percy, who is an ASSF trustee, praised the ‘army of volunteers’ who worked behind the scenes to stage this unique event, which ‘had never been done before.’

Another close friend of Bart’s, the Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallist Laser sailor Paul Goodison, competed in Bart’s Bash in his hydrofoiling Moth.

He said: ‘The highlight for me was seeing the smile on Freddie’s face when he got on the Star.

‘It just brought back so many memories seeing Perce [Iain Percy] out there in the Star. To see the young Simpson in there instead of Bart, was a bit emotional. But super nice.’

He added: ‘It’s nice to see so many kids and people who are new to the sport and so many of Bart’s friends out on the water, just sailing.

‘It’s a very special day and the weather couldn’t have been better.’

Foundation Trustee Sir Ben Ainslie, who raced with his girlfriend Georgie Thompson at the Queen Mary Sailing Club, Ashford, said: ‘The response has been unbelievable, almost overwhelming; a true testament to Bart’s popularity within the sailing community.

‘Over 18,000 sailors from over 700 sailing clubs across 65 countries have taken part, from New Zealand to Newquay, from Hawaii to Heathrow, which is where I have been racing, at the Queen Mary Sailing Club.

‘It was always going to be a special, fun and inspiring day and it has exceeded all expectations, thank you to everyone who has supported it and worked so hard to make it happen.’

The charity

The ASSF was founded by Bart’s widow Leah and life-long friends and fellow Olympians Iain Percy OBE and Sir Ben Ainslie to honour him by encouraging youngsters into sailing and to enjoy the water as much as he did.

Leah raced in the Weymouth edition of Bart’s Bash with her and Bart’s youngest son Hamish and her parents.

More than 18,000 sailors from 67 countries registered to compete in Bart’s Bash, which
aims to set a Guinness World Record for the largest ever sailing race.

There is a 12 hour window in which the participating sailing clubs can host their events.

Former Portland Town Mayor Sandra West said: ‘I met Andrew lots of times during my time as Mayor and he was a lovely man. Out of tragedy, this has come.

‘I’m gobsmacked by the number of people who have signed up. It’s just amazing.

‘I think Bart would have been very proud to see this.’

Speaking after the race Sandra added: ‘We capsized and were thrown in the water.

‘It’s been absolutely brilliant. I’ve only been sailing a couple of times before.

‘It was just fantastic, great to see all the other boats. The atmosphere and everything is brilliant. I want to go again now.’

Global event

Enterprise software company SAP has been helping the Bart’s Bash organisers simplify
the way race data captured from around the globe.

SAP also supported the event by sending out more than 600 race packs to Bart’s
Bash event makers around the world containing essential tools for each race management team.

Event Manager Tim Anderton said: ‘Thailand’s was hit by a hurricane so the clubs there were forced to cancel the planned events. It’s quite possible they’re going to race in two weeks time and we’ll add them in to the results.’

New Zealand was among the first place to hold races, with results feeding in as sailors were gearing up to race across the UK.

In Spain, at the Santander ISAF Sailing World Championships, members of the British
Sailing Team participated in a Bart’s Bash event ahead of their medal race, with the course set out by John Derbyshire and British Olympic team manager Stephen ‘Sparky’ Park.

Tim said the sailing conditions at the Weymouth and Portland venue were ‘champagne
sailing; absolutely perfect. Not a cloud in the sky and something like a force four wind. Everyone’s in shorts and t-shirts in September.’

Tim added: ‘We initially had this idea, aiming for 50 clubs and 2,000 people but on the first day 46 clubs registered and it’s just gone from there.

‘This morning we had another four clubs sign up. It’s one of those things you’re genuinely proud to be involved in.

‘To have all these sailing greats, like Iain sailing with Andrew’s son, Ben [Ainslie] sailing an RS400 dinghy, Saskia [Clark] and Hannah [Mills] sailing a training dinghy, and Jimmy Spithall in an Optimist dinghy. I don’t think anyone is genuinely concerned about who wins.

‘Everyone’s taking it good naturedly and trying to win but at the end of the day is it a race? Is it a festival? It’s a celebration of sailing in honour of Bart.

‘We’ve had so many messages of support coming in.

‘We’ve got a six-year-old racing for the first time on his own in London, a 94-year-old is taking part in America.

‘We will take it forward, this will be a yearly event.’

What’s next

The aim of Bart’s Bash is to remember Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson, to inspire a new generation of sailors, to encourage clubs to open their doors and to fundraise for the Andrew Simpson Sailing Foundation. Off the water, events at the Osprey Quay, Portland site included a bouncy castle and a Pico challenge that was open to all.

All the funds raised through Bart’s Bash will support the development and delivery of the Foundation’s charitable programmes nationally and internationally.

These programmes have Bart’s and the Olympic values at their heart, and are currently being developed and tested at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre. Pilot programmes, designed to enhance sailing activities and participation, as well as to reach more young people, are also being tested in Bermuda and South Africa.

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Pictures: Freddie Simpson 4, and Iain Percy (left) racing aboard their Star class keel-boat for the Bart’s Bash sailing regatta at the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre in Weymouth and Portland, Dorset, along with Australian sailor Anthony Nossiter. Credit: Christopher Ison Photography

The race fleet at Weymouth and Portland. Credit: Jak Bennett

Ben Ainslie and Georgie Thompson racing at St Mary Sailing Club. Credit: