They are slender, beautiful and fast. Racing legends, highly coveted. Cigarette boats make the water churn and adrenalin boil. Built to be fast as lightning. Speedy arrows that attain top speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour. No pleasure cruisers these, instead they deliver pure action, thrills and enjoyment.
Power with character
The V-shaped design with the extended, enclosed bow is typical for these aesthetically-pleasing boats. No frills, no unnecessary weight to affect the appearance – or the aerodynamics. A “cigarette” flies across the surface of the water powered by two or even three engines.
Cigarette fans include numerous famous names. Whilst buyers need not be famous, they certainly need to be rich. An approximately ten year old Cigarette 39 Top Gun Unlimited, around 12 metres long and boasting 1,323 horsepower, costs around 200,000 US dollars. Customers ordering a new cigarette can make their own offshore dreams come true by having the characterful speed boat built and equipped to their own specifications. The experienced Cigarette Racing Team personnel deliver perfect hand craftsmanship. Custom seats or aluminium accessories are no problem. The fitting of a state-of-the-art flat screen television of stereo system is also possible. Enjoyment of such audiovisual luxuries is difficult, however, as the speed boats are so loud that any conversation is impossible. It is better to have the television fitted directly into the small but luxurious cabins that some models are equipped with, such as the impressive Cigarette 50 Marauder. One particularly eye-catching version of the Marauder was presented at the Miami Boat Show in 2014: the Cigarette Racing 50′ Vision GT concept, inspired by AMG. A breathtaking power boat, with two V8 Mercury engines – each delivering 1,550 horsepower – propelling it to a top speed of over 217 km/h. However, anyone wishing to make this turbo dream reality must reach deep in their pockets for around 1.2 million US dollars.
The name of the cigarette boats is derived not from their slender form, but their use as unusually fast smuggling boats during the prohibition era. The first “cigarette” was presented to the public in 1969, revolutionising the power boat world. As the name suggests, the Cigarette 32 was 32 feet long, around ten metres. That year the boat went on to win the World Offshore Championship, reaching speeds of around 108 kilometres per hour. All of that power soon attracted enthusiastic buyers, including King Hussein of Jordan and George Bush senior. The former US president acquired the twin 185-hp Cigarette 28, which could reach 128 km/h, in 1972, christening his cigarette “Fidelity”. He treasured the boat and his friendship with the inventor and designer of the cigarette boats, Don Aronow, the king of the power boats. The native New Yorker dedicated his life and passion to driving and building speed boats. At the age of 34 Don Aronow left the Big Apple to seek his fortune in Miami. And he found it – as a world-class racing driver and designer of offshore boats.
The cigarette boats were built in North Miami Beach on 188th Street, later to achieve fame as “Thunderboat Row”. And it was not just cigarette models that first saw the light of day here. For each racing boat type that Don Aronow produced he founded a company, including Formula Marine, Donzi Marine, Magnum Marine and of course the Cigarette Racing Team. Don Aronow designed faster and faster boats, highly sought-after by high society – and Colombian drug smugglers. These used the lightning-quick power boats to transport their drugs through the Gulf of Mexico with impunity.
Life in the fast lane
Whatever Aronow tried his hand at was a success. His boats won race after race. Despite this, in 1979 he sold the Cigarette Racing Team to the Halter Marine shipyard. Two years later the company made Aronow an offer to take a stake in the company again and manage it. Aronow accepted, but sold the firm again a year later, which did not prevent him from continuing to construct power boats. Perhaps it was Don Aronow’s passion for fast boats and beautiful women that finally proved his down fall: his life in the fast lane ended in 1987, when he was shot dead on the street in a drive-by shooting. The circumstances were mysterious, there were numerous rumours about possible motives: a jealous husband had gained revenge, a competitor wanted him out of the way, he was liquidated by the mafia. The fact is that the self-made millionaire had not only made friends. The murder remains unsolved to this day.
Fast. Sporty. Successful.
The success story of the cigarette continued without Don Aronow. The company changed owners a total of five times. The racing successes and the power boat image remained unchanged. Today, the company is owned by Skip Braver. The 66-year-old businessman with a fondness for speed boats is President and CEO of the Cigarette Racing Team. Skip Braver is more of a contented family man, the complete opposite of Don Aronow. Braver’s down-to-earth business style suits the company and is reflected in rising numbers of sales.
Anyone planning to buy one of the charismatic offshore legends should first experience a cigarette at first hand. Because anyone wishing to cruise romantically and serenely into the sunset will soon have their fingers burned by a cigarette. However, those in search of the ultimate adrenaline kick, whose pulse races with the overwhelming roar of the power boat engines, will soon be enraptured by these sleek and speedy beauties.
Text: Petra Dietz