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Optimism high as Palm Beach Boat Show opens

With boat sales rebounding and mega-yachts hot, hopes were high Thursday as the largest-ever Palm Beach International Boat Show opened in West Palm Beach featuring more than 1,000 vessels.

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Many participants are keen on a $375 million waterfront development underway in nearby Riviera Beach that will offer extra docks, restaurants, retail, a promenade and 400 residences over about 10 years.

They’re also excited about rising boat production, sales and jobs.

Palm Beach boat show kicks off Thursday in biggest edition yet

Show exhibitor Viking Yacht Co., for example, plans to boost its output in New Jersey from about 65 yachts this year to 100 annually in five years. Viking now services about 500 yachts yearly at its repair facilities in Palm Beach County. More yachts sold means more jobs at those boatyards in the county that now employ 175 people, said President Patrick Healy.

To provide job training, the Riviera Beach Maritime Academy aims to expand to 600 students instead of 200 yearly, with an emphasis on minorities, added Bob Healey, president of Viking Development, which is leading and will manage the 26-acre Riviera Beach waterfront project.

The Palm Beach boat show this year includes more mega-yachts than ever: about 70 in the 80- to 200-foot range, said Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, who leads Show Management, the Fort Lauderdale company that organizes the show.

There’s also fast growth in displays of boats in the 40- to 60-foot segment, up 17 percent from last year, Zimbalist said.

“That means the entry level boat is coming back,” he said, “and that’s what we need for the health of the industry long-term.”

Biggest yacht at Palm Beach boat show: 200-foot Aurora

Biggest yacht at Palm Beach boat show: 200-foot Aurora Doreen Hemlock For those who want to live large on the water, consider the biggest yacht at this week’s Palm Beach International Boat Show: the 200-foot Aurora. For those who want to live large on the water, consider the biggest yacht at this week’s Palm Beach International Boat Show: the 200-foot Aurora. ( Doreen Hemlock ) –>

Since the recession hit in 2008, crippling business, the marine industry in Palm Beach County has been recovering at an ever faster speed. It brought more than $1.8 billion in economic impact in fiscal 2014, about double the level in 2010. That helped support more than 18,000 jobs in the county, according to a recent study by consultants Thomas Murray Associates for the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.

Still, there are concerns for the industry’s future.

Many participants worry that the proposed high-speed rail project All Aboard Florida will require too many closures of bridges along local rivers, hurting access for boats to marinas and repair yards.

Some boaters also are concerned that real estate developers are maximizing profits on waterfront land by building condo towers and retail, limiting access for watercraft.

Walking the docks of the show under sunny skies, Michael Kosky, 57, of Panama City Beach, had few other worries than admiring the variety of vessels, from smaller fishing boats to a super-yacht with a helicopter.

“You look at this place and you can tell it’s recovering by the number of boats here,” Kosky said.

The Palm Beach International Boat Show runs through Sunday on the West Palm Beach waterfront. More than 40,000 are expected to attend, organizers said.

This story will be updated. Check back for more information., 305-810-5009, @dhemlock on Twitter

Copyright © 2015, Sun Sentinel

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Italians will pull out of America's Cup if boats downsized

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Another battle of billionaires is stirring in the America’s Cup, and this one could deal sailing’s marquee regatta a staggering blow.

Rather than bog down the sport with another legal fight, Italian billionaire Patrizio Bertelli is threatening to pull Luna Rossa Challenge out of the America’s Cup if defending champion Oracle Team USA doesn’t follow the rules in deciding whether to downsize the boats to be used in the 2017 regatta.

Additionally, Luna Rossa, which is backed by the fashion house Prada, said the opening event of this year’s America’s Cup World Series in Sardinia will be in jeopardy if Oracle Team USA doesn’t ”quickly announce a public clarification” to a proposal to downsize the class of boats to be used in the 2017 regatta in Bermuda as a cost-saving measure.

Oracle Team USA is owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison, whose decision to defend the America’s Cup in Bermuda rather than in the United States has made it difficult for some teams and the event itself to raise sponsorship money.

