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The Complete Highs and Lows From 2012

Around the holidays, we asked 12 of the industry’s most-respected individuals to give us their Highs and Lows from 2012, and here’s what they came up with.

Click on the names to jump to each person’s Highs and Lows:
Mike D’AnniballeSkip BraverJohn CoskerSteve DavidMike FioreDave Hemmingson
Jeff JohnstonFred KiekhaeferScott PriceWayne SchaldenbrandScott SjogrenJohn Tomlinson

Mike D’Anniballe


Sterling Performance principal Mike D’Anniballe had hoped his company’s first 1,700-hp turbocharged engines would be showcased this season in 2012 at poker runs and major high-performance powerboat events such as the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. But for whatever reason, the Skater catamaran powered by those monster motors didn’t make the go-fast boat scene this year, so D’Anniballe picked up a Skater cat of his own (Read the story) that he plans to outfit with another pair of 1700s and send to major events around the country in 2013. Here’s what the founder of the Milford, Mich., company had to say about the highs of lows of 2012.

High: Our high is that, knock on wood, our business is doing very well. When you combine our engine business with our product durability testing business we, knock on wood again, are having a banner year.

Low: The low is the uncertainty of the future related to the economy. Are people going to keep buying upper-level boats? What’s going to happen with Obama Care? All of it. To accomplish anything is just going to be more difficult.

Skip Braver


From the debut of its strong-selling 42’ Huntress performance center console at home and abroad to its first owners’ Rendezvous in the fall—the posh event will be featured in the Smokin’ magazine issue available at the 2013 Miami International Boat ShowCigarette Racing Team never stopped moving forward in 2012. Hush-hush upgrades inside the iconic boat builder’s plant in Opa-Locka, Fla., are only part of the continuously evolving story. Company owner and chief executive officer Skip Braver says the company will offer more surprises in the upcoming year. Here’s what he had to say, in terms of highs and lows, about this one.

High: The high was seeing the incredible impact the 42’ Huntress made in the industry. I think that really was a high for Cigarette in terms of inroads for our business. The continuing success of the 50’ Marauder also was a high. With those two models, Cigarette offers the best of both worlds. We were the first (custom performance boat builder) to get into the center console market and we reinvented it, but we’re also still very strong in performance boats.

Low: The low is that Fred Kiekhaefer is changing his role at Mercury Racing. All the years we’ve done business together, all of the times we’ve enjoyed together socially—they’ve been special and Fred is a great friend. It won’t be nearly as much fun without him.

John Cosker

Currently in the paint booth after an accident last summer, My Way could be the Top Gun favorite for the 2013 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout. Photo by Robert Brown

To say Mystic Powerboats owner John Cosker has been busy in 2012 would be an understatement. Not only did his company finish its first 50-foot catamaran with twin Mercury Racing 1350 engines and build the Qatar Team’s new turbine-powered offshore race boat that will debut this season, Cosker and crew designed boats for many companies and manufactured boats for Powerboat P1Powerplay and GTMM.

While running through his highs and lows, Cosker said that 2012 marked the first uptick in business he’s seen in a while and that 2013 looks like it should be even stronger.

High: I’d have to say building the new boat for the Qatar Team (read the story). Working with Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani and Steve Curtis has been an absolute pleasure. I can’t wait for that boat to hit the water.

Low: My lows are definitely the Miss GEICO fire (read the story) and the My Way wreck (read the story). Luckily nobody was hurt, but you still hate to see your customers—and your friends—go through something like that.

Steve David

Oh Boy! Oberto driver Steve David holds a sizable lead heading into the Oryx Cup, the final race of the 2012 H1 Unlimited season in Doha, Qatar. Courtesy H1 Unlimited

Before Steve David, one of the most accomplished drivers in Unlimited hydroplane racing history, leaves for Doha, Qatar, in early January for the Oryx Cup UIM World Championship, he will be spending his New Year’s Day holiday aboard his boat in Palm Beach, Fla., with a few of his closest friends. Holding a 652-point lead over David Villwock—the sport’s career victory leader—David is hoping to drive the Oh Boy! Oberto hydroplane to another High Points championship (his fourth in five seasons) when the H1 Unlimited fleet races in Doha on Jan. 10-12.

High: The highlight for me this season was our team’s third consecutive win at Seafair in Seattle, which is the hometown of our sponsor and many of our team members. The Albert Lee Cup race on Lake Washington is probably the roughest race of the season, so to have won it four of the last five years is incredible. If we can do it again next year we will tie Bill Muncey’s record of four wins in a row in Seattle.

