Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Racing boat that roughed up Beatles is restored

Fifty years ago this week four boys from Britain took a boat ride in Miami. They had appeared on television the night before, a program called The Ed Sullivan Show, and they wanted to cut loose.

So they hopped into the prototype of a new offshore race boat named The Cigarette. The boat's builder, a man whose company would later become synonymous with go-fast boats, fired up the 435-horsepower engine, and hit the throttle.

"I don't think the Beatles knew what they were in for," said Tampa's Bob DiNesco, who now owns the refurbished 233 Formula along with his brother and father. "John, Paul and George got a little seasick. But Ringo, he had the time of his life."

The "Fab Four" made their second appearance on the popular variety show on Feb. 16, 1964. The next morning, the Beatles met Don Aronow to check out his 23-foot speedboat that he had named after a legendary style of smuggling craft.

"Formula was his first race boat," said DiNesco, 57. "He went on to be associated with so many other famous boats: Magnum, Donzi and, of course, Cigarette."

The Cigarette Racing Team brand, popularized by the 1980s television series Miami Vice, eventually became associated with all performance boats, regardless of the manufacturer.

The DiNescos said they have invested about $100,000 in the boat and its restoration. The engine, a 1963 Kiekhaefer 409, was originally developed for NASCAR to run with the legendary Chevrolet 409.

Innovation Marine of Sarasota updated the engine, the only one of its kind in existence, to 2014 specifications. The company kept the original block, crankshaft, rods and intake manifold but added new roller rockers, ignition, dual quad carburetors and headers. For authenticity, the owners also kept the original cast Kiekhaefer one-off valve covers.

With a top speed of 60 mph, the restored Formula has stayed true to its original racing tradition. There are no seats. Pilot and passengers must stand — the best way to handle big waves at high speed — just like the old-school offshore racers.

"We tried to stay true to tradition," said DiNesco, who owns the boat with his brother, Scott, 50, and father, Robert, 84. "This boat was a legend in offshore racing."

It was Aronow's first production race boat, hull No. 1. Bob DiNesco said he often gets odd looks from other performance-boat enthusiasts when he pulls into a marina. The hull is obviously a Formula, but the name says The Cigarette.

"One guy told me I had a lot of nerve naming the boat Cigarette," DiNesco said. "When I told him who did name it, that shut him up."

Aronow piloted The Cigarette in its inaugural race, from Miami to Key West. George Peroni bought the boat from Aronow in 1964 and renamed it Empirical. Peroni campaigned the boat for eight seasons, winning the Miami-to-Nassau race and the Bahamas 500.

The DiNescos later bought the boat, which had fallen into disrepair, from the Peroni family and began the long, multiyear process of restoring the boat to its former glory.

On Sunday, 50 years from the day the Beatles took to the stage in Miami, the DiNescos dropped the boat, which they returned to its original name, into the water at the Tampa Harbour Marina.

The boat handled well at top speed. The steering was tight, and overall, it felt solid and sound, more so than most boats made with modern materials and building techniques. But I must confess I felt a little nervous, like a teenager who has been handed the keys to his dad's new car, and relinquished the wheel after a matter of minutes.

"I'm afraid I'll break it," I told DiNesco.

He laughed. "This boat has been through a lot over the years," he said. "It's still running."

Take a ride on the Formula with Terry Tomalin by tuning into WFTS-ABC Action News Sunday morning from 6-7 a.m. and 8-9 a.m.

Comments
Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

Lightning journal: Cory Conacher ready to take advantage of J.T. Brown’s departure

TAMPA — The loss of wing J.T. Brown to Anaheim will be a gain for some Lightning forwards in terms of ice time. Whether those players are currently with the team or still at AHL Syracuse has yet to be determined.For now, C Cory Conacher will try to t...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Lightning falls to Golden Knights

Lightning falls to Golden Knights

TAMPA — The door to the Lightning dressing room remained closed a little longer than usual Thursday night, and that wasn’t surprising.After the kind of performance displayed in its 4-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, this had players-only meeti...
Updated: 30 minutes ago

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosNASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony8 p.m.NBCSNCollege basketballBuffalo at Western Michigan7 p.m.ESPNUSt. Bonaventure at Davidson7 p.m.ESPN2Canisius at Manhattan9 p.m.ESPNUIllinois at Wisconsin9 p.m.FS1College gymnasticsFlorida at Kentuc...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Strong ties: USF vs. Louisville

Strong ties: USF vs. Louisville

TAMPA — USF has scheduled a three-game football series with Louisville — coach Charlie Strong’s former team — starting in 2022, giving his Bulls nine games against Power Five teams over the next seven years.USF visits Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 18

Thursday’s scoreboardGirls basketballNortheast 64, Largo 24Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Berkeley Prep 2Palm Harbor U. 7, Tarpon Springs 0Girls soccerCountryside 5, Pinellas Park 0Palm Harbor U. 5, Tarpon Springs 1...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Djokovic wins in rising heat

Djokovic wins in rising heat

MELBOURNE, Australia — On a day when shade was a valuable commodity in the searing heat at Melbourne Park, Roger Federer played it cool at the Australian Open. Six-time champion Novak Djokovic, however, complained about the brutal conditions during h...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Sports in brief

GymnasticsUSA gymnastics Ends deal with KAROLYI ranch tainted by SEX abuse allegationsINDIANAPOLIS — The long relationship between USA Gymnastics and the Karolyi Ranch is over. The organization announced Thursday that it has terminated its agreement ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Star battle: Team LeBron versus Team Stephen

Star battle: Team LeBron versus Team Stephen

Team LeBron against Team Stephen is the NBA’s new All-Star matchup. Cleveland’s LeBron James and Golden State’s Stephen Curry will go head-to-head again, this time as captains who pick teams for the revamped All-Star Game. James and Curry received th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bruins continue climb up Atlantic Division

Bruins continue climb up Atlantic Division

NEW YORK — Patrice Bergeron scored three goals to lead Boston to a 5-2 victory over the Islanders on Thursday night, giving the Bruins at least a point for the 15th consecutive game. Brad Marchand had a goal and two assists as Boston improved to 11-0...
Updated: 2 hours ago
McIlroy returns from injury, trails by 3 in first round of European Tour event

McIlroy returns from injury, trails by 3 in first round of European Tour event

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Rory McIlroy’s patience was tested Thursday on his comeback, needing three late birdies to shoot 3-under 69 that left him three strokes behind first-round leaders Tommy Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara at the Abu Dhabi ...
Updated: 2 hours ago