Of Futtocks and Baggywrinkles – The Risk(SA)y Business of Sailing

Last weekend I had the dubious honour of hanging out with drunken sailors and whores. Not really. I was actually at the RiskSA inaugural regatta. So there weren’t any drunken sailors. I mean no disrespect. I read once that insurance is the second oldest profession in the world although it does bear a striking resemblance to the first. Since I’ve become a broker, I can attest to that.

The regatta was quite something. A first for the industry. Risk SA went all out. For those of you that don’t know, “Risk SA” is a premium insurance magazine and not an instruction manual for misguided presidents. Anyway, the guys from Risk SA really splashed out on a well organized event. They spared no expense in arranging the yachts, crews, venues and first class catering. In fact they spent so much on putting the event together they had no cash left for a decent Master of Ceremonies. So they asked me, The Liability Guy.

We all work in a fast paced, highly demanding industry so I thought the idea of a Regatta was a really good one. It was a really awesome opportunity for everyone to relax, clear their minds (something that some folk found very easy to do). It really was a time to forget about FAIS and FICA, to forget about rating increases (something brokers are naturally good at), to forget about broker fees (something underwriters are even better at) and to take part in the event of a lifetime.

When Andy and Mike mentioned the regatta to me almost a year before the event I really doubted they’d pull it off. Getting insurers, brokers and service providers in the industry to cough up a small fortune to charter a flotilla of yachts (hope you enjoy my clever use of maritime lingo from this point on) would be no mean feat. But then again, these are the same guys that made a financial services magazine look like an issue of Penthouse. In fact I’d been fooled into reading one of the earlier issues, thinking I’d spot a hottie within its glossy pages. Not to harp on the fact but I did actually spot the one I now live with.

So last Friday night, the who’s who of the insurance industry descended upon the Royal Cape Yacht Club to prepare for battle on the open water. If a tsunami had arrived simultaneously, I have no doubt the impact on the industry would’ve been cataclysmic. Ok maybe not, but at the very least there’d be an increase in motor rates. Whenever anything happens there’s an increase in motor rates.

I’m told Risk SA had also contemplated inviting the FSB to take part in the event but decided against it after the regulator suggested a bout of examinations to ensure crew members were fit and proper. An impossibility. They also insisted that the skippers communicate in plain language, again an impossibility. Whatever happened to TCF? That’s Treating Crew Fairly.


The eager mariners on the first night were reminded that there is a rich historical connection between insurance and the ocean. This dates back to mid 17th century England in Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop. I can believe this because when I really need a good cup of coffee, I too would travel thousands of miles for my fix. Ok maybe 10 miles.

The event on the Saturday was hosted in near perfect weather. I was quite relieved about this because the thought of explaining to one more person why the fucking weather in Cape Town is “soooooooooooooooo bad”, as one individual put it, was giving me a serious bout of the sea-voms.

Out on the water that day, over 300 sailors took to the oceans. More seamen than Moby’s Dick. The Silver Falcons also did a flyover and some aerobatics. Perhaps as a tip for next year, it’d be a good idea to warn the residents of the V&A of this impending display. One old guy I work with said he saw the boats on the water and the planes flying in and thought the Malawians may have been meting out a version of Pearl Harbour as payback for a recent JayZee’ism.

The race itself did not go off without incident. One of the yachts had to turn back after it suffered some sail damage. Two other vessels collided. I understand there are some rules of sailing to avoid collision that are very simple. For the uninformed reader, I dug this up on Wikipedia:

There are four main right of way rules: [Part 2, Section A]
1. Boats on a port tack shall keep clear of boats on starboard tack (Rule 10).
2. When boats are on the same tack and overlapped, the boat to windward (the boat closest to the wind) shall keep clear of a leeward boat (Rule 11).
3. When boats are on the same tack and not overlapped, the boat that is astern shall keep clear of the boat ahead. (Rule 12).
4. When a boat is tacking (changing tack) it shall keep clear of boats that are not tacking (Rule 13).

Well that’s clear then…. perhaps penned by the same author as the Binder Regulations?

One of the VIP boats also apparently sailed into the Cape’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. The vessel and all who sailed upon her disappeared momentarily. Fortunately the crew all magically reappeared at Ferryman’s and caught a cab back to the YachtClub. The mysterious area is now known as “Die Dronkie Drie Hoek”

And of course who could forget the misfortune that befell the vessel “Mount Gay” who almost lost a crew member to Davy Jones’ Locker (that’s ocean-speak for drowning). One of my former colleagues has always had a penchant for going overboard but this time he took it too far. Perhaps more amazing still was the fact that the crew of the yacht still emerged as victors of the event, with all souls safely back on board.

sailing geoff

Congratulations must again go to all who took part in the Risk SA Regatta, particularly to the organizers, my former colleagues at Camargue who won the competition, and all the amazing businesses that sponsored the event of the year. It was a real pleasure being a part of it.

By the way, for those of you that only read this because of a dirty sounding title, a Futtock is a curved wooden piece of a ship’s frame and a Baggywrinkle is a soft covering for a cable on a ship.

I’m The Liability Guy.

So far South its North – Sub’urbanville

Since I’ve  been here I’ve learnt that there is a certain stigma attached to the northern suburbs of Cape Town.

I cannot fathom this. I grew up in the southern suburbs of Johannesburg which also has a stigma attached to it. The two places are nothing alike. Growing up in the South, in the eighties was interesting. I grew up with lots of Lebanese, Portuguese and Greek kids, so it was a fairly olive-skinned, cosmopolitan environment although I’m pretty sure no one has ever used that phrase to describe the area. There were kids in my class that were much older than me in standard 6. Some had been “kept back”, several times. I got in a fight with a fellow student once who had a spectacular mustache. Apparently she looked a lot like her father, who’d run off after his chop-shop (not a butchery) had been raided by the police.

