At age 42, Mike Fiore, the owner and founder of Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, R.I., is hardly an old guy. And yet he’s lived more than few lifetimes in the high-performance powerboat business: first as the son of Paul Fiore, the founder of Hustler Powerboat, where he rigged wiring harnesses as a pre-teen; and years later, as a complete boat builder on his own when he founded Outerlimits almost 19 years ago in Long Island, N.Y.
“I’ve done every job there is to do in the boat business,” says Fiore, who then laughs and shakes his head. “That helps a lot when things get challenging like they have in the past five years. You can actually go in and do jobs you can’t to pay others to do.”
In February this year, Fiore unveiled his first single-engine V-bottom—the rest of the Outerlimits line consists of twin- and even triple-engine V-bottoms from 37 to 52 feet long—at the 2012 Miami International Boat Show. Dubbed the SV29, the sit-down stepped 29-footer earned raves across the board from those who saw it at the show and on the water, and topped 100 mph with a Mercury Racing 600SCi engine providing the power. Production slots for 2012 filled quickly and reportedly sold out.
And then, something really bad happened—at least in terms of marketing a new model. In terms of human cost, it could have been far worse.
On an early spring day in Narragansett Bay, Fiore was out testing the boat with a long-time Outerlimits client who was interesting in adding an SV29 to his collection. During a turn at 75 mph, the boat rolled and both Fiore, who was behind the wheel, and his guest were ejected. Though Fiore’s ribs took a beating, neither man was seriously injured.
But the SV29’s high-speed stability immediately came into question on any number of Internet message boards. Rather than hide from the issue, Fiore attacked it straight on. “We went for a normal ride on our normal course, did our usual loop around the bay and entered into a left-hand turn at 75 mph, like I do all the time,” said Fiore. “We experienced a mechanical failure that resulted in the boat overturning. We have identified the mechanical problem and have made the appropriate changes to make sure we never have that mechanical problem again.
“It had nothing to do with the hull. This hull is by far the most vetted design we’ve ever had,” he added. “Between the prototype and production boats, we have in the neighborhood of 200 hours of testing in the 29, and the majority of those hours are mine.”
Apparently, that was enough to assure buyers with deposits on the 29-footer. According to Fiore, no orders have been canceled to date.
“The hull is fine,” he said. “As I said, we’ve never put more hours into testing an Outerlimits model. We corrected the cause of the problem and it’s time to move forward with production. We have a lot of these to build.”
Of course, the SV29 is just the latest—and smallest—model that Outerlimits builds. In early June, the company completed its first SV52 V-bottom powered by twin staggered 1,350-hp quad-overhead cam turbocharged engines from Mercury Racing. The estimated top speed for the stepped-hull 52-footer is 150 mph.
“It’s the easiest engine package we’ve ever installed,” said Mike Fiore, the founder and owner of Outerlimits. “They really did their homework on this one.”
The twin Mercury Racing 1350 SV52 caught immediate attention, enough so that it reportedly enticed two buyers to order 50-foot versions of it. Dubbed the SV50, the new model will feature a lower-profile deck than its SV52 sibling, but will ride on the same hull. The “cut-down” deck actually decreases the boat’s overall length.
Both will be powered by twin staggered Mercury Racing 1350 engines, of course.
“Based on the success of our first SV52 with Mercury Racing 1350s, we sold the two SV50s with the same engine packages,” said Fiore. “We think it’s going to be a great-looking—and running—package.”
And there’s more. Within the next year, Fiore said he plans to introduce a center-console version of his company’s popular 42-footer.
“It’s been a tough five years, but we never stop working—and working on new things—here,” said Fiore. “What else are you going to do? You have to keep moving.”
- Matt Trulio