Low: Jumping the one-minute gun in Tri Cities, Wash., was easily my low. Because of the one-lap penalty incurred, I cost our team the win. Without that penalty we would have won all of the Western races so that was pretty disappointing.

Mike Fiore


Changes were substantial at Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats in Bristol, R.I., in 2012. Early this year, the custom V-bottom and catamaran builder introduced the SV29, the company’s first single-engine V-bottom and its smallest model to date. Near the end of the year, Outerlimits not only opened a West Coast repowering and service operation in Fresno, Calif., but relocated to a new 80,000-square-foot facility just three miles from its existing plant in Bristol. Here’s what Mike Fiore, the owner and founder of the company, offered as his high and low for 2012.

High: For Outerlimits, the high had to be the new SV29 winning the Super V Light World championships. To come out with a brand-new boat and go undefeated to win that championship is pretty cool, especially with such authoritative victories.

Low The low is that the economy has not recovered enough for everybody in the marine industry to stay in business. We lost a few boat brands this year, and that’s sad.

Dave Hemmingson

Dave Hemmingson's high for 2012 was completing the M41 Widebody.

For round two of The Highs and Lows of 2012 series on speedonthewater.com, the founder of Dave’s Custom Boats (DCB), Dave Hemmingson, took a moment to reflect at the end of a busy year. Not only is DCB in the midst of expanding its popular M Series catamarans with the new M41 Widebody and the M29 Widebody, which will be finished in early 2013, the El Cajon, Calif., company has been charging ahead by attending more events annually and focusing on its redesigned website. In fact, the crew at DCB recently introduced a new feature called InsideOut, which follows the happenings in and out of the DCB shop. Here’s what Hemmingson had to say about the year 2012.

High: Obviously my absolute high for 2012 is the completion of the new M41 Widebody. We put a ton of work into the M41 this year. Not only did we design it and tool it, but we built the boat, too. Seeing it come to life is a dream come true.

Low: I’d have to say I was disappointed that our business-friendly presidential candidate Mitt Romney was not elected. But most of all, I was saddened by the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. We have some customers in that area who took the hit, which is sad, but I just feel horrible for that entire area of the country.

Jeff Johnston

The loss of Leon and David Ortemond in a boating accident in April hit the poker-run community hard. Photo courtesy Florida Powerboat Club

This year was filled with highs and lows, just ask Jeff Johnston of Hering Propellers. Besides his recent engagement to the lovely Nichole Overson topping his list of highlights for 2012, Johnston rattled off a variety of memorable moments from his travels across the country. This year alone Johnston attended the Miami International Boat Show, Tampa Bay Poker Run, Desert Storm Poker RunTexas Outlaw Challenge, Emerald Coast Poker Run, Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and Key West Poker Run. So by all means, he’s had a year filled with highlights.

High: If I had to pick one highlight for the 2012 boating season, I’d have to say witnessing Greg Olson’s 192-mph run at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in August is at the top of my list (read the story here). With a set of Hering Propellers pushing his Eliminator Boats 33 Daytona along the one-mile course, Olson wowed the crowd and took home the overall Top Gun trophy—an impressive feat for Olson, GT Performance and the 33-foot Eliminator catamaran.

Low: As for a low, the first thing that comes to mind is the death of father-and-son boaters Leon and David Ortemond, who died in a tragic accident in David’s 36-foot catamaran from Skater Powerboats in April. Not only were the Louisiana performance boaters customers of Hering Propellers, they were friends. I know I’m not the only person in the poker run community who feels that way, too. RIP Leon and David.

Fred Kiekhaefer


What better person to kick off The Highs and Lows of 2012 series on speedonthewater.com than Fred Kiekhaefer, the outgoing president of Mercury Racing? By the time this series is finished in January, Kiekhaefer, who has held the reins of the companyfor 23 years, will be working as a consultant for the high-performance marine engine-building giant in Fond Du Lac, Wis. That’s a big change for a strong and innovative leader. Here’s what he gave as his high and low for 2012.

High: “I guess the high was that Brunswick picked Erik Christiansen to be my successor at Mercury Racing.”

Low: “I was disappointed that Gasse broke a water hose in one race and a steering fitting in another and could not finish all three races at the (Key West) Worlds. It would have been nice to see them win the Worlds. But that’s racing.

“On a larger scale, I am disappointed that our business and the economy has not recovered to the point where I could bring back some of the people we let go. I am still very disappointed that the confidence in the economy has not come back, for very understandable reasons.”

