Seeing what could be light at the end of the tunnel—other than an oncoming train—for the first time since the early 2000s, the high-performance powerboat segment of the marine industry is feeling bullish and flexing its muscles heading into the 2014 Miami International Boat Show this month.
By all accounts from the go-fast boat and engine builders I’ve chatted with, and that means most of them, there are big things in store for this year’s Miami event.
But there’s a catch: A lot of folks spending the considerable time and money it takes to display their products in Miami want their unveilings on Feb. 13, the day the show opens, to be surprises. And that’s a good thing. Who doesn’t like surprises, right? Heck, it’s their party. They have a right to throw it any way they like.
Still, as a relentless—some say obsessive—planner and generally impatient guy, I like to know what’s coming. You might feel the same way. To that end, I offer the following list of items to see and places to be during the 2014 Miami International Boat Show.
On the vague side: Might as well start here. There are three places you want to be when the show opens on Thursday morning, which is the event’s slightly higher priced (ticket-wise) but substantially less crowded “VIP Day.” At 10 a.m., you'll want to find yourself at the Mercury Marine exhibit, where Mercury Racing, the high-performance engine side of the company’s business, will unveil a new product or two. (How’s that for vague?) Across the Miami Convention Center floor, Marine Technology, Inc., will showcase at least one full-sized “theme” catamaran. As noted, the Mercury gig has a definite 10 a.m. time peg—the MTI deal does not. So after you’re done checking out the new Mercury stuff, it might be worth sauntering over to MTI.
VIP debut on VIP day: Roughly 30 minutes after the Mercury Racing product unveiling, Cigarette Racing Team will pull the sheet off a 38’ Top Gun VIP Edition that it built for the Spirit of Qatar offshore racing team. (The team will use the 38-footer to entertain special guests during offshore races in the United States this year.) Beyond that, details on the new boat are unavailable, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility for it to be powered by, let’s say just for fun, whatever Mercury Racing is unveiling on the same day. Plus, Cigarette’s technology and marketing partnership with Mercedes-AMG is likely to result in something else worth seeing in the Cigarette booth.
Welcome returns: Absent from the Miami show for four years, Active Thunder, which enjoys a cult-like following in the performance-boat world, is back and will have 37- and 33-foot V-bottoms, both powered by pairs of Mercury Racing 565 engines (last year’s Mercury surprise in Miami), at the Sea Isle Marina docks. Though neither is a “new” model, both have undergone extensive retooling.
Having passed on the Miami show for the past three years, over-the-top catamaran builder Mystic Powerboats will be back in a big way this year. The builder will showcase pleasure and racing versions—the latter brand new and making its public debut in Miami—of its outrageous 50-foot catamaran in its outdoor exhibit area.
Chasing Ilmor: Fans of Ilmor Marine’s 725-hp engines, and there are lots of them, will get to see the V-10 powerhouses not just on stands in the Ilmor exhibit area, along with the company’s upgraded touchscreen Merlin Dash system, but in a few spectacular performance boats. Formula will have one of its popular FASTech 38-footers powered by the Ilmor engines in the water at Sea Isle Marina, while a couple of 42-foot Chief powerboats—a pleasure model and a raceboat—boasting Ilmor 725 engines will be showcased in the display area behind the convention center.
Blinded by the (neon) light: To borrow loosely from the GEICO insurance advertising campaign, even a visually impaired caveman will be able to spot the 42-foot-long Miss GEICO offshore racing catamaran, which will be sporting a new chartreuse paint job for the Miami event, outside the convention center.
Getting Centered: Last year, Sunsation Powerboats unveiled a 34-foot center console that, for all intents and purposes, saved the company’s bacon. This year, the builder is bringing a 29-foot version of the model that, like its big brother, will boast an uncommonly large cabin in its console. On the larger side of the performance-oriented center console segment, Statement Marine will have a new 38-footer in the water at Sea Isle Marina. (For the first time in several years, the builder will not have a massive indoor exhibit.)
Party of the year: Once upon a time, post-boat-show-hours parties hosted by go-fast boat manufacturers were a big deal for the performance-boat crowd. Thanks to the recession, those parties are long gone and not coming back. But powerboatnation.com, a popular online content site and community, is hoping to revive the Miami Boat Show party spirit with its “Rock The Boat Show” party at the famed Clevelander on Ocean Avenue on Saturday (Feb. 15) night. In an impressive display of their unbridled enthusiasm, the folks at powerboatnation.com are even going to put a 38-foot Cigarette performance boat on the roof above the Clevelander’s outdoor bar.