Though I’m technically “retired” from offshore racing, I’m still as passionate as I’ve ever been about high-performance powerboats, especially of the Cigarette Racing Team kind. My 1988 Cigarette 38 Top Gun raceboat carried the Old School team to back-to-back world championships in the Bracket 400 class, one from the Offshore Powerboat Association and one from the American Power Boat Association/Union Internationale Motonautique. For those reasons and more, I’ll always be a fan of the iconic brand.
A devoted Cigarette Racing Team fan, former offshore racer Matt Soper was blown away by his recent driving experience in a 515 sportboat.
But until yesterday, I had yet to experience a state-of-the-art creation from the Opa-locka, Fla., sportboat and center console company.
During a visit to the Cigarette display in the Miami Beach Convention Center at the Miami International Boat Show on Sunday morning, I heard a voice call “Hey, Old School.” It was that of Ricky Llorente of Top Gun Yachts, a South Florida-based Cigarette dealer I’ve gotten to know during the past few years.
“It’s time for ‘Old School’ to meet ‘New School,’” he said as he put his arm around my shoulders, a big grin creasing in his face.
Less than an hour later, Captain Rob Rojas let me take the helm of a beautiful Cigarette 515 sportboat powered by twin Mercury Racing 1550 engines, and I was living every powerboat enthusiast’s dream. We cruised through Biscayne Bay and then headed to open water so we could “stretch the legs” of this spectacular thoroughbred machine.
It just doesn’t get any better than this.
That was all I could think as I soaked in the experience.
Powered by twin Mercury Racing 1550 engines, the Cigarette 515 sportboat reportedly tops 125 mph. Photo courtesy/copyright of the Florida Powerboat Club.
The 51-foot beauty was comparable to my 38-footer in agility, but far more forgiving in rough water thanks to its sheer mass. And the throttle response from the 1,550-hp turbocharged engines was spectacular. The 515 is without a doubt the ultimate big-water V-bottom that can handle a wide range of water conditions.
Although the 515 is capable of reaching more than 125-plus mph, I also wanted to know how it turned and handled compared to my 38 Top Gun. So I threw it into a series of race-type turns at speed. The results were spectacular. “On rails” throughout the series of agility turns, the boat handled so well that I nearly forgot that I was driving a 51-footer.
Eventually, we had to head back to the docks and I throttled toward the inlet back to Biscayne Bay, taking in the lovely Miami scenery, at what felt like 60 mph. But we were actually running 105 mph before I throttled back to idle speed.
The Old School team earned two OPA world titles in this Cigarette 38 Top Gun. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
I am keeping my Old School Cigarette 38 Top Gun, of course. That boat is near and dear to my heart and I’ll never let her go. But a New School Cigarette 515? That wouldn’t be bad.
That wouldn’t be bad at all.
Editor’s note: This is Matt Soper’s second article for speedonthewater.com.
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