Years ago, I gave up trying to explain to people that Cigarette is a powerboat brand, not a powerboat type. First, it doesn’t really matter all that much—most people think “Cigarette” and they see something really sleek, pointy, and sexy that moves across the water like nobody’s business. And that’s enough for them.
Second, Skip Braver, the owner and chief executive officer of Cigarette Racing Team and the rest of the crew at the iconic Opa-Locka, Fla., company have zero problem with that image—it's fine with the Cigarette folks. And that’s enough for me.
But in addition to all those “Cigarette boats,” the company makes several high-performance center-consoles that have attracted both traditional go-fast boat buyers (burned out on the lack of versatility and utility in their purpose-built speed machines) and new blood to the marketplace. During the 2015 Miami International Boat Show in February, the builder introduced a model called the 41’ GTR, a luxury performance center-console that is the outboard engine-powered sister ship to the 41’ Stern Drive 1040 introduced last fall.
For the record, both 41-footers are still pointy, sleek, and sexy, and both are already finding a welcome home in the center-console marketplace, according to Braver. And though he declined to provide specific unit sales figures, as has always been his policy with the media, he said that both models, which ride on the same stepped hull but have different decks, are taking off. He also said that the outboard engine-powered 41’ GTR currently is outselling the stern drive version.
Braver said he believes the difference is a matter of outboards being the traditional and far more common power choice for center-consoles. But he also said that the 41’ 1040 Stern Drive is finding its own audience, and that audience includes buyers who are completely new to boating.
Either way, the choice of power for the boat is downright democratic.
“With the ‘SD’ boat, we started with a completely clean sheet of paper,” he said. “It was an entirely new concept in boating—a true inboard center-console with an 11-foot beam and an extra large swim platform. That SD boat is in a completely different category, and it’s just beginning to get exposed. It’s a great boat for the Great Lakes and the Lake of the Ozarks. In Florida, everybody wants outboards, but in places like Seattle, where we just sold one, people want inboards. I never thought I’d ever sell a boat in Seattle, but this guy saw the SD on the Internet and fell in love with it.
“The GTR has been a runaway hit,” he continued. “We took the one built -- the one with quad Mercury Racing Verado 400 R outboards -- on the Miami Boat Show Poker Run with [Florida Powerboat Club founder and president] Stu Jones. That boat is Cigarette quality all the way, especially the way it handles and rides.”
Braver said that about half of the 41’ GTR models sold so far have been ordered with quad Verado 400 R engines. The other half have been ordered with quad Verado 350s, which became Mercury Marine products this year. (Their 350 SCi predecessors fell under the Mercury Racing umbrella.)
“With the 350s, you can upgrade to Mercury’s seven-year warranty,” said Braver. “That’s pretty attractive.”
Of course, the sportboat side of the Cigarette brand remains alive and well. Cigarette’s sportboat sales, especially for larger models including the 42 X and the 50 Marauder, also are strong, according to Braver. As for what could be in the boat builder’s new-model plans moving forward, he declined to provide any detail.
“We keep tweaking what we know works, like creating a new windshield for the 42 Huntress,” said Braver. “Could we build a 50-foot Huntress? Sure. But what would that get us? Staterooms? I can already load the 42 Huntress with more friends than I have. We don’t do one-offs. We don’t want to build anything that doesn’t make sense. The SD boat made sense. The GTR made sense.
“We keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking, and pushing and pushing and pushing the bar,” he added. “We’re not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep pushing the edges of technology and design.”
Boat type or brand, center-console or sportboat, it really doesn’t matter. Cigarette continues to push forward. And that’s just fine with everyone.