Let me be blunt: The history of high-performance powerboat builders entering the sport yacht game is miserable. Fountain Powerboats tried it several years back with a 65-footer—and failed. Cigarette Racing Team tried it a few years later with a 55-footer—and failed. Knowing and respecting Reggie Fountain of the company bearing his name and Skip Braver of Cigarette, I wish I could say differently. But I can’t. I’d be lying.
Why couldn’t either of these companies—Fountain then a leader in production go-fast V-bottoms, and Cigarette still a leader in their custom counterparts—pull off a sport yacht? There are any number of reasons, and they all have to do with poor timing and perhaps—just perhaps—over-reaching. So I have to admit, when Nor-Tech Performance Boats in Cape Coral, Fla., announced a few years ago that was building an 80-footer, I rolled my eyes and swallowed hard. In Nor-Tech’s favor, the company had designer/owner Nils Johnson and a crew that routinely built exquisite 50-foot-long V-bottoms and catamarans. They also had Johnson’s partner Trond Schou, who is always game for daunting projects. Against the company was, well, history. Now Nor-Tech is nearing completion of its second Super 80, this one tagged the Super 80 Roadster (I’ll get into the “Roadster” designation in a minute). While it would be premature to say that Nor-Tech has established itself as a performance yacht builder of, let’s say, Sunseeker status, I’m optimistic. The first Nor-Tech 80-footer wasn’t a perfect boat—I’m not sure such a thing exists—but it was well-received and well-reviewed. And it was far, far from an instant flop. “We learned a lot from building the first one,” said Terry Sobo, Nor-Tech’s director of sales and marketing. “I’m not saying there was anything wrong with our first 80, not at all. But you always learns when you build a boat, especially when you build a bigger boat than you have before.” Still, it’s safe to say that Nor-Tech’s first Super 80 has plenty of competition. Sunseeker, to use the same example, has a popular 80-footer. But with the Super 80 Roadster, Nor-Tech really has no competition. That’s primarily because the Super 80 Roadster, at the buyer’s request, has a completely open cockpit—hence the “Roadster” designation. “My client wanted cabins in his boat, but he also knew that he and his guests were going to spend most of their time above deck in the cockpit,” said Doug Valentine of International Performance, a high-performance powerboat driving school and boat-buying consultancy/project management outfit. “So he wanted to completely maximize space for entertaining in the cockpit.” Though an open-cockpit in a sport yacht is far from a new design concept, it is one that was in dire need of updating. Magnum Marine still offers an open-cockpit 80-footer, but its styling is more than little dated. The Nor-Tech Super 80 Roadster, on the other hand, boasts a sleek and inarguably contemporary look. And it boasts something else the rest of its competition cannot: With a pair of turbocharged 1,900-hp engines, the boat can reportedly reach 75 mph. Lest you think the Super 80 Roadster is a stripped-down hot rod, think again. Below the open cockpit, the boat has three complete cabins. The master stateroom has a king-size bed, an ultra-leather lounge, a flat-screen television, a computer station and a bathroom with a full-size shower. The two guest staterooms also have their own bathrooms, while the salon is outfitted with a “day” bathroom. Included in the salon area is a galley and an entertainment center with multiple flat-screen televisions. Can Nor-Tech make it in the competitive sport yacht world with its 80-footer? As I said earlier, I am optimistic—but not blindly so. Sobo said the company could probably produce four Super 80s in a year. I reckon everyone at Nor-Tech would see that as a very good year. So in terms of volume, Nor-Tech will never see the numbers of its competitors. But numbers aren’t everything, and it looks as if Nor-Tech’s 80-footer might be something different than the sport yachts produced by other go-fast boat builders in the past. One that might just be here to stay.