New Sanction Requirements for USMS Open Water Events
by Karen Burton Reeder
On December 31, 2012, USMS sent out a memorandum which stated in part:
“Due to claims made against USMS's insurance policy in the recent past, USMS is faced with a liability insurance premium that is significantly higher than in previous years. In an effort to address certain limitations in the new coverage, help defray the expense of the increased premium, and reduce the likelihood of additional premium increases in the future, USMS Board President Nadine Day has assembled a task force to review and recommend compliance requirements, administrative procedures, and insurance fees for USMS open water events.”
As a result of this task force and a meeting of the USMS Board of Directors, there are new sanction guidelines. A link to frequently asked questions is here at http://www.usms.org/admin/lmschb/content/owsanctionfaq
This page also includes a links to USMS’s most recent memo on the subject as well as the new sanction guidelines.
The sanction guidelines include requirements for propeller guard installation on motor boats as well as proof of insurance requirements for every motorized watercraft which support open water events.
In addition USMS instituted an open water insurance surcharge of to help cover premium costs. Solo events will pay an $1800 insurance sanction surcharge while other events will be charged $1000. These fees will be charged to the Local Masters Swimming Committee (LMSC) for each open water sanction. The LMSC will decide how much of that fee will be passed on to the event host.
What does this mean for open water swimmers has they head into the 2012 season?
1) More motor boats with installed propeller guards will make events safer and help prevent devastating accidents between swimmers and propellers. It should be noted, however, that boats which belong to government agencies such as coast guard, national parks service, etc. are exempted from the propeller guard requirement. Swimmers still need to be mindful of motor boats and their propellers.
2) It is likely that entry fee costs will increases. Most LMSCs will not be able to pay the entire sanction surcharge and will pass on all or part of it to the local event directors. The event directors, who may already be incurring costs associated with propeller guard purchases, will likely increase the entry fees to help cover their costs.
3) It is possible that some events may drop their USMS sanction and seek alternate insurance to cover their swim. And some swims may be unable to continue due to their inability to obtain insurance and/or meet the new sanction requirements.
4) Since the USMS sanction process has been frozen for about 2 months now, it is likely that open water swim events will be later than usual when it comes to posting information for their race.
What can you do as an open water swimmer?
1) Be patient with the open water event directors in your area. They will be under increased stresses this year; whether they keep their USMS sanction or seek new insurance coverage.
2) Don’t grumble or gripe about increased entry fees to swim open water events. Event directors incurring greater costs have few options other than to pass the costs on to participants.
3) Offer to volunteer in your area to assist local race directors in hosting their swim. Even if you plan to swim in their event, you can call your local race director and see if he/she needs help setting-up the event, or cleaning up afterwards. Inquire as to any supplies, food, water or other items you can donate to help make their swim a success.
These new sanction fees will be in place for one year and re-evaluated for 2014. You can also get involved in your Local Master Swimming Committee (attend their meetings) to become more informed on the issue and help influence the direction of the sport.