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Berths boom as super-rich rekindle love affair with high-sea luxury

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Cowes Week: sailing's profile is finally growing

In June, Cowes played host to the start and finish of the JP Morgan Asset
Management Round the Island Race, one of the largest yacht races in the
world and, perhaps surprisingly, the fourth largest participation sporting
event in the UK after the London Marathon and the Great North and South Runs.

The RYA, the governing body for sailing in the UK, has recorded an increase
from 1.1 million people sailing in 2012 to 1.3 million last year.

“The profile of the sport is growing – it’s never going to be tennis or
football, but Ben Ainslie is now a personality being talked about in a more
mainstream way,” says RYA spokesman Louise Nicholls.

The UKSA, where my sailing day with Ayton is based, teaches the whole gamut of
sailing courses, from beginner dinghy to the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean, and has
seen the number of people through its doors each year increase from 7,500 in
2010 to 9,000 in 2013.

And the number of women competing is growing, too. The organisers of Cowes
Week, which runs for a week, report an increase of more than 150 per cent in
female participation in the past 15 years – something that Ayton is keen to
see rise even further.

The blonde mother of two, who won Olympic Gold for Great Britain in the
Yngling class at the Sydney Games, and as one of “three blondes in a boat”
at the Beijing Games, has this year returned to racing with The Wave,
Muscat, on the Oman Sail team in the Extreme 40 racing series – the closest
and fastest yacht racing in the world. Slight of build and only 5ft 6in
tall, Ayton is the only female sailor in her five-strong team crewing a 40ft
catamaran. “I do the bits the guys can’t,” she says, grinning.

In June, Ayton was the only female in the 12-strong fleet of 60 elite-level
sailors in St Petersburg, where she picked up the “Above and Beyond Award”
presented by Land Rover, for her work with the grassroots sailing community.
“I want to dispel this perception that sailing is elitist,” she says as we
practise tacking and gybing and talk through the basics of sail trim –
setting the sails to get the optimum out of the wind conditions on a
beautifully sunny morning.

“I’m passionate about creating opportunities for children and families to
enjoy the sport together. Sailing is great for everyone, any age or ability
— there’s always something you can bring to the team,” she explains, eyes
constantly on the boat, the surroundings and the sails.

Sarah began sailing at the age of eight when a family friend suggested that
she and her older brother, Daniel, try the sport at the Queen Mary Sailing
Club on a reservoir in Middlesex. “Dad was a courier driver, we were a
typical working-class family and money was tight, but it didn’t stop us,”
says Sarah. “I ended up crewing for local members and spent every spare
moment at the reservoir.”

The turning point in her life came when Olympic sailor Paul Brotherton visited
the club, spotted her potential and suggested she try out for the RYA Youth
Squad. He later became her coach, and Sarah left school at 16 to take up
sailing full-time. “Sailing teaches you so much – your shared experience
unites you, there’s a special bond with every team,” she says.

That bond is one of the reasons I love sailing. Being part of JIBE, the J/109
I help crew from Lymington, has changed my life. We are like a little
family, racing regularly throughout the year, working together hard on the
water and putting a reasonable show of effort in the bar afterwards, too.

The 35ft yacht is owned by Robin Taunt, captain of racing at the Royal
Lymington Yacht Club, who kindly answered the note I put on the club’s
website when I moved to the area.

Like most owners, Dr Taunt asks for very little financial contribution other
than costs of entry and food – often only £10 per day.

“Boats are usually short of crew so if you have an aptitude and some
experience, don’t hesitate to try,” says Dr Taunt, who introduced a
crew-matching event at the RLymYC several years ago. “Every April we
advertise in the local press and people come along and meet the skippers –
it’s rather like speed dating.”

And he advises: “If you want to get into racing, it’s best to do a sailing
course first – dinghy sailing or RYA Competent Crew. You have to show good
commitment, too – it’s no good turning up three times a year or cancelling
if the weather is bad.”

No matter the weather, sea air is good for our well-being. Research has shown
that the sound of waves alters the patterns in our brain, lulling us into a
deeply relaxed state.

So how to start?

“The key is to find a sailing club,” Ayton says. “Google your nearest RYA
sailing school and do an introductory course. There’s a bit of an initial
outlay, but the course is a similar price to other sports – if you do tennis
or golf, it all adds up to the same. After you’ve done your first week, you
can take a boat out at your local sailing club or become part of a crew.

“Just do some research, be bold and put your name on a noticeboard and say you
are keen to learn. The sailing community is very friendly and you will
definitely get a response.”

Learn to sail yourself

– Find your nearest club:

– The Volvo Sailing Academy operates free sessions at 12 venues around the UK
for adults and children from eight upwards:

– UKSA ( in Cowes offers the
largest range of youth development opportunities and yachting courses for
adults in the world.

– Racing: Royal Ocean Racing Club (
and Junior Offshore Group (
have sections on their websites devoted to matchmaking crews with skippers.
Be brave and sign up – but be honest about your sailing experience.

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Yacht brokers to float sales at ‘open house’

PALMETTO — It’s been said that the best two days in a boater’s life is the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. This won’t be entirely true for Casey and Karen Lauro if they sell their boat this weekend.

The couple have a 50-foot, 1985 Huckins power yacht for sale at this weekend’s Regatta Pointe yacht open house and, like the owners of about 50 new and used boats on display, they do hope to sell. They just hadn’t expected to do it so soon: They bought the boat in January with plans to sail it extensively, but a sudden degeneration of Karen Lauro’s eyesight has made it impractical to keep.