In a statement posted on its website, Team Luna Rossa Challenge said it ”is distinctly opposed to the proposal … to change the Class Rule for the 35th America’s Cup and therefore the boat that was previously accepted by all challengers on June 5th 2014.

”Luna Rossa does not believe that a sporting event should be disputed in a courtroom and does not intend to initiate a lengthy litigation process that would only bring prejudice to the event. If the principle of unanimity of all challengers required to change the Class Rule were not to be respected Luna Rossa will be obliged to withdraw from the 35th America’s Cup.”

Luna Rossa said it ”trusts that the Defender will quickly announce a public clarification” to also avoid jeopardizing the America’s Cup World Series stop scheduled for Sardinia in June.

It’s believed that the Italians have already spent tens of millions of dollars designing their 62-foot catamaran.

Bertelli, who is married to Miuccia Prada, is likely to follow through on his threat.

In July 2013, Luna Rossa sat out the opening race of the challenger trials on San Francisco Bay to protest rules changes, leaving organizers with the embarrassing scenario of Emirates Team New Zealand sailing around the course alone.

That spat got personal when Russell Coutts, the CEO of Oracle Team USA who’s since also become director of the America’s Cup Event Authority, called the Italians ”a bunch of spoiled rich kids dressed in Prada gear” after Luna Rossa skipper Max Sirena announced the team was considering sitting out the first race.

America’s Cup organizers proposed Wednesday that the planned 62-foot catamarans be downsized to 45-footers in order to cut costs.

The AC62 Class Rule, one of the event’s governing documents, can be changed only with unanimous consent.

A news release issued late Wednesday by America’s Cup organizers said the changes are being drafted and teams will be asked to vote before the end of March.

The loss of the Italian powerhouse would be a huge blow to an event that’s already struggling to raise corporate sponsorships. Luna Rossa is one of five foreign challengers. Team France has yet to announce a major sponsor and Emirates Team New Zealand also is struggling to raise money. It’s believed that even Sir Ben Ainslie, a British Olympic hero who has the support of the royal family, is struggling to raise the staggering amount of money needed to compete for the oldest trophy in international sports. The fifth challenger, Artemis Racing, is owned by Swedish billionaire Torbjorn Tornquvist.

While intended to help some struggling syndicates, the unprecedented move to downsize the boats in mid-course would also reduce the status and prestige of sailing’s marquee regatta, not to mention the sizzle generated when the 2013 America’s Cup was sailed in cutting-edge, 72-foot catamarans. The 62-foot cats are expected to be as fast and powerful as the 72-footers.

Bermuda outbid San Diego to host the America’s Cup by promising a financial package worth up to $77 million.

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at

AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this report.

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America's Cup Organizers Want Smaller, Cheaper Boats in 2017

(Bloomberg) — The 2017 America’s Cup may be held in smaller boats in an attempt to reduce the cost of taking part in the world’s most prestigious sailing race, organizers said.

The next event in Bermuda may be raced in 45-foot catamarans instead of 62-foot boats. The change, which won’t affect speed through advances in design and engineering, could cut costs by 50 percent, Skipper Franck Cammas of Team France said.

“With the smaller boat we can imagine that a budget between 15 million euros ($16.5 million) to 20 million euros would be enough to win the America’s Cup,” he said.

Larry Ellison spent at least $100 million on Oracle Team USA’s successful campaign in 2013, when costs kept the number of competitors to three. The six teams entered in the 35th edition will vote on the proposals before the end of the month.

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“We have a responsibility to think of what is best for the long term health of the America’s Cup as well as improving the value equation for team principals and partners,” Harvey Schiller, commercial commissioner for the America’s Cup, said in an e-mailed statement. “Racing a smaller boat in 2017 and beyond is a big step in the right direction.”

At a competitor’s meeting in London last year, only defending champion Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand were behind the plans. Since seeing the smaller boats in action, there is now “a clear majority” of competitors in favor of the plans, Schiller said.

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“I’d like to be able to say we have unanimous support from all these teams but that is not the case,” he added.

