Bad Boys Were Good Business
Miami Vice lives on beyond its time. Its portrayal of go-fast boats brought a new image to the scene. Like with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, enthusiasts flocked to brands like Cigarette and Scarab for the outlaw image. Doctors, lawyers and businessmen could get behind the wheel of a go-fast boat and feel like a bad boy.
Charlie McCarthy calls the decade of the 1970s the “golden era” of offshore performance boats. “Anyone could buy a boat off the street and be competitive,” he says. “If you were able to grit your teeth and hang on, you could win.”
Thunderboat Row became the epicenter of the race scene. Bertram was still heavily involved in racing and producing boats, and builders such as Formula, Donzi, Magnum, Apache, Cigarette, Tempest and, later, Cougar were going strong.
Innovations from the racing side began to spill into recreational boatbuilding, as pleasure-boat builders learned more and more. Pleasure boaters took to the idea of going fast, and performance boats gained traction in the public eye. In the 1980s, they’d gain notoriety for different reasons, though.
The trouble was, the outlaw image was real. Mainstream sponsors started abandoning the offshore race world, scared off by its drug-money affiliations. The world of performance boats also took a major hit when Don Aronow was murdered. It remained unsolved for a long time, spurring rumors of a mob hit or that Aronow was a victim of the Miami drug wars.
The deep-V racing scene took another hit at the hands of fast catamarans. “They just destroyed racing for a while,” says Allan Brown, because they won every race.
The cats could go significantly faster than the V-hulls in calm water. With their appearance, and with sponsorship opportunities dwindling, offshore racing went from a unified group under the APBA to several splinter organizations.
Go-fasts continued to have a strong recreational following, but the era of the classic offshore deep-V race seemed past.