Jump to content

Magnum 28

Recommended Posts

Härlig historia och man kanske kollar på sin gamla Bogis med lite andra ögon framöver.

Många tack Magnum 28.?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Magnum 28 changed the title to Från Don Aronow till Boghammar Magnum

Inte helt lätt att gå vidare med det här i någon vettig ordningsföljd men jag kastar upp lite artiklar om Dons karriär och leverne för att senare försöka styra in mer rent på Magnum 27:orna och vidare in på Boghammar.


Inför Getingloppet 1967, vilket då var en officiell deltävling i VM-cirkusen:




Inför 1968 års Getinglopp...




...som Don tyvärr fick hoppa på grund av sjukdom.




Vann gjorde istället Vincenzo Balestrieri som också tävlade framgångsrikt med Dons Magnumbåtar.






Link to comment
Share on other sites

MOTOR BOATING /  June 1969

Smoky Record for a New Cigarette

By Lois Kennedy



I‘LL BE WAITING for you at the finish,” said Miami powerboat racing veteran Don Aronow to Long Beach, California Mayor Edwin Wade. That was at the start of the inaugural Long Beach to Ensenada, Mexico offshore powerboat thrash March 22. When it was over, not only was Aronow waiting for Mayor Wade, who would present his trophy and had left the Long Beach Belmont pier an hour before the race began, but for all 12 other survivors of this 176-mile test. In his powerful new Cigarette, a 32’ 4” hull powered by twin 482-cu.-in MerCruisers and built to his own design by Cary Marine of Miami, he had not only lead the 22-boat field throughout, but set a world offshore average speed record of 67 mph. The feat was firmly in character; Aronow is an ex-world offshore powerboat titlist and ‘67-’68 national champion.


When Edwin Wade arrived at the finish line in tequila country, Aronow, his longtime mechanic-navigator Knocky House and crewman Bob Magoon, both of Miami, were busy fielding press queries as they climbed out of their soaked racing clothes.


While exceeding the previous record of 62 mph, set by Bill Sirois of St. Cloud, Florida in last July’s Hennessy Long Island Grand Prix, Don covered the lumpy course in 2 hours 37 minutes 19 seconds. Soaring over 12-foot swells, Cigarette unfaltering swept by nine check points off the Baja, California coastline. Last August, Don had driven his 27 foot Maltese Mag­num, with a single 482-cu.-in. MerCruiser, to victory in the Long Beach-Hennessy Cup 180-mile race. But the big Pacific swells on the west side of Catalina Island had given him second thoughts about again using a light-weight single engine hull in West Coast events.


“1 decided to try something bigger, with more power,” he said in Long Beach before this race. “Cigarette has a few new things,” he conceded; “she’s been clocked at over 70 mph in trials off Miami.” Her next race will probably be the Bahamas 500, scheduled for the 13th of this month.


In this newest of international powerboat races, an out- board world record was also established. John Stenback, driving his 27-foot Magnum Quicksilver, led fellow St. Cloud racer Ralph Seavey across the finish line in 2:53:46; he had set a new outboard mark of 59.7 mph. Seavey’s Snow Shoe was just 1:51 behind. Both Magnums were powered by three of the new Mercury racing motors, the 1250 Super BPs. The Floridians were third and fourth to round the Ensenada breakwater.


Big Don Aronow was the only driver among the eight inboard entries in the Offshore class to survive the course with no problems. Off the Coronado Islands, half of one of Bill Wishnick’s prop blades lies on the bottom. His new Boss O’Nova, ex-Mona Lou III, was pushing its black rival until a blade split. The New Yorker finished only 16 minutes later for second place.


Descanso Point, a rocky promontory off the Baja coast, has a submerged rock decorated with yellow fiberglass bits where Bill Cooper’s slim 22 foot Rayson Craft Spooky Too slammed into it, tearing a man-sized gash in the hull. The Marina del Rey driver and his navigator Jonathan Edwards took to their life raft and were picked up by a cruiser, none the worst for their dunking. (It was a minor incident for Bill compared to one a year ago when his boat flipped in the Houston Marathon, and the spinning prop slashed him from head to waist, almost killing him.)


