Devastation For Dorset Sailor's Family

Andrew Simpson caught the sailing bug when he was a young boy, despite being born in 1976 in the landlocked town of Chertsey in Surrey.

While visiting his grandparents in Christchurch, Dorset, he took to the waves with his parents when he was just four or five in their Sea Flyer boat, according to the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

Even at such tender years he raced through the surf faster than his father, and it was not long before he had a boat of his own in which to hone his craft.

Simpson, known affectionately as "Bart'' after the television character, grew up racing two boys who would become Olympic legends in their own right - Ben Ainslie and Iain Percy, the latter being his childhood Lego-building friend, sailing partner and best man at his wedding.

Last year Simpson told the RYA and the British Sailing Team: "They are both fantastic sailors. Sometimes you thought you were lucky to be sailing against those guys because they're such good sailors and sometimes I'd beat them although more often than not they would beat me.

"They're that little bit better for reasons I learned later in life; that they worked harder at it not necessarily because they're much more talented.''

At the start of his career Simpson sailed in the Laser class, plugged away for many years behind Percy and Ainslie in the Finn class, before moving to sail Finns himself.

In 2001, having missed out to Percy for Olympic selection the previous year, he took silver at the 2001 Finn European Championships, following it up with bronze at the World Championships in 2003.

He missed out to Ainslie for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and the following year joined the America's Cup challenger +39 Challenge as helmsman.

With Ainslie so dominant, Simpson teamed up with Percy in 2007 in the Star class, TeamGB said. The partnership flourished immediately, and the pair won World Championship bronze.

A year later was perhaps their finest triumph as a team, when they won gold in the Star class at the Beijing Olympics. He was later made an MBE in the 2009 New Year Honours list.

Speaking of how he felt at the time, Simpson told the RYA: "You win a gold medal with your best friend and you're on the podium and the national anthem is played and you've just had a really tough regatta, it's not like we won it easy, it was a real war.

"Iain looked like he was going to cry so I put my arm around his back and said, 'Nice work mate'.

"He was just exhausted or about to cry, I'm not sure which, but he is quite a tough lad so he kept it in.''

Simpson and Percy went on to take Star gold in the 2009 European Championships and the 2010 World Championships.

But they could not quite manage gold at last year's home Olympics, taking silver behind the Swedish pair despite heading into the medal race with an eight-point lead.

Simpson leaves behind a wife, Leah, and a young son, Freddie.