As part of what company president Erik Christiansen described as “a very aggressive product development and manufacturing plan,” Cigarette Racing Team of Opa-locka, Fla., has purchased Vectorworks—a naval engineering, tooling and manufacturing company—and will complete its acquisition of high-performance catamaran hull manufacturer Doug Wright Designs next month. Both companies, like Cigarette, are Florida-based and will remain in their current facilities with their current employees.
When the Miami International Boat Show opens tomorrow, this 32-foot Doug Wright catamaran will be among the beauties in the Cigarette display.
Acquiring Vectorworks gives Cigarette the ability, Christiansen explained, to more aggressively pursue new-model releases with its own design, engineering and tooling capabilities. Effectively, Vectorworks will become Cigarette Product Development and Operations Center.
“Vectorworks has a substantial, and talented, naval engineering team I’ve been working with for the last three years,” he said. “We now have the capacity to design and engineer new boat designs, and updates, as well as supporting data-driven, advanced-engineering activities looking to the future.”
Since its inception, Vectorworks has designed and produced tooling for a number of powerboat builders. “These activities will continue for key Vectorworks customers,” Christiansen said.
With the acquisition of Vectorworks and Doug Wright Designs, Cigarette Racing Team’s already commanding presence in the performance boat industry is getting even larger. Photo courtesy/copyright Cigarette Racing Team.
The son of company owner John Ruiz, Cigarette’s chief executive officer Alex Ruiz (pictured below) sees the Vectorworks acquisition as instrumental in helping the company achieve its vision for new models and more.
“Vectorworks is going to give us the technology firepower we need behind our brand and we are excited about that,” Ruiz said. “With their naval architecture and engineering capabilities, they have the ability to execute. There is a difference between theory and reality. We have a lot of ideas and a great manufacturing team. We are excited about this acquisition because it’s going to help make those ideas come to life.
“When we first went to Vectorworks, I pulled my dad aside and said, ‘This is the move that will put the company to a whole other level,’ and not just for Cigarette but for the industry as a whole,” he added. “We will be developing technology first for our brand that focuses on functionality and safety, but we will make that technology available for the industry.”
The Vectorworks acquisition actually closed in late 2021. Jeff Gray, the founder of the Titusville, Fla., company plans to stay with the outfit for a least a year. (“I can help them expedite their planned expansion, plus I’m cheap labor,” he quipped.) Gray is thrilled about the acquisition, not just in the financial resources Cigarette brings to the deal but in the vision of John Ruiz and his leadership team.
“If you were ever going to sell your company to anyone, John is the guy to sell it to,” he said. “He has the vision and he has the energy—the guy is a ball of energy. He has acquired a superb team of people at Cigarette with Erik Christiansen and the rest of the group. With this acquisition, we probably have the strongest product development engineering team in the marine industry.”
Gray was quick to point out that Vectorworks’ services still will be offered to its longstanding clients.
“It will be business as usual,” he said. “We have already met with our key customers. All of them will still have access to our product development center.”
Now owned by Cigarette, Titusville, Fla.-based Vectorworks is an industry leader in naval architecture, design and engineering.
According to Christiansen, Cigarette has been eyeing Doug Wright Designs since he joined the company in 2019. John H. Ruiz, the chief executive officer of MSP purchased Cigarette in May 2021 and interest in the deal resumed.
The Doug Wright acquisition, which is slated to close at the end of March, gives Cigarette instant entrée into the high-performance catamaran and offshore powerboat racing worlds. As a V-bottom sportboat and high-performance center console builder, Cigarette’s options in spec-class offshore racing would have required “significantly more time to develop,” according to Christiansen.
Performance Boat Center—the Osage Beach, Mo., a multi-brand dealership that carries the Cigarette line—also has been purchasing hulls from Doug Wright for its own Wright Performance line of outboard engine-powered catamarans.
“We will continue to supply Doug Wright hulls to Performance Boat Center, as long as it is mutually beneficial.” said Christiansen, who negotiated both deals. “As for our own catamarans, Cigarette hasn’t traditionally built cats so we know it will come with a learning curve. But we have some pretty great partners, such as the Wrights, who will remain with the company to help us. I think it will be exciting as we move into the catamaran world.”
Doug Wright, Sr., who founded the company, said he’s excited about the next chapter for the business, which will remain in Melbourne, Fla.
“The only thing that is going to change is we’ll continue to grow—that’s what we’re hoping for,” he said. “I have a five-year contract and my son, Doug, Jr., who is much more active in the company than I am, has a 10-year contract.”
Since they started the company, the father-and-son duo have been owner-operators. Their 32-footer has become the raceboat of choice in offshore powerboat racing’s Super Stock-class ranks.
“I’ve never been an employee before—I’ll have to play this one by ear—but I don’t see a problem with it,” Doug Wright, Jr., said, then laughed. “But seriously, I think it will work out great. They have some interesting bigger boats in mind.”
Alex Ruiz is equally bullish on Cigarette’s purchase of Doug Wright Designs.
“With Doug Wright, we are adding a top-performing line of catamarans that we’ll enhance with the craftsmanship and quality fit and finish that Cigarette has had for years,” he said. “We are buying a great company and going to make it that much better with the Cigarette touch.”