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How Did We Get Here (Preserving the Ensign)

Published: Thursday, 08 May 2014 16:56 

How Did We Get Here (Preserving the Ensign)

by Past Commodore Dick Torpey 4/15/2000

Following our recent successful meeting in Mystic, I searched my memory in order to reconstruct the history of efforts to preserve and promote the Class.

Pearson stopped production of the Ensign some time in 1982, and stored the molds in Rhode Island. We entered into a contract to purchase the molds, name, all equipment and paraphernalia from Pearson for the sum of $500.00. All the documents which I had were turned over to my successor, Jeff Deutsch, I recall. The Pearson bankruptcy caused our point man, the late Mark Fisher of Fleet 4, to take possession of the molds. He stored them and was unsuccessful in interesting a builder to start producing Ensigns again. The economy, particularly for sailboats, was none too good, with established builders dropping like flies.At this point, Mike Little entered the picture. He generously offered to travel from Houston, pick up the molds and transport them back to his property in Texas, where he would store them at no charge. There the molds remained unused for several years, except for a few new decks. Mike was successful in designing and producing new glass floors and seats.

From the early days, the Ensign Class Association was a tax exempt organization under 501(c) (7) of the Internal Revenue Code, as a "club". It is important to remember that although the class was tax exempt, donations by members to the class were not income tax deductible by the donors. Then came along an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code, by which a new tax exempt organization was recognized: an amateur sports organization. This organization would be tax exempt under 501 (c) (3) of the Code. Donations by members would be income tax deductible! Several sailing classes took advantage of this new category, for example the Etchells Class.

With board approval, I have prepared and filed an application for this new tax exempt status. It was hard, hard work, but a labor of love. We went back and forth for over a year with the IRS. One agent became ill, another retired, and still no approval. Our application was being held up by one of the IRS offices in New York. I called Jim Kelly for assistance. By reason of the strength of his intellect and personality, this successful New York trial lawyer literally forced the IRS to act favorably. We became a fully recognized tax exempt organization under 501 (c) (3) of the Code.

Why did we do all of this work? Simply stated, to enable our members and friends to help preserve the Ensign by making tax deductible gifts to our treasury. Why did we foresee the need for a significant fund? Again, to take any action needed to resume building genuine Ensigns again to preserve our heritage.

In my opinion, funds given to a separate fund could and should be utilized legitimately by us to preserve and enhance our molds.


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