Two words define 2014 in the high-performance powerboat world: tragedy and triumph. On the tragedy side, we lost Steve Tripp, the founder of Revolution Performance Marine; Mike Fiore of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats; Carey Downs of the original Pier 57 Marine; and super-fan Reese Lewis. The human losses in our small community were such that we simply stopped asking, “What’s next?” for fear we’d find out.
While we’ll never forget these people, we won’t relive their tragedies here. At some point, you have to try to start healing. So Jason Johnson, my co-contributor to offshoreonly.com and partner in daily news site speedonthewater.com, have chosen not to include these horrible losses in our respective “Top 10 Stories of 2014” roundups.
What follows are my picks from the more than 1,000 stories—many of which I wrote—from speedonthewater.com this year. To come up with this list, I based my selections on news value from a journalistic perspective. Any number of qualities, from the obvious (major accomplishment) to the subtle (trend or significant movement), in a story determines its news value, but it’s not an exact science. But traffic to a given story, a much less subjective measure, was another metric we used to compile our lists.
Everyone on the Outerlimits team expected Reggie Fountain’s 171 mph V-bottom kilometer record to fall when they descended on the Pamlico River in North Carolina with Joe Sgro’s SV 43 raceboat powered by twin Mercury Racing 1650 engines. But with a two-way average of 180.464, Brian Forehand and Sgro didn’t just break the record, they obliterated it. Out of the boat business for several years, Fountain, a true Southern gentleman congratulated Outerlimits founder and owner Mike Fiore. For his part, Fiore left Washington, N.C., euphoric with the new mark—and at peace with an old score settled.
2. Mystic Reflects Market Trends
As Mystic Powerboats’ founder and owner John Cosker often puts it, there are “only so many people” in the market for a 50-foot turbine engine-powered catamaran. (See Jason Johnson’s story tomorrow for more.) Still, with a few exceptions, that’s the extent of what Mystic has offered since he founded the DeLand, Fla., company in 1996. But in 2014, Cosker embraced two all-new projects, an outboard-powered 39-foot luxury performance center console and a 44-foot catamaran that will be outfitted with piston power, which essentially tripled his company’s product offerings. (The new models will be unveiled at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show.) While two brand-new, clean-sheet models is a huge undertaking for any custom go-fast boat builder, Cosker’s moves reinforced the notion that two segments in the go-fast boat world—performance center consoles and catamarans—remain white hot.
3. The Saga of Qatar
In the space of one year, the Spirit of Qatar team went from being one of Super Boat International’s best customers to being banned from the organization’s annual world championships in Key West, Fla. With the team’s throttleman and United States representative Steve Curtis being involved as president of the new Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix series, it was hard to imagine SBI president John Carbonell acting otherwise. In the meantime, the Qatar Marine Sports Federation and OPGP continued to move forward with plans for the first Qatar Cup in February, which reportedly will host 50 raceboats from around the world including a dozen from the United States.
4. Boom Times in Buffalo and Boyne
Only a fool would think that poker run participation isn’t a function of the economy. And yet with a lot of poker runs holding steady or even declining in fleet size this year, the upturn in the nation’s economy in 2014 isn’t enough to explain the growth in the Buffalo, N.Y., and Boyne City, Mich., poker runs. So how did two homegrown and locally run events—neither one of them “new”—become the hottest poker runs of the summer? The answer, of course, is in the question. Both Boyne Thunder and Buffalo are organized by passionate, local volunteers. Does it hurt that both are held in beautiful parts of the country that don’t typically make it into go-fast boating news? Without a doubt. Look for both runs to continue growing in 2015 and you won’t be disappointed.
5. Cigarette Takes Stern Approach
When it comes to the Cigarette Racing Team, everyone has an opinion and, more often than not, those opinions are strong. So I understand there will be more than a few groans and rolled eyeballs with this one, but Cigarette’s new 41’ Stern Drive 1040 luxury performance center console was a bold move on the part of the Opa-Locka, Fla., company. The new 41-footer definitely flies in the face of conventional performance center console wisdom, that being for reliability reasons outboard power is the only way to go if you want to attract former owners of stern-drive go fast boats. But Cigarette’s Skip Braver believes his new and existing customers will love it. What’s more, he believes the boat will attract an entirely new group of buyers to the market. In fact, he’s banking on it.
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 former editor of Sportboat magazine.