Archive for » March 12th, 2013«

Sailing

With just one British boat able to compete in the 49er class at London 2012 Fletcher and partner Alain Sign were locked in a battle to qualify for the home Games with five crews having a realistic chance of shining in Weymouth.

That tussle was eventually won by Beijing Olympians Stevie Morrison and Ben Rhodes, who went on to finish just off the podium in fifth last summer.

Fletcher admits that watching London 2012 pass them by was tough for him and Sign to take, but thankfully the pair have plenty to keep them busy as they start work to ensure lightning doesn’t strike twice in Brazil.

The duo will kick things off with a World Cup event in Palma and Hyeres next month before returning to Weymouth for the Sail for Gold Regatta.

Their calendar continues to be jam-packed as they will then compete at July’s European Championships before travelling to France for the world equivalent in September, but 24-year-old Fletcher admits he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Alain and myself are working hard towards the World Championships in Marseille, the goal is to win, we’d be happy with a medal but the goal is to go there to win,” he said.

“Training is going really well. It’s nice to get looking at 2016 and get away from 2012 which was a bit dark for us and training has gone a lot better than we thought and we’ve eased into it really quickly.

“There were a lot of mistakes we made in the run up to London 2012 that we’ve obviously learnt from but there was also a lot of things we did right so its been trying to learn from the mistakes rather than force them out of our mind.

“I think the main thing was the guys winning who won the golds were consistently winning and medaling in the two years before the Games.

“They attended quite a few regattas and they were also sailing other classes of boats as well as their Olympic classes so they were just spending a lot of time on the water, racing and sailing.

“So our aim is to medal at every event and to win at least one. So it’s a big ask from where we’ve been in the previous years but we’ve had our ups and downs but feel that’s an achievable goal.”

This year will be the seventh that Fletcher and Sign have sailed together, and the former believes there will be no slowing down anytime soon with Rio looming on the horizon.

“Training with Alain is really good,” he added. “One of our strengths is how close we are and how well we know each other.

“We sat down after the Games and I said do you want to go to Rio and he said ‘Of course I do’, because even though we’d already made plans for Rio we hadn’t actually asked each other if we wanted to do it, but there was no question we both want to do it.”

© Sportsbeat 2013


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Eve Samples: Sales tax for inlet dredging is hardly a shoo-in

Martin County voters have shown they’re willing to tax themselves at the cash register — if the timing and the reasons are right.

They did it in 2006, when 55 percent of the electorate approved a half-cent sales tax for parks and conservation land.

They did it in 1998, when 51 percent approved a penny sales tax for buying land to improve the health of our rivers.

But those taxes paid for projects that anyone in the county could enjoy.

It will be much tougher to sell voters on a proposal to hike the local sales tax a half-cent for dredging the St. Lucie Inlet.

The $10 million a year the dredging tax is expected to generate would most directly benefit people who own and work on large boats — yet the costs would be borne by anyone who shops in Martin County. Proportionately, the biggest drain would be on low-income residents, who spend a larger percentage of their income on sales taxes.

What’s worse: It’s not clear whether the sales tax is legal in the first place.

When Martin County’s lawyers sent a letter to the Florida Attorney General seeking advice about whether it’s legal to use the sales tax for dredging, this is the response they got:

“We are unable to render a formal opinion on the matter at this time.”

No explanation. No elaboration.

It might be the most noncommittal response I’ve ever seen on official letterhead.

Still, an advisory committee tasked with finding a solution to the inlet woes is asking the Martin County Commission to embrace the sales tax idea.

The group, known as the St. Lucie Inlet Advisory Committee, wants to put the question on the next ballot.

County commissioners will consider the request at their meeting March 19. If they pass the measure, it will look like throwing a Hail Mary pass to an incredibly unreliable receiver.

The good news is other options remain on the playing field.

Among them: the creation of a special taxing district for inlet dredging or enacting a Florida Power Light Co. franchise fee (which would increase FPL customer bills slightly, with the money going to the county for dredging).

Then there’s an attractive idea that is gaining momentum in North Carolina, a state that has faced similar challenges attracting federal money to dredge its shallow inlets.

There, a Republican lawmaker is proposing a statewide increase in boat registration fees to create a Shallow Draft Inlet Dredging Fund. The bigger the boat, the more expensive the fees.

So the people who benefit most from the inlet maintenance would pay for it.

“That’s a difficult political mountain to climb,” said Don Cuozzo, a member of Martin County’s inlet advisory committee.

He’s right. It would be hard to find statewide support for that idea here.

Few counties in Florida are in the same predicament as Martin. Either they have large ports that are guaranteed federal money for dredging, or they have already enacted special taxing districts of their own.

What’s more, raising boat registration fees would ruffle feathers in the marine industry — which carries considerable clout in Florida.

In 2010, after intense lobbying from marine groups, Tallahassee lawmakers passed a law that capped the amount of sales tax paid by boat-buyers at $18,000.

Cuozzo said his preferred option for the inlet dredging was the FPL franchise fee, which would authorize FPL to collect a dredging fee in exchange for the county promising not to compete with FPL for 30 years.

It does not require a voter referendum.

Make no mistake: The county needs to find a reliable source of money for dredging the St. Lucie Inlet. Federal money for the task has become increasingly scarce ever since “earmarks” became a bad word in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve got to do something,” County Administrator Taryn Kryzda told me.

We know we can’t count on Congress for a solution.

