Here is my standard disclaimer for any “Top 10” or “Best Of” story I write—and I’ve written a lot of them: I will miss something and kick myself for it. You may well kick me for it, too, but that’s OK. That comes with the territory of tackling such stories, which makes them at once risky and a hell of a lot fun.
And that’s why Jason Johnson, my speedonthewater.com partner, and I finish this year with a two-part wrap-up culled from more than 1,000 stories we published on the site in 2021. It’s a fine way to exit one year and enter the next, provided the year you’re leaving behind has stories of significant news value.
And 2021 was loaded with them.
What follows are my five picks, plus two “Honorable Mention” choices. Johnson’s will follow tomorrow.
1. Cigarette Racing Team Sells
With Skip Braver out and John Ruiz in, Cigarette Racing Team is plotting a new course. Photo courtesy/copyright of the Florida Powerboat Club.
For the better part of 20 years, Skip Braver ran Cigarette Racing Team in Opa-locka, Fla., his way. He added new models, built a new production facility and forged a marketing partnership with Mercedes-AMG that performance-boat nuts either loved or hated—but couldn’t stop talking about it. (No dummy, that Braver.) In late May, Braver sold the company to John Ruiz, a Miami-based entrepreneur, and Lionheart Capital Group. Ruiz and his team wasted no time making an impact, especially with their commitment to backing the early November offshore world championships in Key West, Fla., and the annual Florida Powerboat Club event that runs concurrently with it. Cigarette’s presence in Key West was as extensive as it was welcome.
2. Mystic And Nor-Tech Celebrate Milestones
Having reinvented themselves years ago to survive, Mystic and Nor-Tech celebrated big birthdays in 2021. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Though Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats, which turned 30 years old in 2021, and Mystic Powerboats, which enjoyed its 25th anniversary this year, are entirely different companies, they share a common survival and success story. Both started as pure custom go-fast powerboat builders and both had to reinvent themselves primarily as high-performance center-console builders. Both had lean years. Both are now thriving.
Both had milestone birthdays in 2021.
3. GEICO Pulls The Plug On Offshore Racing
Thanks to an abrupt move by its sponsor, Miss GEICO didn’t go out with a whimper—much less a bang. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
For 14 years, the Miss GEICO offshore racing team had backing from an insurance company that, in a sweet little twist of irony, did not offer high-performance powerboat insurance. Miss GEICO became the most recognizable raceboat in the world—not simply the offshore racing world—and was a fan favorite. The sponsorship deal was supposed to be done for good at the end of 2021. But GEICO pulled the plug early early, and without fanfare or the chance to say farewell the team was gone in late August. It was a classless, sponsor-driven ending for a dedicated team and its equally dedicated fans.
4. Outerlimits Launches Outboard-Powered Catamaran
The first outboard-engine-specific model from Outerlimits, the SC 37 is a beauty. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
No one knows how Mike Fiore would have felt have about his company releasing a 37-foot outboard engine-powered catamaran near the end of this year,. But as a longtime friend of the late Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats founder, I have to believe he’d think it was really cool. No doubt about it, Fiore’s jam was big, brawny V-bottoms and (later in his career) catamarans and he never met an outboard engine he liked, much less loved, But once committed to a project, he embraced it and put his unique stamp on it. So what if the new SC 37 took longer than expected to release? That, too, probably wouldn’t have bothered Fiore one bit.
5. Speed On The Water Readers Donate $81,000 To Key West Charity
WHM Motorsports team owner Billy Mauff (center) led the generosity parade for Samuel’s House during the 2021 Speed On The Water Key West Bash.
That a 30-person thank-you party at a BurgerFi fast food restaurant in Key West, Fla., seven years ago has morphed into the early November, go-fast boating bash that attracts 2,000 to 3,000 people and requires a street closure in front of the Sandbar Sports Grill host venue is simply amazing. More amazing? In 2021, thanks to speedonthewater.com readers, the Speed On The Water Key West Bash raised $81,000 for Samuel’s House, a local organization that provides shelter and services for homeless women, children and intact families.
• Kuttawa Cannonball Run Attracts 180 Registered Boats—Anyway you look at it, that’s an incredible turnout for a go-fasting boat event in the wilds of Kentucky.
• Florida Powerboat Club Attracts 280 Registered Boats—Anyway you look at it, that’s an incredible turnout for any go-fast boating anywhere.
Editor’s Note: Authored by Jason Johnson, “Top 10 Go-Fast Boating Stories Of The Year, Part II” will go live tomorrow.