Off San Diego, there is a badly shredded shark that tangled with Pete Rothschild’s fast-moving Thunderballs. from Newport Beach. The impact was so great it bent one of the props on the twin 427-cu.-in. MerCruisers. The bright red 27 foot Aqua Craft, Pete’s own design, had been overtaking Carl Asmus in the 27 foot Magnum America, when the shark interfered. Rothschild was only stopped momentarily, but Thunderballs lacked her former oomph. And in America, the young Van Nuys driver roared away.


 Asmus became the first West Coast racer to finish as he crossed the line sixth. This was quite a feat, since he had dropped out of the race shortly after the start to stand by Bob Nordskogs Holocaust, temporarily disabled with engine troubles. Rothschild came in 43 minutes behind Asmus to win the cruiser class. Later that evening, his Thunderballs started sinking at her mooring in Ensenada Harbor. When she was quickly hauled out, it was discovered the shark had done more than bend a prop, it had loosened the through-hull fitting, flooding the hull.


Swinger II, Los Angeles restaurateur Dave Shane’s 23-foot gray Formula, with twin 289-cu.-in. Holman-Moody Fords, won the development class. He and Pete Rothschild were repeating their victories in the earlier shake-down, tune-up race-cruise around Catalina Island, which included an overnight stop at Avalon.


Paul Fischer’s 35-foot red Magnum gave a 40-mph run­ning start to the racers as they headed for Ensenada, pacing first the Development and Cruiser classes, then sweeping back to pick up the Offshore class. Fischer then revved up to catch the thundering fleet of 23 boats as they swept from behind the oil derrick-topped islands in the harbor toward the breakwater entrance. Aronow flashed first through the opening and past the check boat. A fast count revealed three missing. Dave Eyraud’s 21 foot Thunder had been the first drop-out a thousand yards from the starting point off Bel­mont Pier. Just inside the breakwater there sat Bob Nord­skog’s red and white 28-foot Thunderbird Holocaust, flat in the water with a defunct engine. The third, Carl Asmus’ America, floated nearby with Carl ready to render aid. Nordskog poked his head out and waved Carl back into the race. Holocaust resumed the race herself, with a roar from her twin 499-cu.-in. Nordskog-Chevies. But off La Jolla both big temperamental power plants went out.


Nordskog is a hard-headed, 55 year-old Norwegian grandfather. He is determined to successfully equip Holo­caust with a pair of these special engines, kissing cousins of the exotic power plants which churn up such fantastic bursts of speed in drag races. The veteran racer was experi­menting with one 499-cu.-in. blown and a 467-cu.-in. in­jected fuel engine for the Avalon tune-up. The smaller one heated up near the finish line when Holocaust was well out in the lead.


Aiming at world and national titles this time, Nordskog tried out twin big ones, just under the 1000-cu.-in. total limit. Aronow had indicated he considered Nordskog and Bill Wishnick as his biggest competition. If Bob, his navi­gator Joel Younger and mechanic Dave Zeuschel can elimi­nate the bugs in those mills, Holocaust might well resume her winning ways on the national and international offshore racing circuits. Nordskog fully expects to get 75 mph out of his monsters.



Holocaust’s two crewmen were tired and disgruntled when they finally got ashore. They decided to hire a taxi for the drive to Ensenada to meet their wives for the trophy dinner. Have you ever tried to hire a cab to cross an inter­national border when you had no money, no identification and were dressed in grimy coveralls?


Promises of immediate payment in Ensenada held little lure. Bob and Joel had given their wallets to their wives for safe keeping while they were racing. And there was no money in the mandatory survival kit.


All’s well that ends well, if expensively. Nordskog hadn’t become a top airline equipment and marine executive by being inarticulate. The reluctant cabbie got his money, all $25 of it as promised, in Ensenada.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Motor Boating/July 1969


By Johnny Wilson



This section’s Cigarette habit is due to the winning form of Don Aronow’s new racer, fresh from her Ensenada victory (MB, June), now the Gateway Marathon champion.


AS OCEAN racing powerboats get better, their courses seem to get progressively rougher. Spring is usually the season for silken seas on the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida, but this year, that wonted mildness has been conspicuously absent.


