by Bob Wonders
Poker Runs have never really hit the headlines in Australia, but they are a top draw card in the United States, particularly with the ‘muscle boat crowd.’
Ron Harrison’s all-new 46’ Cigarette with Mercury Racing’s 1350hp engines.
The Florida Powerboat Club played host to more than 65 high-performance boats last week for the 16th Annual Miami Boat Show Poker Run to Islamorada.
Islamorada Marina is on the highway leading south to Key West and is one of the most popular boating venues south of Miami.
Not surprisingly, that legendary breed , the Cigarette Racing Team, featured prominently, and the manufacturer’s CEO, Skip Braver, was delighted to see so many of his dealers 'participating with gusto.'
Nine Cigarettes contested the Poker Run, including the pace boat, the 46’ Cigarette ‘Merrittorious’ piloted by Ohio-based brothers Michael and Keith Merritt.
Florida Powerboat Club pace boat for the Poker Run,’Merrittorious’ shows its style off Islamorada.
‘Merrittorious’ was a custom-built vessel which in 2006 was documented as the fastest Cigarette when in a 2006 kilo run it was clocked at a shade over 172mph (276 km/hr).
Many Cigarette dealers, still ‘pumped’ after a successful Miami International Boat Show, took to the Poker Run, among them long-time Miami dealer Phil Lipschultz, of Lip Ship Performance.
He ran with his brand new Cigarette SS 50’ Marauder that had debuted at the show.
It was the first 50’ built by the company to take Mercury Racing’s awesome 1350hp stern drive engines.
The performance was such that Lipschultz described the boat 'the most amazing Cigarette I’ve seen in 40-years'.
'It’s a dragster,' he exclaimed.
'I’ll be using this 50’ as my personal Poker Run boat until another Cigarette customer decides it should be his,' he joked.
Cigarette’s German dealer, Bastian Breuer, of Maranello Marine, also contested the Poker Run and said it proved to be the 'perfect way' to wind up his trip to Miami.
'It’s a real pleasure to boat here in the tropical waters of the United States and the Florida Powerboat Club has created a wonderful community to share the experience,' he said.
David Woods, from Tennessee dealer Pier 57, represented both Cigarette and MTI (Marine Technology Inc).
He took several boats to the Poker Run, among them Ron Harrison’s 46’ Cigarette with Mercury Racing’s 1350hp engines, Albert Haynesworth’s 48 MTI with the same power plants and Derek Wachob’s 48 MTI, with its ‘over the top’ customisation.
A Cigarette Top Fish with the quad 350 Mercury Verado installation, similar to that owned by Derek Wachob.
Wachob is also the owner of a Cigarette Top Fish with four 350 Mercury Verado outboards to get it moving.
Stu Jones, of the Florida Powerboat Club, said all were delighted with the Poker Run.
'It was great to see Indiana member Ron Harrison back on the water; he has owned several Cigarettes over the years and he has reached for the top in taking delivery of his latest 46’ Cigarette.
'It was especially cool to see Ron’s boat get attention at the Cigarette display during the Miami Show and then see it slicing through the waters of Biscayne Bay.
'That’s what makes this Poker Run such a great event, seeing these ‘works of art’ perform, illustrating they are as much show as they are go,' he added.
It’s an earlier model of the fabulous 50’ Marauder, but it’s still all Cigarette.