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Organizations face new insurance challenges

Published on July 13th, 2022

Two recent accidents have forced sailing clubs, classes, and individuals to look closer at their exposure and coverage. Report by Gary Jobson for Sailing World:

Adequate insurance ­coverage is an essential part of our lives. Boats, homes, automobiles, health, art collections, and businesses should be properly covered, and the same is true for individuals who manage our sport, especially races officials, instructors and coaches training our youth sailors and adults on the water every day.

For many years, US Sailing carried an insurance policy that provided coverage for race officials and sailing instructors, but recent accidents and subsequent settlements are prompting many of our institutions and race officials to look more carefully at their coverage and exposure.

Previously, US Sailing’s basic policy provided up to $1 million in coverage per incident and up to $20 million in excess coverage. Insurance for a large portion of American yacht clubs has been provided by Chubb Limited and the Gowrie Group, an insurance agency headquartered in Westbrook, Connecticut.

The partnership has been working well to appropriately cover claims for fires, floods, fatalities and injuries over the years, but an incident in November 2020 is having a major impact on how insurance policies are written and who can receive coverage.

The accident, now well-­documented, occurred during a sailing practice in Optimists hosted by Florida’s Sarasota Youth Sailing Inc. The sailor, 10-year-old Ethan Isaacs, was killed by the propeller of a coach boat.

A US Sailing-certified 18-year-old instructor was running the practice session near Ken Thompson Park on Sarasota Bay when, according to an incident report published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, he “reportedly lost his footing and fell, putting the vessel in gear. He was thrown from the boat that continued forward unmanned, striking several 8-foot sailboats in a SYS Green Fleet practice. Two sailors had minor injuries, and Isaacs died as a result of his injuries at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.”

Carter Gowrie, managing director of the Gowrie Group, says Chubb promptly paid the $1 million claim, which was the policy limit. “The attorney for the parents went looking for another pocket and found that US Sailing covers named insured that are certified instructors,” Gowrie adds. “So, they came straight to US Sailing.” – Full report

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