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BULLETIN 5: Yachting events in times of Covid 19, lock down and social distancing

06.05.2020 Yachts and superyachts

Thomas Schwenke

Thomas Schwenke Consultant

Martin Malinowski

Martin Malinowski Partner*

As the whole world has been hit by the Coronavirus, the disease and the resulting world-wide endeavours to keep the population safe and healthy through lockdowns, social distancing, travel bans and quarantines, the yachting world of yacht shows and yacht racing has not been spared. Both yacht shows and yacht racing primarily involves moving large pieces of equipment and a large number of people around the world to the respective venues and this is even before the event properly starts.

This means that numerous jurisdictions are involved and that organizing bodies and the respective owners of the yachts, regardless whether the focus is on yacht racing or on shows, are faced with a multitude of problems. This is confounded by the fact that the national legislation and rules change nearly as quickly as the virus spreads or is beginning to be contained.

Just as national and local governments and administrations have problems coordinating their efforts in containing the spread of the virus, the organisers of events are finding it difficult to coordinate the reorganisation of the complex schedule of yacht shows and yacht races.

As all of us are aware it took the International Olympic Committee until the 24th of March 2020 to finally reach a decision on how to deal with the consequences of the Corona pandemic and so finally giving the participants clarity.

Even as the lock down at the beginning of May 2020 is being lightened the new measures may not be ones that enable yacht racing to take place, travel restrictions may be lifted slightly but it may be difficult explaining to border guards that racing sailing boats is not a touristic but a professional pursuit. Keeping the still required distance of at least 1.5 meters between crew members will not work in reality and allowing only members of the same household or one non household crew member on board will limit the new measures to dinghy racing on a pure club level.

Consequently most yacht races for the 2020 season in Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and the United States have been finally cancelled, remain cancelled or have been postponed to the second half of the season, which has created an overlap of events. Apart from reorganizing the schedules of boats and crews, owners are facing questions as how the cost incurred by entering into events that have since been cancelled are to be dealt with. Costs which include entrance fees, berthing fees, air-travel, accommodation, wages for racing crews, etc.

Depending on the organising body of the events, class associations such as the Swan Cup, the (TP52) Super Series or the Melges Cup or alternatively yacht clubs for events like the Kiel Week or Cowes Week will find different solutions. Same applies for the Maxi yachts’ sector. Events planned in the Mediterranean such as the Superyacht Cup Palma, Rolex Capri Sailing Week, the Rolex Giraglia, Miglia-Trofeo Cetilar and Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta were all cancelled or postponed to next year. The future will show how the Caribbean 2021 racing season can be handled.

The owners participating in events organised by class associations will be well taken care of as these have long term agreements in place with local yacht clubs and will in all probability be allocating the entry fees to the rescheduled events next year. Certainly the owners are still facing the question of the remainder of the cost incurred and dealing with these will depend on a multitude of facts. Certainly some issues will resolve as refunds and will be made in accordance with local legislation when travel bans apply and travel is not possible. Some issues may resolve themselves as with limited crew places available crew may not wish to pursue any rights they may have in order not to lose their position in the long run. From the talks that we have had, the focus of the participants currently is on finding solutions and not adhering to the letter of the agreement.

In those cases where the organisation of the races is not in the hands of a class association but in the hands of yacht clubs the onus is on the owner to obtain information and to reorganize his schedule for the remainder of the season.

Questions with regard to cost incurred will have to be dealt with by the owner and his team on a case by case basis. Rolling over entry fees may be possible but due to the lack of coordination of the organising clubs and ensuing clashes of events this may not be a viable option.

On the subject of the yacht shows the situation is similar though on a different scale as these are a business for the exhibitors and the organizers a like. Most shows have been rolled over to next years while some are trying to reschedule to the second half of 2020 on a smaller scale in the hope to recover some traction in the market. The basic questions remain the same as for the yacht racing events.

The yachting team of Ince's is ideally placed to assist the needs of owners, class associations and yacht clubs as organisers of yacht racing events, manufacturers and organisers of yacht shows in addressing the challenges that they face in the light of the Corona pandemic. With offices covering the major yachting centres and with lawyers qualified in a multitude of yachting jurisdictions we are fully covering all aspects of the yachting industry. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with your questions so that we may help you in finding solutions that work for you.

Article authors:

Thomas Schwenke Martin Malinowski