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Racing insurance – collisions make up the majority of claims


Recent insurance claims statistics from Bishop Skinner Marine reveal that collisions made up a third of all boat insurance claims and just over 10% of all these were for racing collisions. The next most frequent claims were for vessels capsizing. And there were numerous claims for broken masts and sails, from storm damage, getting stuck in shallow water, or righting the boat after capsizing.

The type of boat dictates the cover

When racing this summer, it’s important to appreciate that the type of boat you have might dictate the insurance cover available. 

Motor boats are unlikely to get any cover from a standard insurance policy and probably won’t get cover in the usual insurance market. If they are racing, they will probably have to use the insurance scheme that the race organisers have. Dinghies will typically get full racing cover as standard, but yacht owners will have to check their policy wording. Extra cover for racing may be required, which will typically incur an additional premium.

Standard racing cover for yachts usually only protects you against damage to the hull and your legal liabilities to third parties. If yacht owners wish to insure their rig whilst racing, insurers can offer an extension to cover the mast, spars, sails and rigging (MSSR). Your rig will then effectively be insured separately under your policy whilst racing, so it is important to make sure that the sum insured for replacement is adequate. With the exception of running rigging and sails, cover is generally given on a replacement value of new for old. Thinking in terms of market value could result in you being underinsured. For dinghy owners, the sum insured for the rig is included within the total sum insured under the policy.

Racing abroad

Most policies will allow you to use your boat abroad, however you should always check the cruising limits and any relevant timescales, in the policy. If you do go abroad, bear in mind the policy terms will apply as they would in the UK. If the policy says ‘should be taken ashore after use’, take the boat ashore, or it will not be covered. Yacht owners will have to observe their policy's general cruising and racing restrictions and permissions. Bishop Skinner Marine provide up to 30 days cover, any one trip, for racing dinghies in Europe for free. You can also get an extension which enables you to enter competitions worldwide.

When racing, especially abroad where language might be a barrier, lodge a protest to the committee in the event of a racing accident. Most insurers will follow the outcome of the protest committee in apportioning liability in dinghy collisions, and you have a much better chance of locating the insured than accepting an ‘accidentally mis-spelt’ email contact.

The rules of the sea

Larger yachts normally race at sea and therefore fall under maritime law. The sums insured are more likely to mean insurers will take the outcome of a protest committee as guidance, but apportion liability on a split basis. Even if you win the protest, you may find you get less than 100% of your claim, because both parties are under a legal requirement to avoid collisions under the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (Colregs).

Colregs are published by the International Maritime Organisation and set out the ‘rules of the sea’ or navigation rules, to be followed by ships and other vessels at sea, to prevent collisions between two or more vessels. Colregs can also refer to the specific political line that divides inland waterways, which are subject to their own navigation rules, and coastal waterways subject to international navigation rules. They are derived from a multilateral treaty called the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

Extent of boat insurance cover

Under the Bishop Skinner Marine yacht policy, Racing Risks Extension cover is the only cover that covers MSSR, but is not automatic unless you are a Gold member doing class association racing. It is likely that you will have to declare the type and amount of racing you do, in order to rate the risk. If you only declare local club racing, you won’t have MSSR cover if you race at a different club to your own.

It also important to understand that many policies will cover you for racing, but not include a Racing Risks Extension. If you race and hit someone else (third party liability) or strike a submerged object (hull damage), both should still be covered. Check your policy to make sure it doesn’t exclude racing altogether. On this basis you can choose whether to carry the risk of MSSR damage yourself or pay the annual premium.

If you are doing a winter series, make sure your mooring allows 12 months cover afloat on your policy, otherwise you need to launch and recover for each race. Marinas will normally have year round afloat cover, but many swing moorings don’t. Passage races such as Round the Island Race, are often the only race of the year for some. You don’t have to declare this at the outset of the policy, but if you do enter and you want MSSR cover, remember to get an extension before you take part in the race.

Offshore racing especially at the elite end of the sport will have completely different requirements. The chances of colliding with another yacht mid-Atlantic are slim, but you’ll need to know what cover you are getting (some exclude loss to sails, making it MSR cover only), crew numbers while racing might be specified, single or double-handed racing cover is a specialist insurance market and your options will be reduced. High value, frequent claims might also make your view of the excess on the policy more important. Are you prepared to carry a £100k excess for a saving of £5k on the premium, when the higher price only wants a £20k excess?

If you are concerned about any aspect of your current policy or would like to discuss an extension to your cover, please speak to us.