The best policies are those which offer cover for hazardous sports, under which classification rowing usually falls (as it involves water). If you are in charge of a group of people, you may require a different policy - this is especially important if your group includes any children. If you are travelling frequently, it is often much cheaper to buy a year's policy. It is also one less thing to worry about next time you travel!
Many policies include some form of medical insurance. This is usually limited to emergency care and includes a provision to return you to your home country for further treatment. If you do not have personal medical insurance, check if this will be required before you leave. The medical cover provided by travel policies usually concentrates on returning your mortal remains or providing for your children if you try to argue with an eight doing 37 with the tide. Most policies include a long list of exceptions so unless you are covered by a specific scheme (EU citizens should take form E111, available from your doctor, for free treatment in the EU), make sure your health insurance is up-to-date and covers travel abroad!
Insurance must be arranged before you leave and should cover both your outward and return journey. If driving, make sure you are properly covered in case of breakdown. Unless specifically requested at the time of purchase, few everyday breakdown policies include international recovery. It is important to find a policy which provides for a replacement vehicle - some policies only cover repairs to your vehicle. In this case, you may be stranded in the middle of nowhere for three days waiting for a part to be shipped. If you have hired a vehicle in your home country, do not assume you will be covered for breakdown abroad. Check with the hire company - most require evidence of international breakdown in your name before handing over the keys. Quick tip: try and include the driver's name on the policy. It saves a lot of arguing in the rain. Trust me.
Don't assume you are covered. Failure to be properly insured not only has the potential to prove expensive if something goes wrong, but may render you liable for criminal prosecution. Make sure you understand the policy details and have all the necessary documentation in case you need to make a claim.
Travelling abroad also has repercussions for your equipment insurance. Many people use club equipment and never need to worry about who, when, and how it is insured. At the very least, taking equipment abroad will involve extending your cover for the period of the trip. If you are hiring a boat at your destination, check if insurance is included in the hire charge. If you are borrowing on a casual basis, however, you must ensure you conform to the specific requirements of the owner's policy. This may include evidence of qualifications or membership of the appropriate governing body. For example, rowers in the UK are required to join the Amateur Rowing Association (+44 (0) 181 741 5314) before being allowed to compete in most events. However, you may join on a temporary (day ticket) basis if only competing once or twice. If you subsequently join the ARA, a day ticket may be refunded.