That means it’s up to county commissioners to chart a reliable course — and, at the moment, the sales tax route looks perilous.

Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.


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Olympic Games legacy with new jetties boost for Chelmarsh Sailing Club

A 70-tonne crane was used to move the jetties into place at Chelmarsh Sailing Club, near Bridgnorth, which will replace the old pontoons.

The project cost £36,000 with money being secured through the Inspired Facilities Fund, set up following the game to create a lasting sporting legacy for grass roots sports clubs across the country.

Club commodore Pete Wilson said: “The Olympic Games may be over and memories of glory may be beginning to fade, but the benefit of staging the 2012 Games in London will go on for many years to come.

“Chelmarsh recognised the opportunities presented for promoting our sport and improving the club’s facilities. We made a successful bid for funding to replace the failing pontoons with new more robust and better quality jetties.”

Mr Wilson said: “Winning the funding was only a beginning for the club. Plans were laid, specifications drawn up and materials sourced and orders placed.

“Now the project has begun to bear fruit with a 70-tonne crane swinging the first of the new pontoons in to place last week.

“This is a very exciting moment, the culmination of months of planning and work behind the scenes has come together to provide fantastic new facility for the club, which will make the launching and recovery of boats so much easier.”

For more on the club visit www.chel marshsailing.org.uk


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GARY JOBSON: Time to cap Maryland’s excise tax on boats

GARY JOBSON: Time to cap Maryland’s excise tax on boats


Posted on 11 March 2013


Written by Gary Jobson


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I have been in the marine industry for nearly 40 years here in Annapolis. I applaud the General Assembly’s initiative to address the tax on boats.

The General Assembly has an opportunity this year to give a big boost to Maryland’s struggling marine industry while also generating additional tax revenues for the fund responsible for upkeep and improvements to the region’s waterways. It’s time to place a cap on the state’s boat excise tax.

During the last few years, Maryland has fallen behind our competitor states up and down the East Coast when it comes to how much of a boat’s value should be subject to an excise tax at registration. Neither Delaware nor Rhode Island has a tax. Virginia has long had a cap, limiting boat owners to paying no more than $2,000 in an excise tax, and Florida passed a cap three years ago.

Not surprisingly, Marylanders who own bigger and more expensive boats are increasingly choosing to register their boats in other states. Even as the nation’s boat sales industry has begun to rebound, Maryland is not seeing the increase in registration of larger recreational boats that is being experienced in many other Atlantic Coast states.

All of us who have ties to Maryland’s marine culture can tell stories of friends and neighbors who have boats based in other states. Unfortunately, when you’re talking about avoiding a boat excise tax of tens of thousands of dollars more than what is required to be paid in other states, it makes economic sense. And the Marylanders who can afford to own bigger boats (such as those costing in excess of $200,000) tend to have the financial means to be able to register and maintain their boats in other states.

What’s the consequence for Maryland? First and foremost, our excise tax policy is hurting jobs and spending here in our state. In the marine industry, the general rule of thumb is that a boat owner spends about 10 percent of a boat’s value each year on maintenance and other work. For a boat worth $500,000, that’s $50,000 of spending at the marinas and boat repair shops in other states, instead of Maryland. And with studies showing that every six boats registered in a state generate the need for one new position in the marine industries, we are talking about a real impact on jobs, too.

But in a perverse way, our state’s decision to continue to apply the state excise tax to the entire value of all boats is actually hurting the overall revenues going to the fund that the excise tax is intended to help.

All of the money collected from the boat excise tax goes into Maryland’s Waterway Improvement Fund, which then offers matching grant money to local jurisdictions for dredging and other projects aimed at improving rivers, harbors and other waterways.

Money going into that fund has been steadily declining, a reflection of a declining number of new boat registrations in Maryland. That decline wasn’t so surprising at the depths of our national recession, when boat sales were off nationally. But as boat sales and registrations have begun picking up over the past two years, we aren’t seeing a similar rebound here in Maryland, at least among boat sales and new boat registrations.

In 2011, Maryland ranked 26th nationally in the overall total value of boat sales. Do we really think that Maryland, the home of the Chesapeake Bay, should be ranked in the bottom half of boat sales in this country?

I believe that a solution can be found in legislation being proposed by Sen. John Astle and Delegate Ron George that would cap the boat excise tax to the first $200,000 of the value of a boat. The cap would ensure that owners of expensive boats would still pay $10,000 into the Waterway Improvement Fund, but would eliminate the huge financial penalty that is driving these owners of expensive boats to register their boats elsewhere and not permit them to stay in Maryland waters for more than 90 consecutive days.

After Florida approved its boat sales excise tax cap in 2010, an independent study found that more boat sales stayed in state, and the average sales price of boats increased.

We fully expect the same to follow here in Maryland. And given the most recent boat sales numbers, we would need to merely get an additional 130 or so boats worth $200,000 or more to come home to Maryland to make up for the Waterway Improvement Fund revenue loss — a number that seems like a very modest target.

For our marinas, boat repair centers and other companies that provide services to boats, this is about more than revenues to the state. This is about jobs and local spending. Let’s stop pushing our expensive boats out of state and find a way to keep those dollars here in Maryland.

Gary Jobson is a world-class sailor, television commentator and author. The ambassador for sailing in the United States, he is past president of US Sailing and was tactician for Ted Turner’s victorious 1977 America’s Cup campaign. Visit JobsonSailing.com for more information.

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