Photos by Tom Leigh
Cigarette Racing of Opa-locka, FL, has named mega-dealer Big Thunder Marine as its exclusive dealer in the Lake of the Ozarks, MO. Big Thunder Marine will also serve as a dealer of Cigarette Racing at its Palm Beach Gardens location at PGA Marina. Execs from both teams signed an official agreement on Thursday.
The announcement comes on the heels of Cigarette’s competitive product development and manufacturing strategy, which has included the acquisition of boat company Doug Wright, as well as of Vectorworks, a naval engineering, tooling and manufacturing firm. Last year, Cigarette was acquired by entrepreneur, attorney and CEO of healthcare data & tech company MSP Recovery, John H. Ruiz, and co-owner Ophir Sternberg of Lionheart Capital. In addition to purchasing Cigarette, they announced their combined company, MSP Recovery, was going public as the second-largest SPAC merger in the United States, valued at $32.6 billion.
“With the new growth of the company, we have decided that the best partner to have in Missouri and the Palm Beach area is Big Thunder Marine,” said Ralph Navarro, who heads up Cigarette Racing’s sales division, Top Gun Yachts.
The genesis of the partnership dates back to last year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, according to Big Thunder Marine general manager Jeremy Anderson. “We had a conversation at Fort Lauderdale, and it’s just kind of grown from there,” he told Speedboat. “Then we really dug through their lineup at February’s Miami Boat Show, and everybody agreed, they’re absolutely beautiful, and we’d love to represent them, both at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and down in the Southeast Florida market.”
“After talking with Ralph and the team in Fort Lauderdale and Miami, our goals and vision are aligned for the future,” Big Thunder Marine owner Fred Ross added. “We’re happy to represent the brand in the Lake of the Ozarks and in Palm Beach Gardens.” Ross is also the owner of Iconic Marine Group, builder of the Fountain, Donzi and Baja brands.
Anderson said Big Thunder has placed a large 13-boat initial order that includes 41 Nighthawk, 42 Auroris and 52 Thunder models, the latter of which is a new boat being released later this summer. To celebrate the partnership, Big Thunder will be officially representing Cigarette as its dealer at the Palm Beach Boat Show, set for March 24-27. Meanwhile, later in the summer, the builder plans to join forces with Big Thunder in a “Cigarette Splash” marketing event.
From left: Diana Diaz (CCO), Alex Ruiz (CEO), Cristina Ruiz (CMO), John H. Ruiz (owner), Johnny Ruiz (COO).
Big Thunder Marine’s Palm Beach Gardens location at PGA Marina.
“We’re very, very pleased with Big Thunder,” Navarro said. “We are partnering up with Jeremy and Fred because they want to help grow this company. We share the same vision, and that’s very exciting.” Navarro also praised the new team at Cigarette for their aggressive salesmanship and innovative ideas, including owner John H. Ruiz, CEO Alex Ruiz, whom he described as “an amazing business leader with an incredible vision,” CCO Diana Diaz, and CMO Cristina Ruiz, who heads up Cigarette’s marketing and merchandising, launching the company’s first officially licensed apparel line.
CMO Cristina Ruiz at the 2022 Miami Boat Show
“They’re really nonstop,” Navarro said. “Remember, this is not the only business that they participate in, and yet they were at the show every single day, from open to finish. It was incredible to see the whole family come together at the show. Their dedication and respect for this iconic brand that they have acquired is amazing.”
These new developments in the Cigarette saga are just the latest in an indelible chapter in speedboating’s rich history. After dominating big-league East Coast racing, Don Aronow formed Cigarette Racing in 1969. The company became perhaps the most celebrated name in high-performance boating history. The bearer of dozens of championships, titles and records, Cigarette has endured and thrived through the decades, with numerous best-selling models. Among the most famous is the Top Gun line, of which the 38′ and 42X are still being produced today. Its center console line is world famous, with a stable that includes the 39′ GTS, 41′ Nighthawk, 42′ Huntress and 42′ Auroris. One of Cigarette’s most recent innovations is the luxurious 59′ Tirranna, with its staggering 14′ beam, state-of-the-art helm, SeaKeeper 9 gyrostabilizer and six Mercury Racing 450R outboards. Additionally, Cigarette announced the release of its first-ever personal watercraft, called E Jet, which will be available in both motorized and electric-powered options, and will be endlessly customizable to the client.