Canadian Underwriter

Insuring a chariot race year after year

June 30, 2015   by Sara Tatelman

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Every May, about 400 high school students gather at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. to match wits in Latin vocabulary, Greek history and playwriting, and they pit their brawn against each other in swimming, slingshotting and, er, chariot racing. And that event, the Ontario Student Classics Conference, needs to be insured just like any other.

But when you want to insure a chariot race in which teenagers build, sit in and pull their own chariots, coverage can be tricky to find. When brokers wanted to know what students did at the conference, “I’d say, ‘Oh, there are sporting events like swimming and, pause, a chariot race,’” says Doug McLaren, the Latin teacher responsible for first finding conference insurance. “And I’d get hung up on… ‘What are you talking about, a chariot race? Horses? Ben- Hur?’ That would be the clincher for them.”

Each school board’s policy covers students and staff on field trips, but in 2008, Brock asked the conference to take out additional coverage for any damage done to university property. An independent school in Toronto hosted the conference that year, and their insurer covered the property damage without other schools having to pay extra costs.

But the next year, when McLaren’s Markham District High School was hosting the event (making it responsible for finding insurance), their school board wouldn’t cover what Brock needed.

So the Latin teacher hit the books—phone books, that is— calling every broker he could find, but none wanted the business. “I went through literally 25 companies,” says McLaren, “just whatever I could get my hands on.” And even though he assured broker after broker there were lifeguards and medics at athletic events and no food or alcohol at theatrical events, “they all came back, [saying] ‘Sorry, we don’t handle events with chariot races.’”

Hosting teachers handle a large budget, and housing costs unexpectedly jumped in 2009 but, says McLaren, “all that pales in comparison, in my memory, to the massive task of trying to get somebody to insure us.”

Finally, after two months of searching, McLaren got in touch with brokerage Irving H. Miller in Prescott, Ont. “We didn’t have any reasons why we wouldn’t look for a market [for the conference],” says Greg Kenney, owner of Irving H. Miller. “After about a 15-minute discussion with [McLaren], we approached Special Risk Insurance Managers for an event, and they had a few questions and off we went.”

Kenney isn’t sure why so many other brokers turned down the conference. He placed the business with the first company he contacted, has had no claims or other issues from the conference, and sees them again every year.

“Every year, I peek again when we get the insurance certificate mailed to us a few weeks before conference just to check,” says McLaren, “and yeah, still the same company. I’m pretty sure if any of the hosts tried to go for a better quote… All the insurers would be questioning the whole event.” In fact, the next independent school to host the conference is “very inclined to stick with Irving H. Miller even if they could get free coverage through the private school,” says McLaren, “because [they] wouldn’t want to ruin the relationship… [for] next time another public school hosts.”

Virgil would know how to wrap up a story like this: Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas. “Happy is the person who can understand the reason for things.”

Copyright 2015 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the June / July 2015 edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.