Up front, I have to admit I’m totally biased. I think that Cigarette Racing Team, that venerable custom high-performance V-bottom builder in Opa-Locka, Fla., makes fantastic boats. I believe that Skip Braver, the owner of the company, has a strong command of his brand and a vision for it. I am convinced there have been more positive changes and developments under his regime than under than most, if not all (save for company founder Don Aronow), of the previous owners’ regimes.
Still more disclosure: I count the mercurial Braver as a friend.
So there you have it, I’m writing about an event hosted by a friend that celebrates products I adore. I mean, reporting simply doesn’t get any more biased than that.
Of course, I’m willing to bet that most of the folks who came to Destin, Fla., for the Cigarette Racing Team Rendezvous last weekend feel pretty much the same way. At least that’s what I gathered from hanging out with the owners of 20 Cigarette V-bottoms, from brand-new to vintage, and their guests for a couple of days. In all, about 150 people attended the event, which included two dinners—the second with everything from fresh crab cakes and Mahi Mahi to filet mignon to scallops—at a mind-blowing second (or third, or fourth, who knows) home of a gracious Cigarette owner.
During the dinners and Saturday’s lunch at the Legendary Yacht Club, the group gathered as one. Owners and their guests, who traveled from as far away as California and as close by as, well, just down the road in Florida, got to know each other or—in many cases—simply renewed acquaintances. Regardless of geography, Cigarette owners tend to know each other or, at least, know of each other. That kind of fraternal (pardon the gender bias but it fits) camaraderie tends to exist among owners of collectible brands.
There was no boating agenda after lunch on Saturday—Cigarette owners and their guests could discover the beauty of Destin by water as much or as little as they liked. The only deadline, so to speak, was dinner at 8:30 p.m.
So I hopped on a 38’ Top Gun with Dan and Lisa Ellis and a couple of friends, and we headed for Crab Island, a local hotspot for anchoring and cooling off in Destin’s emerald waters. In all, there were six Cigarettes—three Top Guns, one 50 Marauder and two center consoles—moored at the island, which is little more than a sandbar, among 50 or 60 other boats from pontoon to runabout.
At one point, four young women in a rental pontoon boat approached the Cigarette fleet to get a closer look. (And who could blame them?) Problem was, they were in less than full control of their outboard-powered, aluminum-hulled machine and they didn’t realize they were idling directly toward the stunning blue 50’ Marauder. A few of the Cigarette owners and their guests, standing in knee- to waist-deep water got their attention—yelling will do that—and the collision was (barely) averted.
“Oh my god,” one of the passengers in the pontoon hollered at the driver. “You almost hit a $50,000 boat!”
The Cigarette crowd went quiet for a moment. Then the laughter started. It wasn’t derisive, snobby or condescending laughter. It was the laughter of relief following a tense moment, punctuated by a comment from someone who had no idea how tense the moment actually was.
That hour, standing in the water at Crab Island with Cigarette owners and their guests, swapping stories, chilling out and laughing was the highlight of the event for me. In almost 20 years of covering the high-performance powerboat world, I have never encountered a more laidback group of owners. It was, in a word, cool.
But hey, as I said at the outset of this piece, I’m biased.
Editor’s Note: Look for a complete feature on the Cigarette Racing Team Rendezvous in Smokin’ magazine, which will be available at the 2013 Miami International Boat Show.
Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the editor of Sportboat magazine.