These high-performance speedboats started out life nicknamed ‘rum-runners’ because their speed helped them successfully outrun the authorities during Prohibition. While the original cigarette boats weren’t the sleek, long fiberglass vessels of today, those wood-hulled speedboats paved the way for the offshore racing craze – much like the moonshiners who raced through backwoods roads gave birth to NASCAR.
A Little Cigarette Boat History
A cigarette boat, also called a go-fast or rum-runner, is a narrow speedboat first developed in the 1960s by professional boat racer Donald Aronow. His first boat was a 23-foot Formula that he named The Cigarette after a famous rum-runner that ran in New York during Prohibition. Aronow drove The Cigarette in the 1963 Miami-Key West Race, one of many competitions.
He founded three boat companies before building his most famous company – Cigarette. His repeated successes in this industry as world’s foremost fast-boat designer earned him the title, "The King of Thunderboat Row" in Aventura, Fla.
In 1969, Aronow accomplished three important goals in the world of offshore racing. He founded his company, won a World Championship driving a 32-foot cigarette boat and built the Cigarette Racing Team. The name cigarette is now used as a generic term for all racing boats with similar designs. In 1987, Aronow was shot and killed in front of his Cigarette factory on Thunderboat Row, but his company is still highly successful.
They’re Called “Go Fast” for a Reason
Modern cigarette boats reach speeds of up to 50 knots (about 58 mph) in choppy waters and can maintain a speed of 25 knots (almost 30 mph) in the average five- to seven-foot seas.
Most cigarette boats are between 30 to 50 feet in length and 8 feet in width. They feature an enclosed bow and typically hold only up to five people. They usually hold multiple engines that provide a combined horsepower of at least 1,000. These boats are designed specifically for offshore racing. During an average race, a cigarette boat is crewed by three people: one to navigate, one to steer and one to control the throttle.
In 2015, the Apache Star, a two-time World Champion race boat capable of hitting speeds well above 100 miles per hour, set a new, unofficial world record for the fastest ocean crossing between Key West and Cuba. The 90-mile trip took only two hours, beating the old record by four hours!
The boat holds twin Merc racing bi-turbo engines that generate at least 2,700 horsepower, which have powered the boat to speeds of more than 130 miles per hour.
These boats are commonly constructed of durable fiberglass and the planing hull design allows them to move incredibly fast along on the water’s surface. Such a minor portion of the hull makes contact with the water that they often look like they’re flying right above it.
New Design Change
The biggest change to these go-fast boats in decades was integrating stepped hulls into the classic design. While stepped hulls have been included on powerboats dating back as far as the early 1900s, they had never been considered for cigarette boats until the late 1990s. Stepped-hull boats not only ride level, they can travel at least 10 miles per hour faster than a V-hull churning out the same amount of power. As recently as 2011, Wayne Schaldenbrand, owner of Sunsation Boats in Algonac, Mich., credits the success of his high-performance Sunsation 36 XRT, which reached speeds of more than 95 miles per hour, to having incorporated twin stepped hulls into the design.
Today’s cigarette boats – with powerful engines pushing thousands of horsepower and insane rpms – are easily the fastest machines on the water.
~ VS Glen Community Support