The most recent pummeling of note down there was handed out May 10 to 24 starters in the sixth annual Gate­way Marathon for these seagoing mustangs. Out of 11 finishers in the brutal grind through 12-foot cross seas, the impressive winner was Don Aronow’s sharp-nosed Cigarette, the same new 32-foot Cary Marine hull, powered by twin 475-hp MerCruiser engines, with which he’d won the Long Beach, California, Ensenada, Mexico race in March. Wayne Vicker’s 27-foot Magnum came in first outboard and second.




His time on the 200-mile trip from West Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island and back—non stop for the first time in regatta history—was 4 hours 35 minutes.


In this punishing sport, in which relatively soft-bodied men hurl themselves in bullet-hard boats against cresting seas at speeds to 80 knots, water has the consistency of concrete. The hull-to-wave impact can twist spines and shatter ankles unless crews brace properly and in time. In those eternal racing moments, when the whole boat leaps clear of the sea, the helmsman can “blow” a highly tuned engine in seconds unless he’s a master of throttle control.


Navigation is an agonizing game of hide and seek with low lying landmarks, seen through salt-blurred goggles while seas, sun and possible rain squalls play hob with visibility in an open cockpit where it takes most of your strength and will merely to hang on and stand upright. Inside quilted, protective “wet” suits, racers bodies, in these Florida gambits, bathe in 90-degree temperatures.


The whys of ocean powerboat racing, besides its obvious competitive and promotional attraction, especially for mil­lionaire Miami boat builder Aronow, are personal. What happens, and what racers feel when the beating stops, is fairly graphic. Burly, six-foot Don Aronow, for example, 1967 world powerboat champion and national champion in ‘67 and ‘68, reported this event was “one of the most wicked ocean trips I’ve ever made. The fight I had correcting for torque in huge beam seas wore out my arms.”


Aronow, who decided he’d gone out front between Free-port and the last turning point off Lucaya, said, “We ran more easily alter that, keeping an eye astern in case someone tried to slip up on us.”


Less aggressive ashore, he fudged at accepting a lip-to-lip victory kiss from the Gateway queen, who had to settle for a polite peck on the cheek.


A fast charging outboard, Wayne Vicker’s 27-foot Mag­num, powered by three 1969 model 140-hp Mercury en­gines, won second overall in 4 hours 42 minutes. The St. Cloud, Florida driver, in taking first in his division, broke the victory run of John Stenback, who finished sixth in 5 hours 20 minutes. Until this race, Stenback, also of St. Cloud and current leader in points for the U.S. ocean racing out­board title, had taken three straight races.



Vicker had a badly bloodied nose to show for his trouble; he’d broken it against the steering wheel on the way home. But he was able to take some consolation in his award for Most Outstanding Performance.


Third went to Miami drivers Dave Stirratt and George Peroni in a 32-foot Maritime belonging to Merrick Lewis. They used her 650-hp Ford engines to make the trip in just nine minutes more than winner Aronow. Lewis, who had been scheduled for this race, dropped out for health reasons. His next was to be the Bahamas 500, on June 13. Merrick, imaginative president of Alliance Machine Co., has a good hideaway for recuperation; he recently bought the remote Everglades Rod & Gun Club, deep in Florida’s “sea of grass.”


Defending champion Odell Lewis of St. Cloud dropped out with mechanical difficulties at West End. Other DNFs on that side were Peter Rittmaster of Miami and Norman Latham of Palm Beach.


Probably the wildest gyrations of the race were reported by Bill Wishnick of New York, who drove Odell’s Mer­Cruiser-powered 31-foot Bertram. In midstream, with throttles wide open, he hit a rogue sea that made his boat swap ends like a wooden chip, flinging the three-man crew to the deck. Their boat rammed wildly along untended for a few seconds till Wishnick fought his way back to the con­trols. He ultimately finished seventh in 5 hours 22 minutes.


One of the best performances in this race was that of Bill Martin from Clark, N.J. Shortly after the start, he and his mechanic had their heads in the bilge of their 27-foot Mag­num, trying to restart their single 496-cu.-in. MerCruiser. Twelfth after correcting this problem, Martin moved up after crossing the Stream and turning eastward from West End to Lucayca. He ultimately finished fifth in 5 hours 16 minutes.