Ainslie’s Support

One competitor in favor of smaller boats is Ben Ainslie, the most successful sailor in Olympic history who is preparing a British entry for the 35th edition of the America’s Cup.

“This will be a big change, but it is a necessary one if we are to create a sustainable America’s Cup for the future,” the skipper and team principal of Ben Ainslie Racing said. “These boats will create a significant cost saving whilst still providing a real challenge for sailors and designers alike.”

Ainslie, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, stepped in as tactician in 2013 as Oracle staged the biggest comeback in the event’s 163-year history. After trailing 8-1, the team bankrolled by billionaire Ellison fought back to beat Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 on San Francisco Bay.

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“These changes may help some current teams be more competitive, but this is clearly also about building the future of the America’s Cup,” said Iain Percy, the team manager of Artemis Racing. “By making a commitment now to using the smaller boat next time, it will be that much easier for new teams to join as they’ll have access to existing boats and technology.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Rossingh in London at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at Sara Marley

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America's Cup organizers want smaller, cheaper boats

SAN DIEGO (AP) — In another sign that billionaire Larry Ellison’s vision for the America’s Cup is too expensive, organizers say they want to reduce the size of the boats to be sailed in the 2017 regatta in Bermuda.

While intended to help some struggling syndicates, the unprecedented move would also reduce the status and prestige of sailing’s marquee regatta, not to mention the sizzle generated when the 2013 America’s Cup was sailed in cutting-edge, 72-foot catamarans.

And it could be troublesome. Not all teams are believed to be in favor of going from plans to sail the 2017 America’s Cup in 62-foot catamarans to apparently sailing it in 45-foot catamarans.

A news release issued late Wednesday said the changes are being drafted and teams will be asked to vote before the end of March. Normally, a decision like this must be approved unanimously. It’s believed Italy’s Luna Rossa is against the change.

Harvey Schiller, the America’s Cup commercial commissioner, said in the news release that reducing the size of the boat was discussed last year, but only Oracle and Emirates Team New Zealand were in favor.

Now that teams have seen the new souped-up 45s on the water, ”there is a clear majority of competitors who support the idea,” Schiller said. ”I’d like to be able to say we have unanimous support from all the teams but that is not the case.”

Schiller did not return a phone call and email seeking further comment.

At the time Bermuda won the right to host the 2017 America’s Cup by pledging up to $77 million in financial support, plans called for the regatta to be sailed in 62-foot cats. That would reduce costs in part since they require fewer sailors. Some teams have already started designing their 62-foot catamarans.

If teams switch to 45-footers, that’s the same size boats used in warmup regattas prior to the 2013 America’s Cup and in warmup regattas this year and next. It’s also a foot longer than the minimum size allowed by the 19th century Deed of Gift.

Two-time defending champion Oracle Team USA, which is owned by Ellison, has blurred the traditional lines between the defender and challengers, so it wasn’t clear who initiated the latest talk of reducing the size of the boats. Despite being one of the world’s richest men, it’s believed that Ellison has grown weary of pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the America’s Cup and wants it to become more self-sustaining.

But teams and the event authority have struggled to raise money. There’s been speculation that two of the current five foreign challengers could drop out because of the staggering cost of competing, which would leave an embarrassingly small field of three challengers like in 2013. Team Australia dropped out last summer, citing the high costs.

Skippers from three foreign challengers – Ben Ainslie Racing of Britain, Team France and Artemis Racing of Sweden – were quoted in the news release as being in favor of the move to a smaller boat.

Team France skipper Franck Cammas called it ”a game-changer. We will be able to have a very competitive team for about half the budget.”

Ainslie and Artemis’ Iain Percy alluded to the change helping the future of the America’s cup.

However, neither Emirates Team New Zealand, whose stunning collapse in 2013 allowed Oracle to keep the Auld Mug, nor Luna Rossa were mentioned in the release.

A Luna Rossa spokesman didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton referred to a statement on the team’s Facebook page. That statement said the Kiwis suggested a reduction in boat size last year. ”Since then time has passed with teams well advanced in their design process now and any ideas around change will need the full consultation and support of all the teams,” the statement said.

