Midnight Express

Seven Fast Center Consoles

Seven fast center consoles you can double down on in poker runs.

About six years ago, Stu Jones, president of the Florida Powerboat Club, was facing a critical crossroad in the organization's history. Should he restructure his poker runs to encourage owners of center console boats to participate or continue to cater to the faster, high-performance offshore go-fast boats that had traditionally made up the fleet at the events?

“I had to welcome them,” explains Jones. “I liked that they were coming around and the fact that they were accommodating more people at the events.”

Owners, he discovered, were buying center consoles because they could carry more friends. That, of course, was all good news to Jones because he could recruit more members to his club. Today, performance center consoles are commonplace on the poker-run circuit. Here are seven fast center consoles that are upping the ante.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
BlackWater 43Blackwater Boats

BlackWater 43

Measuring 43 feet long with an 11-foot-9-inch beam and weighing 18,000 pounds, the BlackWater 43 is available with a stepped or nonstepped bottom design, and the transom deadrise is listed at 24 degrees. Maximum horsepower is listed at 1,881, and the boat can be equipped with triple or quad outboards. The boat was developed with comfort and function as the leading criteria. The cockpit can be laid out with one or two rows of offshore-style bolsters at the helm, a sun lounge on the front of the console and optional forward seating in the bow. There are folding transom seats, a slide-out cooler and a bait-prep station. Belowdecks, the BlackWater 43 has an enclosed head with a full stand-up shower, a galley, and sleeping space for four.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
Midnight Express 60 Pied-A-MerMidnight Express

Midnight Express 60 Pied-A-Mer

The newest and biggest boat in the performance center console game, the 60 Pied-A-Mer is 60 feet long with a 15-foot beam. The twin-stepped bottom has a 22-degree deadrise at the transom, and the boat tips the scales at 36,000 pounds. When powered by quad Seven Marine 627s, the boat has an estimated top speed of more than 70 mph. It can also be powered by diesel inboards with surface drives that Midnight Express says will push the boat to speeds approaching 90 mph. With fuel-capacity options exceeding 1,000 gallons, the 60 Pied-A-Mer should have excellent range.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
HydraSports Custom 5300 Sueños Extreme EditionHydraSports Custom

HydraSports Custom 5300 Sueños Extreme Edition

Powered by four Seven Marine 627s, the nonstepped 52-foot-11-inch boat with a 13-foot beam displaces 28,373 pounds and runs close to 70 mph. It's the first boat to receive a Mil-Tough rating for its advanced combatant craft technology, a construction process that utilizes a single-skin transom and hull to provide a durable, easy-to-maintain finish. In the cabin, there's a full owner's stateroom, a private head with a stand-up shower, and a small galley. The bow has forward-facing lounges with backrests and a power-adjustable table that can be lowered so a filler cushion can be inserted. Helm highlights include three captain's chairs with seating for three more passengers just abaft.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
Cigarette 42 HuntressCigarette Racing

Cigarette 42 Huntress

The legendary offshore performance-boat manufacturer combines a stepped design powered by four Mercury Racing Verado outboards with a cockpit and cabin that focus on entertaining. The 42 Huntress measures 42 feet long with an 11-foot-9-inch beam, and it weighs 18,900 pounds. The panoramic hardtop follows the boat's sculpted lines, and there's circular seating forward with storage in the base. The helm features include three high screens, Garmin programmable engine monitors, a 7-inch Mercury ­VesselView screen and a JL audio system. The cabin has a hydraulic hatch, 6 feet 7 inches of headroom, a sofa with built-in storage, a high-definition ­32-inch TV and a private head.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats 450 Sport CCNor-Tech Boats

Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats 450 Sport CC

No boat turned more heads at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show than the Nor-Tech 450 Sport CC. Even though it wasn't finished — it didn't have the hardtop — it did have five Mercury Racing Verado 400R outboards clamped to the stern. If the boat spent more than five minutes in its slip at the show, it's because the demo driver needed to use the restroom or grab a sandwich. For five days, boat-show guests lined up, waiting for rides aboard this 20,000-pound, 45-foot-long boat with a beam of 12 feet. Of course, there's more to the 450 Sport CC than just the five motors. The cleanly styled hardtop caps a center console with a full windshield and helm that is designed to an owner's specifications. The cabin features an enclosed head with a stand-up shower, a wraparound sofa in the salon and an oversize berth. Topside, the cockpit has abundant seating, with lounges in the bow, on the back of the leaning post and in the stern. Storage includes dedicated racks for dive tanks and insulated draining fish boxes.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
Mystic Powerboats M4200Mystic Powerboats

Mystic Powerboats M4200

Jones, the Florida Powerboat Club president, says the Mystic M4200 is one of the biggest-feeling 42-foot center consoles he’s been on, and Jones has checked out all of them. Freeboard for the 13,000-pound, 42-foot-10-inch boat with a 10-foot-8-inch beam is measured at 3 feet 2 inches. Mystic designed the boat with a reverse chine to knock down spray. Particular attention was paid to keeping wind off the passengers. The center console is a full 5 feet wide to protect the captain and two companions. Gunwale wind doors help keep guests on the aft seats dry and comfortable as well. The helm features Garmin touchscreen units, a Mercury VesselView engine monitor, and controls for the standard bow thruster and windlass. For easy boarding, the cockpit has dive and transom doors. The cabin has a queen-size berth plus seating for four on comfortable ­lounges. The galley is equipped with a refrigerator and a microwave, and the private head has a stand-up shower.

Seven Fast Center Consoles
Marine Technology Inc. MTI-V 42Pete Boden

Marine Technology Inc. MTI-V 42

A strong performer on the poker run circuit, Marine Technology Inc.'s MTI-V 42 is the noted performance ­catamaran-maker's first V-bottom. The 42-foot boat has an 11-foot-6-inch beam and weighs 15,000 pounds. When powered with quad Mercury Racing Verado 300R outboards, the V 42 can reach top speeds exceeding 70 mph. The hull is foam-cored and vacuum-bagged using epoxy resin for increased strength and a lighter weight. MTI also came out with a V 57, one of the largest center consoles around, powered by quad Mercury 400R outboards. The V 57 has a reported top speed of 68 mph, and the boat cruises at 50.6 mph and 0.9 mpg.

Ace of Clubs
For those who don't know the organization, the Florida Powerboat Club (flpowerboat.com) promotes and stages poker runs primarily throughout Florida and the Southeast. For 2017, the organization has 11 events scheduled, wrapping up in November at the Key West Poker Run, which coincides with the annual Super Boat International Offshore Powerboat World Championships (superboat.com). Members pay a single fee to enter an event, and the club handles everything, from accommodations to scheduling meals to leading the fleet to the stops during the poker run.

Going into the 2013 poker-run season, the Florida Powerboat Club officials knew they needed to address the disparity in speed among boats in their fleets, most notably the center consoles. It established the Florida Powerboat Club safety management program, which, in its simplest form, separates the boats by classes, based on speed. High Performance is for boats that run 100 to 150 mph, and Jones has a top speed at 150 mph during his events. The Performance class is for boats that run between 60 and 99 mph, and the Sportboat/Sportcruising category is for vessels that run between 45 and 59 mph.

“We’re all going to the same place, but we don’t get there at the same time,” Jones says.

The classes are designated by the color of the sticker the boat owner receives at each event. The starts for the three categories are staggered, with time intervals between group departures for larger poker runs. The Performance and Sportboat/Sportcruising categories are required to stay behind an official pace boat, but there is no pace boat for the High Performance class; captains are required to show “satisfactory knowledge of the local waters to ensure safe navigation.” The club provides helicopters equipped with safety/medical personnel and boats along the course to render assistance if necessary. Personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required for any powerboat registered for an event, with the exception of yachts and boats with a top speed of less than 40 mph. Participants in boats that run faster than 100 mph are required to wear a jacket similar to a Lifeline Sport jacket that has rigid construction and crotch/thigh safety straps.The boats in the High Performance class pay the most, $250, while those in the Performance class pay $150.