Photo Credit: FRIED ELLIOTT /

Chapter XIV - Star Insurance

There is a regular Star policy. It covers all racing risk, including damaged sails, makes the president of the I.S.C.Y.R.A. the final arbitrator and even has a picture of a Star boat printed upon it. To the best of my knowledge it is the only policy ever written around the needs of and for a special class of racing yachts. Many years ago, through the persistent efforts of Donald Walker, an insurance company was finally persuaded to issue that policy. The idea, of course, was to obtain a lower premium by having all Star members place their insurance with the same firm. In those days the Star was the only class with a big enough organization to make such a thing possible.

Don was then an active Star skipper and still is an enthusiastic member. It was not a commercial venture with him, but a hobby. It was his contribution toward keeping down the cost of owning a Star. In recognition of that the association made him Star insurance officer. He must have settled every claim satisfactorily, as no complaint was ever lodged with the association, at least not during the twenty-five years I was president. He saw the Star class through its various stages of development, including the experimental period with flexible spars. In fact the Star policy reimbursed many members for spar flexing experiments that did not pan out.

The association has grown and, I fear, the new generation of members do not fully understand the above. An increasing number have been placing their Star insurance with some friend or relation - we all have one that is a broker. When this is called to their attention, they say, "Why not? I can get the same rate." Of course they can, as the Star policy establishes the rate. What they cannot seem to grasp is that the company that issues the Star policy cannot maintain a low rate unless it receives a sufficient volume of business to warrant it. The premium has already been increased slightly and I just hope that they wake up to the fact that they are cutting their own throats before it is too late.

The writer realizes that the average reader will not be interested in this short chapter. The Star policy has played a small part in the history of the I.S.C.Y.R.A., otherwise it would not be included in this story. Like transportation rates, etc., it is just one of the many things that those at the helm have studied and worked on for years, to protect and further the interests of Star members, so as to make the I.S.C.Y.R.A. what it is today.

The Star policy did not apply to a skipper series. Don, however, arranged to have the same insurance company cover the 1942 World's Championship at ten dollars per boat. The association charged each skipper an entry fee of a similar amount, but forgot about the twenty-five dollar minimum claim clause. There were quite a number of minor claims for scratches, lost cleats, etc. Collectively they mounted up and the association felt it should make good. There were large ones too and the company lost.

The next year Don would not touch that sort of insurance with a ten foot pole. Reeve Bowden obtained another company that was willing to do so and at the same as the year before. Benefiting from experience, we jumped the entry fee to fifteen dollars. A mast was carried away and, if I recall correctly, a whisker-pole was lost at Bay Shore. At Chicago, in 1944, no damages were claimed, major or minor, so the insurance company must have made out all right.

Then Don decided to step into it again - and he sure did. That was the catastrophic skipper series of '45, when practically every Star used had a yard bill against it. Other claims, and large ones, were filed later. Poor Don, he just picked the wrong years. His principals took a whale of a shellacking. It's a strange thing, but those who try the hardest to be good Samaritans usually get the worst of it. By increasing the entry fee, the association made up for the first year and ended in the black. 

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