Sail Port Stephens is seen by the Marine Insurance giant Pantaenius as an exciting event with a great future. The event media team took the opportunity of catching up with James MacPhail, MD of Pantaenius Insurance Australia at Sail Port Stephens 2013.
Adam Brown, Michelle Rathgeb and James McPhail
This event is the first move for Pantaenius Australia into regatta sponsorship, are you following in the footsteps of the Pantaenius on the world-wide scene?
Jamie: ‘The direction in Europe has very much been supporting interest groups and grass roots sailing and boating events, not just yachting but power boating as well. Pantaenius is involved in Europe and the Caribbean. They sponsor specific groups as well as classes and age groups.’
‘Pantaenius is the sponsor of the British Yachtsman of the Year Awards for instance.
‘That comes from long term participation in an industry that has obviously been good to them and they are a market leader in the UK and they are the market leader in Europe, in pleasure boat insurance. I guess there is an expectation for them to give something back and they give a lot back.
‘In Germany particularly and across Northern Europe they are very much involved with lots of dinghy racing. They provide support craft and sponsorship to numerous dinghy classes and regattas. They are sponsors of the German Olympic Team.
‘They are one of the primary sponsors and they are involved with sponsoring the SuperYacht Cup, St Barts Bucket and those sorts of regattas. They have got a reasonable participation of clients in those regattas and the clients like to think that they are going to be involved and support them when they go yachting.
‘It also means there are Pantaenius staff on site at pretty much any one of those events so that if there are issues or complications or claims we have always got people there ready to act and hopefully get the boats back on the water as quickly as we can.’
Has sponsoring Sail Port Stephens 2013 provided a good networking opportunity for James and his team?
‘Yes networking, certainly here in Australia, that is what we see. We want to be visible. We want the clients to know who we are. We are lucky here that Adam Brown (Pantaenius Marketing and Sales Manager) and I are fairly well known in the yachting industry so we turn up at regattas and a fair proportion of people know us.
‘If someone doesn’t know me they will know Adam and vice versa so that is a big plus. We just want to be approachable.
‘We want to be here to answer questions. Pantaenius offers a new product and it is different to everyone else’s product so it is an opportunity for people to say why are you different, what are the advantages, why should we talk to you and I think it is good also that they see the insurance people being on site.
‘The people they are going to talk to in the event of a claim are actually sitting at the end of the wall or they are participating in the regatta themselves so we have got a better understanding of the scenarios and the issues and the potential situations that result in a claim or a loss. I think it just adds comfort to them.’
‘This is our first major regatta in Australia since the launch of Pantaenius. The feedback has been great. There is no doubt about it.
‘It is pretty clear to me that the boating public are very happy that there is another player in the market. We seem to be very well received.
‘I had no negative feedback whatsoever about our participation in the market and the industry. We are getting overrun with enquiries and questions and at this stage I would have to say there is nothing but very positive response from the customers.
Asked of his previous involvement with Sail Port Stephens, Jamie said. ‘Yes I have won this regatta a couple of times in the past. I know the regatta quite well. I sailed up here as a kid in dinghies 35 years ago so I know Port Stephens as a yachting venue. I come here on holidays with my kids so we know the waterway quite well. Adam is sailing as Tactician on Steve Proud´s Swish and I am doing the same on Ray Roberts new MATS1245 Obsession.
‘The plans for Pantaenius in Australia are long term. It is a family owned company. The family’s commitment here in Australia is not for five years. It’s more like 30 years plus so we see long term generic growth in what we do.
‘Could we grow quicker? Sure we could, absolutely. We could be more lenient with underwriting. We could be less conservative than we are, but if we took that avenue we wouldn’t be following the ethos of the business. The business is a strongly conservative based business, owned by a German family. It is an insurance company so we are not here to take risks.
‘We are here to provide a service and we are not the insurers for everybody undoubtedly.
‘There are obviously risks out there which ourselves and our underwriters aren’t interested in taking but if there are reasonable boaters who take reasonable responsibility over their boats and their actions then we are here to help them and that’s how we plan to grow the business. When underwriting we assess the owner as much we assess the boat.
‘We are not looking for a huge splash. We are growing very nicely thanks, very much without owning every regatta and owning every relationship. We don’t need that.
‘This regatta happens to be a personal favourite of mine. I think the regatta has got a fantastic future. It’s a brilliant venue. It is well located to Sydney. It has got excellent accommodation and facilities in terms of accommodating large groups of people and boats.
‘The weather conditions here are no different to anywhere else. You can have a fantastic three - five or seven days or you can have windy, rough conditions. You can have that anywhere. e have seen that in Hamilton Island and Geelong. We have seen that in Sydney Harbour. It is just the luck of the draw.
‘Overall it is a great regatta run by a good group of people, interested in promoting local businesses and expanding the local economy. And we are thrilled to be able to support them.
‘A flexible venue where you can race offshore, and when it’s bad weather racing can be accommodated inshore?
‘It’s a great option. The track inside, particularly in this sort of wind conditions, can accommodate windward leeward courses up to 1.5nm in length. There is a bit of a risk in terms of the runway below the leeward mark and where the sand banks are but the worst case scenario is you can end up with a couple of boats on sandbanks, but the potential for real damage in terms of boat damage on the inside is pretty negligible.’
Do we expect to see Pantaenius back at this regatta next year?
‘I think there is a good chance that this will be a long term relationship. It is certainly something that we would like to develop. Janelle Gardner and the whole management team has done a fantastic job and we are talking again now about next year and maybe we will make a commitment for a two or three year period going forward.
‘And of course for us, it’s about supporting an event, in which we are personally very involved.’