First, to find out how it feels to ride a state-of-the-art, $1.8 million racing boat with 3,100-horsepower that can go from zero to 140 mph in an eye blink...
I attended the Miami International Boat Show for two distinct reasons. First, to find out how it feels to ride a state-of-the-art, $1.8 million racing boat with 3,100-horsepower that can go from zero to 140 mph in an eye blink, and, secondly, why anybody would ever need a boat that can do that sort of thing.
Some say the Miami International Boat Show is the biggest boat show in the world. It’s so popular that organizers moved it from the convention center inland to the water’s edge two years ago, turning the South Channel into a sea of wealth and putting many yachts in their natural habitat.
It’s the type of event that made a rich man within earshot demand that his colleague "stop me from buying a boat today."
Fittingly, it’s also where Mercedes-AMG and Cigarette Racing Boats choose to unveil their annual collaboration, a one-of-a-kind racing boat inspired by a Mercedes-AMG GT R. The sports car, electric green and shimmering (the official name of the paint is “Green Hell Magno,” a nod to a green turn on the infamous Nurburgring race track in Germany), matches its sister boat in color accents, leather seating and goddamn oomph.
The 50-foot Cigarette Marauder GT S is powered by two quad-cam 4-valve engines and M8 stern drives, delivering up to 3,100 horsepower. A key fob lets the driver switch each engine between 1,550 horsepower in its racing mode (using race fuel) and the less insane “pleasure” mode at a mere 1,350 horsepower on 91 octane. ...Oh.
Before the boat ride, the Mercedes-AMG crew kept cautioning that when I’d feel like we were at peak speed, it would actually just be 55 mph or so, and that the driver would suddenly push the throttle forward and in a few seconds we'd be at 100. “Your sunglasses are going to immediately fly off your face,” I was told. “You won't know what hit you.”
According to Newton’s Third Law of physics, the faster you’re moving when you hit water, the harder it’s going to impact your body. It’s not as hard as hitting concrete, but it’s similar, because water can only displace so quickly.
So if I were to fly out of a 50-foot Cigarette Racing Marauder going 140 mph — there are no seatbelts on the boat — and hit the water, I’d suddenly not be moving at all. If I didn’t die, I would definitely hurt.
At first sight, the boat looks like a sharp black tooth biting the water. You can see the similarities with the Mercedes-AMG GT R, but it stands alone. It's the kind of boat that turns heads and impresses speed freaks, engine fetishizers, design aficionados and adrenaline junkies.
It commands attention, it has presence. It's a thing you either crush on (if you like fast, flashy, and exotic things), or roll your eyes at (if you're a sailboater or environmentalist). The three pelicans under the bridge weren't all that impressed.
We pushed off the pier and headed out into the Miami bay. Jeff Ware, our driver, said the first job he ever had was racing a Cigarette boat when he was 15, which were comforting words to hear from a guy who, now at 57, was responsible for the lives of the trio of tense journalists whose faces were flapping in the wind behind him as he steered them through the South Channel in his socks. Once out in the bay, he opened it up. The boat immediately shot forward; we were pressed into our seats.
The wind rushed. The waves blurred past my left shoulder. The most impressive part was the shaking. You know that scene in Apollo 13 when Tom Hanks has to steer the command module back into Earth without burning everybody up and everything shakes as the suspenseful music crescendos and their faces are all stretched out from the G-force and there’s fire everywhere? That's what it felt like.
It's hard to hold your head up at this speed. It's nearly impossible to breathe. Imagine a 747 jet with no ceiling or seat belts and you're in bad turbulence. Everything between your hands and your butt cheeks are holding on to the seat for dear life. The boat slowed down enough for one of the crew to yell, “That was only 50 mph!”
Then, with another thrust forward, the speedometer rocketed. 60, 70, 80. We were going so fast that it was hard to tell if we were jostling because of the way the boat cut across the water or because of the pounding wind. When the boat reached 110 mph, we were basically living through a category 3 hurricane while sitting idly in a leather seat.
Our driver was clearly in control, testing the boat with precise touches, reading the screen and constantly scanning the bay to make adjustments. But the eyes and the anxious brain don’t always communicate. I knew he was in control, but it didn’t help that each mile per hour faster than 80 resulted in another inch higher that our butts would bounce above the seat.
As quickly as it began, it was over. The fastest we’d gone was 119 mph. If the wind was a bit chilly when we started, we were heated and exhausted by the end of the ride. The boat's carpeting was upside down (our feet had seen to that), our hair inside out, and our shirts wet with the sweat juiced from our nerves.
At north of $1.8 million, you might wonder why the boat needs to exist. I wondered the same thing before my ride. After setting a shaky foot back onto dry land, I'm still not sure why, but I'm absolutely glad it does.