AMG and Cigarette Racing satisfy their shared need for speed…
As the graphite grey Cigarette Racing 41’ AMG Carbon Edition pulls away from the dock, captain Bud Lorow engages the engines. Shifting the centre console boat into gear, a shudder coils through the fibreglass and carbon fibre composite hull — portending something special, and perhaps a little bit terrifying, is afoot. The vessel makes its way through Biscayne Bay, the white and turquoise skyline of Miami in front, mangrove to the right. From this vantage point Magic City resembles the jaw of a giant dragon with pearly asymmetric teeth.
After we pass under the Rickenbacker Causeway and enter open water, Lorow turns. “Ok y’all ready?” he asks, grinning widely. The veteran champion racer confidently pushes the throttle forward and the vessel lurches to life. One more push and I’m holding onto the cabin’s frame for dear life, white-knuckled. A massive wake spreads behind us as we disappear more pedestrian watercraft with disdain.
There is absolutely no need for a pleasure craft to go this fast. But then again, neither Cigarette Racing Team nor AMG, Mercedes- Benz’s performance division, are known for their restraint. So here we are, cruising Biscayne at 80mph. And while the two companies share a penchant for speed, they also share a demand for extreme engineering.
I witness that firsthand the following morning when I visit Cigarette Racing’s cavernous facilities in Miami’s Opa-locka suburb. What instantly impresses upon entering is just how immaculate their workspace is: concrete floors you could eat sashimi off of, boats polished and gleaming, not an oil stain or stray wrench to be seen anywhere. “When I bought the company I said to the production manager, ‘We’re going to have to reflect a Formula One paddock here,’” Skip Braver tells me of the day in 2002 when he salvaged Cigarette Racing from bankruptcy.
Across a vast wooden desk, relaxed and amicable, Braver epitomises the role of a Miami speedboat CEO. “And he said ‘Skip, we’re not cooking tomatoes here!’ I said I know we’re not cooking tomatoes, but you gotta clean up! “ We want this place to be something special right away. It’s not tough,” he continues. “If you walk into a [factory] and it’s a mess, and there’s no organisation, and it’s filthy dirty, what’s it say about your boats? How are you treating your tools?”
Currently Cigarette Racing builds 12 different models in this sprawling campus, under two main categories: Open Performance boats, which are commonly referred to as a Center Console, and Pure Performance, what most people associate with the term “Cigarette”. To make an automotive metaphor, Cigarette Racing’s Chief Marketing Officer Scott Preacher equates the former to performance SUVs and the latter to supercars in terms of utility and velocity. Size, speed and amenities all can vary greatly; while you can slip into an entry-level 38-ft. boat for as little as US$500,000, the size can swell up to 60 ft. — and the cost sprawl well over US$3 million.
While they’ve built vessels with a 172mph top speed, 140mph is their normal zenith. “We could build boats to go faster, [but] we choose not to,” Preacher explains. “You’d be surprised how hard it is to run 100mph for a long period of time. Even on a day when it’s glass out, the boat’s still running on top of the water. You can get a false sense of security running 180mph in a car on the autobahn, you feel like you’ve got everything together. On a boat you don’t have that sensation — you’re on the razor’s edge the entire time at those speeds.”
Clearly the company’s philosophy has worked, as Cigarette Racing produces around 50 vessels a year for the world’s most discriminating customers (they claim they could build more, but limit themselves to maintain exclusivity). And almost everything is hand-built under this roof — only motors, fuel tanks and electronics are sourced; everything else is done in house.
Enrique Iglesias, Nelson Piquet, the Sultan of Johor and former president George H.W. Bush are all past customers. “We build the best performance boats,” Braver states flatly, tapping his fingers together at the end of his long desk. “We build boats for the ocean, not lakes. They have the best resale value because they stay together.” He smiles. “Your body’s going to give up before my hull gives up.”
The Cigarette Racing 41’ Amg Carbon Edition
Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance arm AMG has a longstanding relationship with Cigarette Racing: since 2007 the two companies have jointly developed special edition boats correlating with one of Affalterbach’s greatest creations.
Now for its 11th vessel the partnership of the two supreme engineering teams has collaborated to build a craft inspired by AMG’s GT 63S 4-Door Coupé. Last year’s boat, the 515 Project ONE, was all about speed — fitting, given it was an homage to AMG’s ludicrous Project ONE hypercar. With 3,100 horsepower and a 140mph top speed, the hyperboat splashed headlines across the world.
But just as the Project ONE hypercar only has room for you, a single attractive companion and maybe a Louis Vuitton weekender, Cigarette Racing’s fastest totems of velocity offer a similarly limited capacity (six people max). Meanwhile, just as the GT 63S 4-Door Coupé offers amazingly ample roominess in back for full-size humans, so too does its Cigarette Racing equivalent.
The 41’ Carbon Edition allows you to bring as many as 20 of your best friends along for your cruise to Havana. But just because it prioritises comfort, don’t think for a second the 41’ AMG Carbon Edition can’t haul ass. The 41-foot vessel features quad Mercury Racing 400R engines generating a total of 1,600 horsepower for 83mph of wave-leaping power.
Featuring a dramatic Designo graphite grey magno matte paint job (developed exclusively for its GT 63S sister vehicle) and eye-popping high-gloss crimson AMG highlights, “Cigarette Cool” seats and materials, copious carbon fibre (deck, rudder, roof lining and hardtop), three 17-inch HD Garmin touchscreens, ambient lighting and high-amperage sound system, the 41’ AMG Carbon Edition is the perfect vehicle to host your next floating soirée. Get your own for US$800,000.
BY NICOLAS STECHER