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Noble working with the Marine Industry to help sailors get back on the water after a claim

by Mark Jardine 11 Mar 08:56 PST
Noble Marine West Country Boat Repairs RS200 National Championship day 4 © Dave Littlefield

Noble have been providing a service to marine insurance customers for over 30 years, and have built an extremely good reputation, which is hard-earned through helping customers with their specialist knowledge of the industry, when things go wrong, making sure that they can get back on the water as fast as possible.

I spoke to Ian McManus, Managing Director of Noble Marine Insurance, and Duncan Hepplewhite of Sailingfast to find out more about how these relationships work, and to understand some of the difficulties which can be encountered, particularly in light of the current supply chain crisis.

Ian told us how Noble use TrustPilot to maintain an independent way for customers to review their claims process:

"We are very proud of our 5 star TrustPilot review status. We only use TrustPilot for claims, so this isn't about how easy it was to buy a policy or were we friendly on the phone, this is only about if you've had a claim, which makes it all about the claims service, which emphasises just how important it is to us.

"One of the original attractions when we bought Noble was, because we control the claims service as well as the policy administration, acting on behalf of the Insurers behind the scenes, we have the ability to deal with things very quickly, and have a process which fits our market as well as it possibly can, so sailors can get back on the water quickly."

Insurance can be looked on as an annual cost that has to be paid, but it's when a claim needs to be made that the insurer has to spring into action to assess the claim and arrange the replacements or repairs. This relies on strong relationships with the marine industry, the boatyards and suppliers.

"There is another step in there," explains Ian. "It also relies on a good quality policy wording which is suitable for the type of boat it covers. Our policy is designed for the boat types that it covers, so our dinghy cover is very wide, and simple, therefore we can normally arrange repairs or replace lots of things very quickly. All marine insurance policies are not the same and you should always check the terms and conditions that apply before you buy it."

"Having the right suppliers in the market and having really good relationships with them is absolutely critical. All we can do is pay the claim or authorise the payment for replacement parts or repairs; we don't actually deliver the parts or do the repair."

One of the companies that Noble work with is Sailingfast, and dinghy sailors are used to seeing Duncan Hepplewhite at events up and down the country. They've been in the marine industry now for 20 years and have a huge knowledge of the dinghy market, especially with the ILCAs (previously known as Lasers) and the WASZP class, and have the stock necessary to fulfil customer claims.

Duncan describes what happens from the supplier point-of-view when a claim is made: "Often we're actually at an event and will see the breakages happen, but more often than not emails come in from one of the Noble team saying they've had a claim from a customer; once it's authorised we send the customer a policy excess invoice and the balance invoice goes straight to Noble. So within a matter of hours, if you make a claim on Sunday night or Monday morning, we'll probably be shipping that top section to you on the Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. When the email comes from the team at Noble it gives us the confidence that it'll all happen, and we can process it without delay."

This kind of deep understanding is what makes the claims process as smooth as possible, but the past two years have been anything but normal, with the scheduling of events thrown up in the air by lockdowns and other restrictions, which has made maintaining the right stock levels at the right time far more difficult.

"It's tricky, but the simple answer is that when the stock is available, you invest in it," explains Duncan. "You grab stock while you can so you can see yourself through the peaks and troughs. We're beginning to see things change a little bit, and improve; certainly pre-Covid we had a steady supply, but with Covid and Brexit it's changed a bit, so you buy when you can and tuck it away."

We've seen a boom in boating in the past couple of years, and people were rushing to get back out on the water after lockdown, especially in 2020, which caused some unique problems, especially as people couldn't go to their boats for maintenance as Ian described:

"We definitely saw some spikes in claims as people wanted to get out on the water quickly. People were dealing with repairs that they'd have possibly done over the winter or early spring, which led to a bit of catching up on claims which we'd authorised, but people hadn't managed to deal with as they couldn't get near their boat.

