Lloyd's syndicates have provided an innovative solution to the problem of getting damaged ocean-going racing yachts and their crews home safe and sound, a solution now being used by teams taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race.
Led by specialty yacht underwriting agency R&Q Marine through its 'Racecover' facility, the group of Lloyd's syndicates are providing 'Rescue Kites' to the seven racing yachts taking part in this year's Volvo Ocean Race, the second leg of which set off from Cape Town on November 19.
The move by R&Q Marine and the syndicates, which also provide race insurance to the teams competing in the round-the-world race, is designed to improve safety and help mitigate losses in one of the world's toughest sailing competitions.
"The Rescue Kite should make a big difference in terms of getting crews home faster and safer," said Paul Miller, Director of Underwriting at R&Q Marine. "And by providing a 'get you home capability' to crews, the Rescue Kite should also help control the cost of claims," he said.
A snapped mast or keel can leave an ocean racing yacht adrift and difficult to reach in order to rescue the crew and salvage the vessel, explains Miller. Although getting crew off safely is the primary focus, vessels have been lost in the past because salvage has not proved practical, he said.
"We needed to find a common sense solution to a real problem for crews sailing in remote oceans, and the Rescue Kite was a concept that, we felt, fitted the bill. We have tested the Rescue Kite and proved that it can work. But this is the first time that it has been used in a racing environment," he said.
All stowed away
Developed by yacht and risk management consultant QXI International in collaboration with R&Q Marine, the Rescue Kite looks similar to those used by kite surfers, but obviously much larger, explains Miller. It is designed to be easy to set up and when not in use, is light weight and easily stowed away.
"The Rescue Kite is a small piece of kit that doesn't take up much room," according to Miller. "So its benefits outweigh any concerns for a potential effect on the yacht's performance," he said.
QXI International is now working on enhancements to the design and is developing Rescue Kites for other classes of ocean and offshore racing yachts.
"We supported the Rescue Kite concept and have sponsored its use in the Volvo Ocean Race to help raise its profile and encourage its wider use. We hope that the Rescue Kite will be used in other offshore races in the future, although there is no reason why any sailors engaging on ocean voyages couldn't use such a kite," said Miller.
The Volvo Ocean Race, which started in Alicante in October, covers a gruelling 71,745 km over nine months, visiting 11 countries on five continents. The seven professional race teams taking part are all insured at Lloyd's, where syndicates provide the physical damage and liability cover before, and during, the racing.
Providing insurance cover for high performance yacht racing is complex, especially given the extreme weather conditions and technology involved in the sport, according to Miller. "These vessels are pushed to the limit, racing hard in remote areas, achieving some 500 to 600 miles each day, twenty four hours a day during the race," he said.
For underwriters, the key is to understand the technical and design elements in building high-performance racing yachts, according to Miller. For example, R&Q Marine has worked closely with Volvo to help underwriters get comfortable with the risks, using surveys and scanning technology to test the most stressed equipment, like masts, rudders and keels, he said.
"That way we try to eliminate the risks of design and build faults, enabling underwriters to focus on insuring fortuity," said Miller.