A smaller boat could save Team New Zealand. Struggling to raise money, the Kiwis could be forced to drop out if they don’t land a qualifying regatta in Auckland. European teams are known to be unhappy about the cost of shipping 62-foot catamarans halfway around the world to New Zealand. The 45-foot cats are easier to ship because they can be disassembled and loaded into containers.

Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at

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Pursuit Boats adds Alexander Marine of California to dealer network

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Pursuit Boats has appointed Alexander Marine California as its exclusive authorized dealer for Southern California.

The Alexander Marine Facility is located at 2505 West Coast Highway, Suite 202 in Newport Beach, CA 92663. Alexander Marine through its Ocean Alexander line of yachts has been established in Southern California for more than 35 years and has developed a strong professional sales staff within this important Marketplace. Contact Alexander Marine California directly at or 949-515-7700.

“Our new boat and yacht sales are focused on luxury brands with uncompromised quality and great business acumen. Pursuit Boats share the same values we have incorporated into our business over the years. We are excited about continuing the tradition and sharing the great heritage of Pursuit with our existing and future Southern California clients,“ Ray Prokorym, Vice President of Sales.

Pursuit Boats has enjoyed a successful twenty year relationship with the boating community in Southern California and Alexander Marine is the perfect organization to support its existing and future Pursuit owners.

Ron Burkdoll, Regional Sales Manager for Pursuit, “We’re excited about working with the exceptional staff at Alexander Marine California, and look forward to the upcoming Lido Boat Show along with other exciting local events for our Pursuit customer base in the Southern California market. Pursuit remains a dominant brand in this market, and we expect to grow our brand even more through our relationship with Alexander Marine California.”

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NZL sailing team head to Palma, Spain

After spending the New Zealand summer training, preparing and competing domestically the NZL Sailing Team are Europe-bound getting ready for some northern hemisphere competition.

Most will be at 2015 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta in Palma de Mallorca, Spain to open their international campaigning for 2015. Despite the regatta being dropped from the ISAF Sailing World Cup programme the long-standing regatta has attracted strong entries for its 46th edition and the kiwis will be competing against most of their major rivals.

Jez Fanstone, High Performance Director for Yachting New Zealand says, “This is the first European regatta for the NZL Sailing team this season and traditionally it is a well attended event. It’s an opportunity to try out things leant in training over the summer in New Zealand.”

Fanstone explains that the coming year holds plenty of exciting challenges; “We’ve got a busy year ahead with the change in format to the ISAF Sailing World Cup series and the Rio Olympic Test event in August.”

Those changes made to the ISAF Sailing World Cup will see entries to up-coming ISAF World Cup regattas restricted in numbers to 40 boats per class at the Hyeres, Weymouth and Qingdao 2015 events, and to 20 per class at the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi in November. ISAF World rankings in the Olympic classes will be released more regularly with the top ranked sailors earning an invitation to compete at the next ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta.

A final opportunity for un-qualified sailors is on offer at certain nominated events, and 2015 Trofeo Princesa Sofia Regatta provides that final chance for an entry to ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres on in late April.

Racing starts in Spain on Monday 30th March and runs for six days with the medals set to be decided on 4th April. Here’s a list of kiwis on the entry list…

2015 Trofeo Princesa Sofia, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

2015 NZL Sailing Team

Peter Burling and Blair Tuke – 49er

Josh Porebski and Marcus Hansen – 49er

Alexandra Maloney and Molly Meech – 49erFX

Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie – Women’s 470

Paul Snow-Hansen and Daniel Willcox – Men’s 470

Thomas Saunders – Laser

Michael Bullot – Laser

Sara Winther – Laser Radial

Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders – Nacra 17

Josh Junior – Finn

Other New Zealand sailors competing

Susannah Pyatt – Laser Radial

Andrew McKenzie – Laser

Antonio Cozzolino – RS:X

ISAF Sailing World Cup Hyeres follows soon after, from 20-26th April, where a full contingent of the NZL Sailing Team will be competing.

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