"We then had people who returned to their boat to find damage, such as vermin damage where the little blighters had a good chew through a bag of sails, especially with the extended period of warmer weather, so there was more of that than we normally see.

"Then of course we had the people rushing out on to the water, and while it was wonderful to see everyone out there, we did have an initial spike of activity on claims. It's broadly settled down now and hopefully we're returning to a bit of normality."

This is the time of year when the UK dinghy sailing scene 'wakes up', and Duncan has seen first-hand at the events, when people get back out on the water, what failures they might have. He has some great advice for us all, so that we can avoid having to come in early with gear failure, to help make that first sail a great sail:

"Ian's talked about the vermin damage, but I'd be looking at the ropes first and foremost. When exposed to winter weather they can be a little green, so inspect them, give them a clean and replace them if necessary. Spar corrosion is worth looking out for, and the joins such as the kicker fittings on the ILCA mast and boom - you're always going to see a little bit of corrosion around those rivets, so keep a good eye on those. The rubber UJ on your tiller extension is a classic failure after the winter and rapidly sends you for a cold dip if it fails. A good visual inspection of spars, sails and ropes - and rigging the boat up in your garden or boat park beforehand to check things out - is far better than struggling to get back ashore with a broken boat."

Sound advice to make that first sail of the year enjoyable and avoid damage.

As mentioned earlier, Ian is rightly proud of the 5 star TrustPilot reviews, but recently he learned more from a 4-star review, which gave him insight into the supply chain issues:

"It's always nice to receive glowing reviews, but from my point of view we always want to get better as a business, so you learn more from reviews which don't give you 5 stars. In this case it was really interesting as the reviewer basically said nice things about us, but highlighted that it took a long time for his replacement mast to arrive. It reinforced to us just how important it is to have the right relationships within the industry, but however great those relationships are, and however hard we try, there are going to be things that none of us can solve overnight: when items aren't in the country, are in a container halfway around the world or stuck because the border controls have changed and there's a lot more paperwork. All sorts of reasons that we can't always do what we'd like to do."

Duncan describes how the supply chain issues can surface:

"It's a funny one because it's either on or it's off. If it's on then no-one even questions it, but if it's off then there's often nothing you can do about it. We had a period last year when getting hold of ILCA foils was difficult: there are only two factories in the world that make them (one in the far east and one in Spain) and we were working with foil deliveries into the UK in June and July, which was all fine, but then the southern Europeans shut down for three weeks in August, and by the time they'd caught up it was September before we saw foils coming through to us. During that period if you run out, it doesn't matter how hard you try or shout, there's nothing that's going to change it, and that's where having a good stock level really matters."

The Sailingfast team work closely with the boat builders, such as Ovington Boats, to further understand how stock and demand is going to change moving forwards:

"I chat with Chris Turner and Nathan Batchelor at Ovington regularly, and I know the team there have a production meeting every Monday morning between 8.30am and 10am; by 10.15 Nathan is on the phone to me running through bits and pieces, building that relationship, bouncing ideas around and seeing where trends are going. It's a challenge, but it's exciting!"

People valuing their time outdoors more, especially the boating lifestyle, is great news for sailing, and it's all now about making this boom become long-term participation in the sport. Ian says:

"In the dinghy world most people's route into sailing is through a club: joining a club, getting out in club-owned boats, getting the hang of it, and then buying their own boat. Over the last year or so we've seen a huge number of people go out and buy a boat for the first time without the benefit of a club or training to guide them. Whilst many take advice before they buy we have seen new enquiries ranging from very sensible purchases to some rather foolhardy and sometimes unseaworthy purchases. We try to give a bit of advice before people take the plunge, and are very keen to see people joining clubs, getting qualifications, just from a safety point-of-view. We look carefully at the person and whether they're investing in safety gear and education, seeing if they know enough to go about what they want to do safely."

Find out more about Noble Marine Insurance and get a quote for your boat via

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