I would like to thank Bob de Nisco and Mark Peroni for sharing such a wonderful experience with me and allowing me to be part of the team on the original...The Cigarette.
This particular boat was the first race boat that Don Aronow ever built for himself from one of his own companies...Formula Marine. Don built the boat in 1963 and raced it in the Miami to Key West race that year, finishing third. He sold the boat after the race to George Peroni of Miami, who then raced the boat in the local races.
In 1964, George Peroni, racing this boat, won the Gateway Marathon....which incidentally was the very same race. Miami to Bimini and back.
The boat stayed in the Peroni family until a few years ago when it was sold to the De Nisco family. George Peroni and Bob de Nisco Sr were friends from growing up together in Miami.
The De Niscos then began a 4 year restoration project on the boat. Innovation Marine was given the 409 cu in engine and told to find the missing parts and bring it back to life. They did the usual immaculate preparation and attention to detail, as they are known for and the results show it.
So for this race, the crew consisted of Bob DeNisco, the present owner, Mark Peroni, the son of the previous owner and me. The first time I ever met Don in 1963, this boat was in the shop being prepped for the Miami Key West race, so it was very special boat for all of us.
In true old school tradition, we ran the boat as it ran in 1963....no bolsters, just stand up and hold on.
Also old school, all three of us drove and throttled the boat. Bob De Nisco, started and took us offshore, I crossed the Gulfstream and rounded the Mark in Bimini and brought us back to the Gulfstream and Mark Peroni took us home and through the finish line.
We had to slow just after rounding the mark in Bimini to check the fuel, with a stick, as we only had 90 gallons and didn't know if we had enough depending on conditions.....we were ok.....but we finished on fumes as those two four barrel carbs were thirsty.
At one point when I was driving, I thought of Don actually racing the boat, standing where I was standing and holding on to this wheel as he tried to balance himself when the boat leaped, just as I was doing. I thought of the waters of Key West and how rough they could be. I remembered a race I was in a little 24 foot banana boat and was getting hammered and heard a chopper over me and looked up...it was Don and he was pumpng his fist out of the window to say...."Keep going kid....don't quit" At that exact moment I heard another chopper and looked up and saw David Di Petrillo with his dive team.....that gave me some pause for a second or two.
It was a very special race, with a special boat and with a very special crew. We gathered our first place trophy that evening in the real sense of accomplishment surrounded by family and friends