Anyway I digress. Durbanville is amazing. It has a unique charm and the folks are generally very friendly. In fact at a four-way stop, one can sit for several minutes with drivers in all four directions waving each other on and then subsequently getting pissed off because the offer has been met with a counter offer to proceed first. Perhaps this aggressively polite disposition has something to do with the fact that the place is practically surrounded by wine farms and everyone is permanently drunk?


In the latter part of the 18th century, the town was actually called “Pampoenkraal” which translates into “a circular enclosure for pumpkins”. I would imagine the local folk resented being associated with a comical Halloween vegetable and the name was changed to D’urban in 1836, after the Governor of the Cape at the time. Unfortunately a further name change necessitated itself when the locals became frustrated with sunburnt stoners seeking the town’s KZN namesake, Durban. And so we have the derivative, Durbanville – creative little fuckers, those town fathers.

They grow grapes in Durbanville and also very large people. I’m not a very big fellow, height-wise. I’d say I’m probably average height, in any other part of the world. Here I am a Lilliputian in a land of Gullivers. I often feel like a child when I’m standing in the queue at any of the local stores. Even Woolworths. Where I am often the only male in the store. Even then I’m still the most vertically challenged person around. An English People-Mcnugget.

giant queue

People in Durbanville speak a variety of languages. Most folks are bilingual and both English and Afrikaans are spoken fluently. Apparently the schools are dual-medium. This is a term that I had not heard before I moved here. When I first heard it I thought it must be some kind of seance involving two psychics. It turns out its a process where the teacher communicates in both languages to the scholars. Perhaps reminiscent of the safety demonstration on a 1980’s SAA flight. My Afrikaans is improving although Christelle has forbade me from speaking it. Apparently I sound something like a throat cancer sufferer with a hot potato in my mouth.

There is a hardware store up the road from our new house. The store presents one with a very interesting shopping experience although I’ve noted it’s a bit fishy. I mean no disrespect to the owners. The place sells some good quality tools and also fish. Yes you read that right. They also sell fish. Dead ones. Packed in ice. To eat. It’s a wonderful idea, shopping for power tools always makes me want to indulge in gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals.


Seriously though, the area is truly beautiful. We often go running around the town and into the surrounding wine farms. It is on the winding dusty paths of the vineyards that we wage weekend war with the mountain bikers for control of the FOOTpaths. These cyclists intrigue me, for they complain bitterly about the inconsiderate drivers on the roads and then act like two-wheeled tossers themselves. It is wrong to generalize, perhaps only 90% of them give the other 10% a bad name.

So I don’t really know about this whole northern suburbs thing……..If I think about it, I have come from Johannesburg which means Durbanville is technically in the south. Problem solved.

I’m the Liability Guy and unless you live in the North Pole, you’ll always be south of something.

Coffee cups, ladders and vibrators – The great label debate

I woke early this morning with a burning sensation in my eye. Turns out disposable, daily wear contact lenses have some kind of programmed obsolescence. After 3 days of continuous wear they will try to integrate themselves permanently with your cornea, like a political leech that overstays it’s welcome after the campaign, or lands it’s plane on your restricted airstrip for an impromptu wedding.

Being that the confounded lenses du jour are over R20,00 each, I had made it my austere mission to make them last longer than a Kardashian marriage. Having failed dismally, I “peeled my eyes” and replaced the offending prosthetics with new ones. It occurred to me at this point that I had not really paid attention to the warnings on the packaging nor to the rather obvious name of the product, being “Dailys” and I was indeed behaving like a living brain donor (the giver not the receiver).

I’m The Liability Guy and each day has me wading through a variety of legal quagmires with my clients, looking for ways to avoid the possibility of a law suit. Most product manufacturers for instance, worry about this mythical beast called the CPA. Contrary to popular belief, the CPA is not Chronic Pulmonary Aspergillosis but rather the Consumer Protection Act. These two things are vastly different, with one being a suffocating affliction that constricts abilities and the other, a crippling disease of the lungs.

Anyway, this rather complex piece of legislation gives us all the most amazing rights as consumers, one of which is the right to be warned, in a way we can understand, about the hazards or dangers of using products.

Read small print to avoid discomfort
Read small print to avoid discomfort
Clear instructions for the ignoranus
Clear instructions for the ignoranus

These photo’s illustrate the nature of warnings where the consumer is depicted as an ignoranus (that’s an ignorant ass) incapable of logical, adult thought.

Most of you will have heard of the infamous McDonald’s coffee cup claim. No? Basically the story of Ms Stella Liebeck. The poor old lady that soaked her privates in hot coffee as she left the drive thru of the local McD’s . Personally I think a rusk works better.

In any event, the court determined that the beverage was too hot and that she should’ve been warned about the impending danger. It’s thanks to Stella that we all have those delightful “hot” warnings on our coffee cups now. That whole caffeinated event cost Mickey D’s over $3m. Incidentally, there are now also groups in the US that are lobbying for labels on fast food that warn consumers that they may get fat. That’s like warning someone there might be traces of pee in the public pool.
Warning customers in South Africa of danger isn’t as easy. Especially seeing as we live in one of the most dangerous places in the world. I mean do I really care what the weight limitation is on a ladder when every step I take in the street could be my last. And then there are the unfortunate gaps in literacy skills across our country, particularly in Limpopo where they have some of the best educated rivers in the republic. This means that making sure everyone understands all the hazards is a challenge and perhaps also the reason why the use of pictograms has become popular.
Perhaps they should put warnings on the pictures of politicians on ballot forms?

Don't throw away your vote