Excuse the self-indulgence, stop reading if you need to, but I’m going to miss my morning phone calls from Skip Braver, the outgoing head of Cigarette Racing Team. A few times each month Braver would ring me at some unholy morning hour—he is on the East Coast and I’m on the West—and we would either solve the high-performance marine industry’s (and the world’s) problems, or just talk about something new coming from Cigarette.
Under Braver’s leadership, Cigarette Racing Team has flourished as a luxury brand. Photos courtesy/copyright Cigarette Racing Team, Clint Jenks of Jenks Imaging and Pete Boden of Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Braver often told me I was one of three people, including former Mercury Racing president Fred Kiekhaefer, he could trust absolutely, though I doubt Kiekhaefer—a longtime mutual friend—took as much good-natured early morning abuse from Braver as I did.
But that was just his way of saying hello and telling you that he loved you. Being a bit masochistic by nature, I appreciated it.
Our professional relationship took me places, such as “inside” the 59 Tirranna long before the first one was built in 2017. It took me to the first complete Cigarette-AMG collaboration, a 46-foot beauty at the 2009 Miami International Boat Show. The following year, Mercury’s Racing first quad-cam four-valve 1350 engines found a home in a Cigarette-AMG creation at the Miami event and I got the first opportunity to tell the story of both in the pages of Powerboat magazine and Smokin’, Cigarette’s own magazine.
It took me back to the 39 Top Fish introduced in 2006, which despite its unfortunate name was the precursor to the entire Cigarette center console series.
It took me even further back, all the way to 2002, when under Braver’s mandate Cigarette began building a sparkling new facility in Opa-locka, Fla., a little more than 20 miles from the company’s original, falling-down-dump of a home in Miami.
Cigarette-AMG creations have taken many forms.
For the past 20 years, I have been privileged to tell the stories of Cigarette Racing Team thanks to Braver. I plan to tell many, many more of them as the company enters whatever its new owners and next phase will bring.
But here is my favorite.
Last year, Michigan’s Matt Soper took a 1988 Cigarette 38 Top Gun called Old School to an Offshore Powerboat Association Class 4 World Championship in Morehead City, N.C. No Cigarette had won a world title since 2002, so I called Braver—himself a former Cigarette sportboat owner—to tell him the news. Braver asked me for Soper’s phone number and called later that day to congratulate him.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Soper said. “I was so honored and proud.”
Braver and I had our disagreements during the years. Sometimes they were fiery. But I learned something from every one of them, and more than once I found I was wrong. Humbling, sure, but always enlightening. If learning, understanding and evolving are among your goals in this life, that kind of professional and personal friendship is essential.
There’s a wonderful expression that the key characters in the movie Nomadland used when a friend was leaving but it was too hard to say goodbye. And I’ve made it my own now.
See you down the road, Skip Braver.
The HyperLux series, which includes the 41 Nighthawk, was among Braver’s more-recent value-adds to the company.
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