Having put over $100,000 into remodeling the yacht, the Lauros and their broker, Ed Massey, say the buyer will get a great deal if they purchase at the list price of $200,000. New floors, custom under-stair storage and kitchen upgrades are just a few of the extras that will come with the spacious vessel.

“I have everything on this boat,” Karen Lauro said.

Massey’s company, Massey Yacht Sales Service, is one of four Regatta Pointe yacht brokers opening boats to the buying public today and tomorrow. Every year, Massey, Whiteaker Yacht Sales, American Marine and Shippey Marine hold three open houses and two nautical expos to spur sales and build interest in boating. This mid-summer event will feature a mix of new and used sailboats, power yachts and fishing craft priced between $50,000 and $500,000.

Those attending the event will be able to tour every inch of the yachts so they can get a feel for what it could be like to live the life of a weekend mariner.

Ed Massey, who has run his brokerage out of Regatta Pointe since 1977, said he can see the brokerages selling four or five boats this weekend to an expected crowd of more than 100. Since bottoming out in 2009, the yacht sales industry has rebounded to the point where buyers are once again able to get the financing they need to buy their first boat, or move up to something bigger and newer. It’s taken time for the buyers to be willing to spend big again.

About 35 percent of Massey’s customers finance their boat purchases, up from 10 percent a few years ago. The remainder pay cash.

What all those buyers have in common is that they want to feel the freedom of getting out on the water and have a good time.

“Nobody needs a boat, obviously,” Massey said. “This is a lifestyle investment.”

That investment is one more people seem to be willing to make. In 2013, 161,200 new and used power boats sold in the U.S., 2.4 percent more than the previous year and the highest total since 2008, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Just over 5,600 new sail boats sold, totaling about 3 percent of the new boat market. About 550,000 boats are currently on the market worldwide, the bulk of them in the U.S.

Massey, whose company concentrates on sail yachts, said his 102 sales last year were about 25 percent less than pre-recession annual sales, but up from a low of 90 in 2009. Massey yacht sales prices are also up, averaging about $300,000 per new boat sold and $150,000 for pre-owned, a jump of more than 50 percent in the past five years.

What are boat buyers getting for the money? Once a boat shopper decides between sail yacht, power yacht, catamaran and fiberglass hull versus steel or aluminum, features including complete kitchens, GPS navigation and auto pilot tend to be standard on newer models. Even a 40-foot sailboat can include two sleeping suites and separate heads.

For the traditionalist who eschews such things as electric winches and mainsails that automatically wind inside hollow masts, the open house is offering a pre-owned New Zealand-made, steel-hulled schooner that requires sailors to know how to use a block-and-tackle to get the canvas into the wind.

Brokers participating in the open house expect to see potential buyers who are serious about boating. They should be, since the cost of boat ownership extends well beyond the purchase price. Massey said boat buyers should expect to spend anywhere between a few hundred and $1,000 a month to rent slip space in a marina and insure and maintain a yacht.

The open house will run between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. today and on Sunday.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.

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Traditional Sailing Boats Take Off for Netherlands Race

Traditional Frisian sailing boats, known as skutsjes, compete on the Snekermeer during the final day of the annual race on the Frisian lakes, The Netherlands, on August 1.

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Did NJ shore champion boat racer fake his death?

LONGPORT Authorities are suggesting that a champion powerboat racer declared missing following a crash of his pontoon boat late last month may have staged the accident to evade theft charges.

Egg Harbor Township Police said in a news release Friday that a report that Andrew Biddle had planned the incident to “avoid prosecution” is a scenario that “must be considered.”

That announcement followed a story by the Press of Atlantic City that cited a police flier, apparently not intended to go public, that reportedly stated: “It is believed Biddle is alive and well and on the run.”

Township police, in their statement, said the correspondence was “intended for law enforcement purposes only.” Requests for further information from the department were not returned.

Biddle operated Professional Boat Sales, located in the township, alongside his partner in business and in sport, Tracy Blumenstein, who also faces theft-related charges.

The search for Biddle, a 44-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident and two-time national powerboat champion, began the night of July 20, after his boat hit a buoy and crashed into a jetty in Longport. Biddle was said to be returning from a dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Somers Point. A survivor, Justin Belz, 23, of Marmora, who swam to shore, was interviewed by authorities.

The night after the crash, following an 18-hour search that covered more than 60 miles, the Coast Guard called off the effort.

A number of criminal complaints this year against Biddle and Blumenstein allege they conned customers out of money, according to copies provided by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office.

In May 2013, according to one record, two sold a boat and trailer for $17,000, plus taxes and fees, through the company and never provided the owner of the property compensation. Another filing says that, in 2012, Biddle sold a motor as new even though it had been used for more than 150 hours.

Two pair are also accused of failing to provide a pontoon boat to a man who paid a $20,000 deposit for it in March 2013.

Blumenstein was arrested in February at the Atlantic City Boat Show, following a months-long investigation, for the “fraudulent sale of a boat,” and charged with issuing bad checks totaling $33,000, police announced at the time.

Calls to the business went unanswered Friday.

The characterizations of the two are a steep departure from the ones in the boating community, where the powerboat gurus were revered, both as Team Livorsi and Team Pro Boat.

In 2012, the pair won the P1 Superstock U.S. championship series, a powerboat competition. The following year, the duo won again and also in a United Kingdom championship.

On Facebook, a page dedicated to Biddle’s safe return had garnered more than 800 “likes.” A moderator urged the public not to jump to conclusions.

Detectives, however, are “obligated to investigate and prosecute Mr. Biddle for the aforementioned criminal acts,” the police statement read, “until Mr. Biddle’s whereabouts are officially determined.”



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