Scott Price


In a year highlighted by the introduction of a turbocharging kit lineup and the addition of Rapid Prototype 3D Machinery to Hardin Marine’s arsenal, Scott Price, president of Hardin Marine, had a positive outlook on the year as a whole. He called 2012 a great year for the refurbishing and resurrecting of many boats, and was even more optimistic about the year ahead.

High: Well the high for 2012 would have to be the release of so many well-received new products. We delivered more than 30 new items—some not so significant from a design standpoint but from the ability to actually reduce pricing and increase availability; others could quite possibly change the marketplace. At the same time, an entire product line has been fueled by the introduction of the turbocharging components, spawning numerous new items we will release in 2013.

Low: Our real lows for 2012 were just the remaining economical impacts of these current times and how they’ve hurt so many suppliers of goods to the marine industry. The limited production of new boats has had a trickle-down effect, wounding some good companies.

Wayne Schaldenbrand


For Wayne Schaldenbrand of Sunsation Boats in Algonac, Mich., 2012 was a year full of good times on and off the water. Much of the company’s efforts focused around building the new 34-foot center console, which Schaldenbrand said will debut at the Miami International Boat Show. At the same time, the company increased its workforce in order to produce its venerable 28- and 32-foot sport boats in conjunction with the new model.

In a phone call on New Year’s Eve, Schaldenbrand explained that he has double-digit orders for the 34-footer, “and not a one has rod holders in it,” he said alluding to the fact that “center console” doesn’t necessarily mean “fish boat” any longer. We can all guess what his high is for 2012.

High: For us, it’s been building the new center console. We’ve seen a shift of boaters who seem to be looking to slow down and relax a little bit. It helps that insurance is more affordable for a center console and that less maintenance is required. I’m really excited about this new boat coming out. We may even convert some of our 8-foot-beam boats into the center-console style. I’ve been working on some designs.

Low: I think the low is that we’re still losing half of our customer clientele because the banks still haven’t freed up any loan money. We have lost so many customers because of that. It’s not like we don’t have customers who would love to buy a new boat, it’s just that they aren’t able to buy another boat right now.

Scott Sjogren


In the decidedly challenging economy of 2012, Pier 57 Marine in Gurnee, Ill., had its best sales year, ever. That’s the word from the company’s owner, Scott Sjogren. In early 2012, Pier 57 Marine merged with Shogren Performance Marine, dropped the Shogren moniker and moved operations to Illinois. At the beginning of this week, the company became completely operational in its new facility. (Read the story.) Here’s what Sjogren had to say about his highs and low for 2012.

High: The high for 2012 would have to be the merger of Pier 57 and Shogren Performance Marine, the move to our new place and overall good year in sales. We sold more pre-owned boats than we ever have, and we exceeded our expectations for selling new Cigarette models.

Low: The low depends on whether you see the glass half empty or half full. If you see the glass half empty because a lot of people in this industry have the entrepreneurial spirit they are concerned about how national health care and the financial cliff will affect our industry. I think there are still a lot of unknowns out there. If you view the glass as half full, we’ve already been through five tough years so you probably think that there’s nothing we can’t handle. I guess that’s not really a “low,” just a half-full way of looking at the current economy.

I do have one more low: Fred Kiekhaefer is leaving Mercury Racing. I have the utmost respect for him for what has done with that company and the evolution of technology in our industry. I just want to say thank-you to him for everything he did.

John Tomlinson

John Tomlinson throttles Gasse, a 48-foot MTI, with owner/driver Tor Staubo.

For John Tomlinson—one of the Ts behind Miami’s highly regarded marine center and custom rigging shop TNT Custom Marine (Mike Thomas is his partner)—2012 was pretty memorable. Unfortunately memories can be good and bad. Obviously Tomlinson would like to forget that Gasse, the 48-foot MTI he races with driver/owner Tor Staubo, lost in a points tiebreaker to Spirit of Qatar at the Key West World Championships after winning the first two Superboat Unlimited class races and having a frustrating mechanical failure force the team out early in the final day’s double-points race. Luckily, rather than dwell on the negative, Tomlinson can look back on 2012 as the year he smashed the Round Long Island record by 55 minutes.

High: My high for the year? Setting the Round Long Island record in August with Stuart Hayim was pretty cool. (Read the story here.) We did some endurance-calculated test runs before the boat left our shop for New York to make sure everything would work. Thanks to perfect weather and the powerful Mercury Racing 1350 engines behind the capable 42-foot MTI, we pulled it off on our first attempt without any issues.

Low: I can tell you what the low was for me—that’s easy. Losing the Key West World Championships in a tiebreaker because of a loose steering hose. That just shouldn’t happen—it was extremely frustrating for our team.