January 27, 2012

Mixing Sailing Fun & Fundraising at Z-Fest

Young scholars who do well in school get a big reward: a ride on a sailboat in the annual Z-Fest boat parade.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The coastal town of Zihuatanejo has long been a favoritie stop for cruising sailors, as it has maintained it’s laid-back, ‘old Mexico’ charm, in contrast to the rampant ultra-modern development at nearby Ixtapa and elsewhere along the Mexican mainland. And we’d be willing to bet that a small procession of cruising sailors is heading to Z-town right now, as the town’s largest annual watersports event begins in 12 days.

During the beach games, kids, cruisers and expats all join in the fun.

© Margaret Reid

Slated for February 7 through 12, Zihuatanejo Sailfest combines sailing, smoozing, and partying with a variety of fun-based fund-raising efforts. All the profits go to direct support of education for underpriviledged local kids — many of whom would not have an opportunity to get an education otherwise. Through Sailfest’s ongoing partnership between expats-in-residence, local community leaders and visiting sailors, this multi-facetted event has raised more money than any other cruiser-funded charity. Its coffers have funded the construction of new classrooms, whole new schools, in addition to giving financial support to exisitng facilities and individuals in need.

In Mexico, kids must be able to speak Spanish in order to enroll in a typcial government-funded elementary school. Sailfest funds have helped thousands of indigenes (non-Spanish-speaking) children to overcome this ‘language gap’.

Mexico’s education rules create a classic ‘Catch 22’: If you don’t speak Spanish, you can’t attend school, but if you can’t learn the national tongue in school, where can you learn it? Sailfest funds solve the problem.

© Margaret Reid

We can tell you from personal experience that Sailfest is also a whole lot of fun. With boat races, beach activities, a live music concert, parties, raffles, auctions and more, Z-Fest is the place to be next week. Learn more about the event here. And more about the educational support program here.

Racing in light air with Louis Kruk and Laura Willerton aboard the San Leandro-based Beneteau 42s7 Cirque.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Where Do the Years Go?

It’s come to our attention that early March will mark the 35th anniversary of the day that the publisher of this magazine, assisted by Kathleen McCarthy, put together the first issue of Latitude 38. It’s hard to believe how much has changed in that time, from boats, to the type of sailing that’s done, to the way publications are put together. For the details on this, see February’s response to Rob Boyle’s letter about the history of the magazine.

Our first cover didn’t win any design awards, but today a copy of that first edition is a collectors’ item – potentially worth substantially more than the cover price. (It was free.)

©2012 Latitude 38 Media, LLC

One thing that hasn’t changed is that we still love sailing. In fact, in many ways we love it more than ever. Another thing that hasn’t changed is that we still love writing about sailing. In fact, in many ways we love that more than ever also. It’s all the business BS that sometimes makes us grouchy and weary.

Anyway, if anybody would like to mention anything they particularly liked — or disliked — about the first 10,000 or so pages of Latitude, feel free to let us know. (And yes, we already know that most of you men like the shots of women sailing topless.)

Clarifying Italian Yacht Taxes

Dave Wallace of the Puerto Escondido-based Amel Maramu Air-Ops reports he has some additional information on the daily boat taxes the Italians are going to be laying on owners of Italian and foreign yachts starting on May 1. According to superyachts.com, there are three exceptions to the rates as they were published: 1) Vessels are exempt from the daily fee when in drydock or hauled out; 2) For vessels older than 5, 10 or 15 years, the tax is reduced by 15%, 30% and 45% respectively; And 3) all sailing yachts pay 50% less. It’s not clear whether a boat could be eligible for both age and sailing discounts.

Will the new regulations drive boaters away? It would be a shame to miss visiting picture-perfect places like Cinque Terre.

© VisitItalyNow

Even in cases of reduced rates, we think the tax is going to be a major disincentive for people on boats to litter the Italian Riviera with money. You also have to wonder how much it’s going to cost the famed Italian bureaucracy to track and collect taxes due, and whether the entire scheme will be a net gain or loss.

Ron Sherwin of the Monterey-based Tartan 4100 Panache notes that if you buy a high-end 40-ft boat in California for $400,000, the county where the boat resides will collect something like 1% of the boat’s value in local taxes. "That works out to around $333 a month — or just about what the Italians are proposing to charge," he says. It’s unclear to us whether or not owners of Italian boats have to pay a similar ‘personal property’ tax in addition to the new tax.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how ‘successful’ this plan turns out to be.

Wit and Wisdom

The current plight of the Costa Concordia reminds us of a comment attributed to Churchill by James C. Humes in his book The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill:"

It’s hard to picture the great statesman playing shuffleboard.

© 2012 Richard Taylor

"Late in his life, Sir Winston took a cruise on an Italian ship. A journalist from a New York newspaper approached the former prime minister to ask him why he chose to travel on an Italian line when the Queen Elizabeth, under the British flag, was available.

"Churchill gave the question his consideration and then gravely replied. ‘There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb. And then — in time of emergency — there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.’"

While we’re sure the so-called British bull dog make that comment with tongue in cheek, we’re not sure if it qualifies him as politically incorrect or an egalitarian.

More than 100 people — probably closer to 200 — showed up at City Hall yesterday for a Board of Supervisors meeting to determine the fate of the America’s Cup Environmental Impact Report, which was unanimously accepted by the Planning Commission last month.
Having recklessly pissed away their money and gone into tremendous debt — sort of like the United States and California — the Italian government has come up with a brilliant new "austerity measure." Actually, it’s a whopping new tax on yachts, one that’s certain to drive the country further into debt.