Despair, hope and despair—that is the sequence of events surrounding the recent death of 44-year-old Mike Fiore, owner and founder of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, RI.
First, despair. When the new 46-foot Outerlimits catamaran that Fiore is throttling with driver Joel Begin, the boat’s owner, flips at more than 150 mph during one of the first runs of the morning at the Lake Of The Ozarks Shootout, an annual liquid-mile top-speed event. After tumbling through the air 50 to 60 feet above the water, the cat lands backward on Fiore’s side of its enclosed canopy. Against all odds, Fiore and Begin survive, are extracted from the boat, and taken to separate hospitals.
Second, hope. With severe trauma injuries, Fiore is in critical condition and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital in Columbia, Missouri. Begin is released from a nearby hospital the following day, bruised and battered but without major injuries, and Fiore’s status is upgraded from critical to serious but stable. Begin’s condition is a miracle—and Fiore’s survival and recovery a hoped-for miracle in the making.
Third, despair. Two days later, Fiore dies from complications after surgery. Shockwaves rocket through the performance-boat community. And the aftershocks, at times as strong as the initial jolt, continue.
“Mike Fiore was an icon in this industry,” said Scott Sjogren, owner and founder of Pier 57, the nation’s leading new and pre-owned performance dealer based in Gurnee, Ill. “He was like Reggie Fountain in a lot of ways—larger than life, always pushing for more. His death leaves a void that cannot be filled.”
Fiore started Outerlimits in 1993 in Holbrook on Long Island, NY, with a 37-foot stepped-hull V-bottom called the Stiletto. Since then, the company (which changed locations three times before settling at its current facility in Bristol, RI) has built more than 400 custom go-fast boats—primarily V-bottoms from 29 to 52 feet—priced from $300,000 to more than $1 million.
Earlier this year, an enclosed-cockpit Outerlimits SV 43 raceboat claimed the title of “World Fastest V-Bottom” with a kilometer record speed of 181.422 mph on the Pamlico River in Washington, NC. Brian Forehand piloted the 43-footer, which is owned by Fiore’s close friend and Outerlimits customer, Joe Sgro.
"It's pretty freakin' cool," said Fiore a few minutes after the record was broken. "This took 10 years of patience and letting some of the insults roll off our backs to finally reclaim the V-bottom speed record.”
Even Reggie Fountain, the founder and former owner of Fountain Powerboats and Fiore’s former archrival, tipped his hat to the achievement, which bested the previous speed record—held by a 42-foot Fountain V-bottom built during its namesake’s watch—by close to 10 miles per hour.
“I’m happy they got the record,” said Fountain, who watched the boat from his home on the shore of the Pamlico River. “If I were going to buy a V-bottom, I’d buy from Mike Fiore. He knows a few things."
The son of Hustler Powerboats founder Paul Fiore—who is widely credited with bringing stepped-hull technology into the modern era of performance boats—Mike Fiore started working with his father in his pre-teen years. He learned the entire business, from making harnesses to lamination, by doing every job himself. By the time he reached high school, he knew what he wanted to do for a living. And while he was fiercely proud of his products and confident in them, he always downplayed his own role and sublime talent in their creation.
“Building boats is all I know how to do,” Fiore said in a July/August 2013 Speed On The Water digital magazine article celebrating his company’s 20th anniversary. “I mean, since I was a kid, that’s all I did, just go to work and build boats. It’s not like I really understood a whole lot else.
“There’s nothing else I really want to do other than get up and build boats,” he continued. “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would still do the same exact thing. Nothing would change. It’ll be that way I’m sure until the day I die.”
Fiore is survived by his wife, Shonda, their son, Jet, and daughter, Moxie, and his daughter Sophia from a previous marriage.
"Mike's love for high-speed boating was only outmatched by the love for his wife, three young children, and his family," said Frank Sciacca, the general counsel of Outerlimits, in a statement released to the media. "Details on arrangements will be made and released in the coming days, and in the meantime we hope all understand the family's need to grieve for their loss privately.”
Editor’s Note: Download a PDF of the July/August 2013 issue of Speed On The Water digital magazine with the Outerlimits 20th Anniversary feature. at no charge. And read all the Matt Trulio stories about Outerlimits, including the latest, Summer Blockbusters For Outerlimits, which was published only the day before the accident.