Open Water Sanction Fees in the LMSC

On Dec 31 a memo went out to LMSC volunteers by email, stating 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.

The results of the work of the Task Force and others were recently posted on the USMS website. There are some significant changes in the sanctioning process which may delay the sanctioning of our traditional two OW events, the Jack King ocean swim and the Chris Greene Lake cable swims. One of those changes was an additional $1000 insurance fee charged to the LMSC for each OW sanction.

The LMSC Executive Committee met by teleconference on Feb 24 to discuss how to handle the fee; the minutes have been posted. VMST, which hosts both OW swims, has agreed to cover the costs of the additional insurance fee out of reserves so that it is not passed on to the participants. The LMSC and VMST has agreed to cover the fee for a new possible OW event if it applies for a sanction.

The additional fee could have increased entry fees significantly for these events, but they aren’t the only new requirement of the new sanction guidelines. Please have patience with race directors as they adapt to the changes.


7 Responses to “Open Water Sanction Fees in the LMSC”

  1. What’s next? Progressive’s Snapshot-for Swimmers? Each swimmer is required to carry a pulse oximeter/portable EKG/EEG Breathalyzer and has to swim with one of those orange port-a-floaties that some swimmers train with? And the EPA has to determine that no waterfowl were injured during the course of an event, the organizers having to provide a Certificate of Environmental Impact?

    What kind of insurance does the Bay-Bridge swim have? Will they eventually have to require wetsuits (AKA “swimming’s training wheels”) or separate the wetsuiters from the non-wetsuiters? Or are they unaffected? Who do they insure with?

    Perhaps it’s time for the USMS to find a new insurance carrier.

    Posted by Jim McFarland | 03/12/2013, 10:29 am
    • The Bay Bridge swim is not sanctioned by USMS so that’s independent of this issue. I don’t know who insures them or what it covers, but I imagine that finding a carrier to insure 150+ swims of many different types is maybe a different matter than any one swim.

      I was not involved directly in this matter but I believe that USMS did indeed shop around for different carriers and the others were either more expensive, more restrictive, or lacked in coverage.

      Posted by vawebmaster | 03/12/2013, 10:36 am
      • You make a good point about USMS Open Water events v. non-USMS events. Seems like the number of non-USMS events is greater than ours.

        No disrespect to USMS – but insurance carriers are another thing that I feel are worthy of criticism.

        The Bay swim has a lot more entrants – and is a lot more expensive, and far less safe than events that don’t mix wetsuits with non-wetsuits. Not to mention the mass start! There have been fatalities in that race – a drowning a couple of years ago; how many fatalities have there been at a USMS-sponsored Open Water event?

        This issue puts an undue burden on smaller races – smaller races on closed courses that are probably safer than anywhere because of their small size and smaller area. The Chrisgreene Lake swim and the Reston swims are cases-in-point: they don’t offer mass-starts with hundreds of people all churning out to a narrow funnel (as triathlons and many open water events do.) They have more-than-adequate safety coverage – same with Jack King.

        USMS has the safest Open Water events I’ve seen. I wonder what other Open Water events are doing about this? There needs to be a dialogue with non-USMS events to see what they’re doing – because surely they’re being hit by these excessive fees, too.

        Posted by Jim McFarland | 03/13/2013, 11:58 am
        • Actually, not true Jim. Our events are not USMS-sanctioned but they are as safe as any sanctioned event and my insurance carrier costs significantly less than the $1800 per event USMS is being charged. I was glad to see VMST picking up the tab for sanctioned events but how long can they do that without charging more for membership. Smaller open water events are quickly going to be priced out of the market limiting the already small number of options we now have.

          Posted by Jay Peluso | 03/14/2013, 5:41 pm
          • Jay,
            Thanks for the input – and I agree that smaller events are going to be priced out of the market. I was waiting for you to speak up on this issue – and I’m glad you did.

            Maybe you can help the USMS figure this one out?

            Jim McFarland

            Posted by Jim McFarland | 03/16/2013, 8:57 pm
          • And I agree that your events are safe – because you make absolutely certain to have coverage of the course. It isn’t always so – I’ve seen some really dangerous events and wondered how they could possibly get insured.

            Posted by Jim McFarland | 03/16/2013, 8:58 pm
          • I may be wrong but I think that the financial aspects are a relatively minor problem; the issue this year is that the increased fees came up after the budget had already been approved. Next year USMS can decide (or not) to budget for the increased expenses so that LMSCs and event hosts don’t get hit so hard. They will also have more time to shop around for cheaper insurance.

            The bigger issue for some hosts are the insurance-mandated safety requirements, such as prop guards. Lots of discussion on this on the USMS OW forums:


            Posted by vawebmaster | 03/17/2013, 7:41 am

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