By Matt Trulio
Inside the First Cigarette Racing Team Rendezvous
The event of the decade happened this fall, for twenty custom V-bottom owners and their lucky friends.
The pretty woman standing next to me behind the driver and copilot in a Cigarette 38’ Top Gun had to yell in my ear to be heard over 70 mph worth of wind noise and engine roar. But her message was loud and clear, though not exactly new to me.
“I can’t believe you do this for a living,” she hollered.
I came back with my usual response. “I don’t do this for a living,” I shouted back in her ear. “I write for a living.”
At that point, she let one hand off the grab handle on the back of the bolster and reached up to tip her sunglasses just enough to show me she was rolling her eyes. I had to laugh.
“OK, well, yeah, I kind of do this for a living,” I yelled back at her. “This is one of those ‘lifestyle’ jobs where you get to do really cool things you could never afford to do on your own.”
She smiled and shook her head. That was all she said—and all she needed to say—in the next ten minutes before we reached Crab Island in Destin, Fla.
So here I was again doing one of those really cool things, thanks to Skip Braver, the owner of Cigarette Racing Team in Opa-Locka, Fla., on a brilliant late fall day. The event was the first of its kind, at least under Braver’s ten-year tenure at the helm of the iconic custom go-fast boat company.
In all, 20 Cigarette owners brought their boats to the event, from as far away as California and as close as just a few miles down the road from Destin. Between the owners and their guests, about 150 people were on hand for the two-day happening.
With the exception of two upscale dinners at the private, six-story second home of a gracious Cigarette owner and a lunch at the Legendary Yacht Club, the event was entirely “go with the flow,” meaning the boat owners and their guests could boat a lot or a little, depending on their mood and energy level. There was no on-water itinerary or agenda. My friends Dan and Lisa Ellis of Ventura, Calif., were up for a little post-lunch in their pristine 2008 Cigarette 38’ Top Gun, and that’s how I ended up trying to justify my ridiculous job to the eye-rolling woman next to me in the boat.
Braver and the rest of his crew, as well as the three Cigarette dealers on hand, kept a low profile throughout the event. That was by design.
“This is all about our loyal Cigarette owners having a good time,” said Braver. “It’s all about giving back to them and appreciating them. It’s not about us.”
The collection of hardware, from new to vintage, was as good as it gets. There were new center consoles, including the spectacular five-outboard-engine 42’ Mistress, new V-bottom performers such as a 50’ Marauder with twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines, and an assortment of older models in flawless condition. Perhaps more than the owners of any other high-performance powerboat brand, Cigarette owners take almost obsessive pride in caring for their boats because they are, in essence, collectibles.
And yet the owners of those boats who made the quick run to Crab Island, which is nothing more than a sandbar in the middle of emerald green water, could not have been more easygoing. Once all the boats were moored the party started, and the owners and their lucky friends stood in the knee- to waste-deep water, cracked jokes, and told the stories behind their boats. The Louisiana-based owner of the new 50’ Marauder had owned a bunch Cigarettes—the 50-footer was merely his latest. Moored a few steps away was an older 38’ Top Gun owned by a younger gentleman, also from Louisiana. Called Sound Check, the boat provided the day’s music thanks to 40 speakers in its cockpit.
Our afternoon at Crab Island ended too quickly, and soon enough we were back at the docks at Legendary Marine. The pretty woman in the boat thanked Dan and Lisa Ellis for her day on the water. She said she’d never done anything like it. She said she could get used to it.
I smiled and kept my mouth shut. I knew exactly what she meant.
- Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining boats.com in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
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