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 asĀ “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.

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