The most unusual entry in the race was Hugh Doyle’s St. Petersburg cat Maui Kai. Driven by Tom D’Eath and powered by twin 427-cu. -in. MerCruisers, she was the last survivor to finish. Sherman F. (Red) Crise, whose Na­tional Offshore Power Boat Association organizes the event, announced Aronow’s time is the official record for the re­vised Gateway Marathon circuit. Cigarette’s skipper also has a solid lead in APBA standings for this year’s national high point title.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Don Aronow hurts a little, but as the world’s top ocean powerboat driver and builder he is never bored.


By: Jerry Kirshenbaum - Fall 1969



Don Aronow, the world champion ocean powerboat racer, has two nicknames: The Animal and The Czar. The first was conferred on him by his fellow racers for the lion like way in which he drives small boats over big seas. The second reflects his eminence as a builder of racing boats. The American offshore champion for the third straight year and holder of the world title for the second time in three years-all in hulls of his own design-Aronow cracks other people's records and his own bones with equal élan. There is something about myself and the ocean,” he says I re­spect it, but I’m not afraid of it. When I'm out there, I want to dominate it.”


Aronow performed his animal act for the final time this year in last week’s Miami - Key West race and, with a typical win-or-bust flourish, surged into a widening lead before a blown water pump forced him out. It was a heady, if anticlimactic, finish to a season in which Aronow campaigned tirelessly in both Europe and the U.S., won an unprec­edented eight out of 12 races, and in Italy’s Viareggio-Bastia race last July roared over the 214-rnile course in a world-record average of 74.3 mph.


Until this year just about the only offshore prize to elude Aronow was the Bahamas 500, a 542-mite gut checkout among the cays and cuts of the Bahama Islands.  He had finished runner-up in the first 500, held in 1967, as trying conditions forced all but 16 of the 63 starters to drop out along the way. Last year he became ill on the eve of the race and had to be flown to Miami, where he was hospitalized for a stomach injury suffered in a boating accident a month earlier. No sooner did Aronow arrive in the Bahamas for this year’s 500 than he fell ill again. On race morning he had a fever of 101° - a trifle to Aronow but a matter of possible concern to his wife Shirley.


Leaving her asleep in their mo­tel room, he sneaked out to the starting line and grabbed the controls of his remarkable boat The Cigarette. When Aronow found himself falling behind the leaders, he veered from the prescribed course and boldly -- feverishly, one might say - took a shortcut through a treach­erous, rock-strewn cay. He went on to win by a scant six feet over Mel Riggs at the astonishing average speed of 64.523 miles an hour.


By such exploits Aronow not only has emerged as the king — czar, if you like of powerboat racing but also has found a powerful antidote to boredom in these, his retirement years. A former chief life guard at Coney Island who made a pile as a New Jersey homebuilder, Aronow decided at age 34 to stop building and start playing in the Florida sun. That is when he began playing with boats. Today, at 42, he is a big (6’ 3”, 210 pounds), duskily handsome, thick browed man who enjoys the good life but chooses to spice it with a bit of speed and danger.


“I’m a charger,” he says with a shrug. “I go all out in whatever I do. I like to compete, but I also like to do well in what I’m competing in. At my age there are few other sports I could do as well in. But in ocean racing you can let the engines do the work that your legs and arms used to do, and you can compete successfully against men who are much younger.  Experience and desire, those are the equalizers.”


Experience, desire and an attention to details that drives his more happy go­ lucky competitors u p t he wall.  In getting ready for a race, “ he says,  “you have to check the boat over, recheck it and then check it again, and then when you’re all through you have to check it one more time. So many little things can go wrong. I want everything to be perfect when the race begins.  I like to get into the boat and go.”


Sometimes Aronow checks the little details right Out into the Gulf Stream, which can be treacherous in any sea­son. He and Crewman Knocky House went out one spring day last year for a test run in a 27-foot Magnum. Wearing neither racing helmets nor life jackets, they were churning along at 60 mph when the boat suddenly submarined into heavy seas. The impact sent Aronow crashing against House, knocking them both out. Knocky suffered a concussion. Aronow, who, among other things, had slammed into the wheel, wound up with gashes on his legs, abdominal injuries and chest pains that turned out to be a cracked sternum.


When Aronow came to, the boat was creeping along at 10 mph. Aronow lay flat on his back watching the clouds drift by as he slowly regained his wits.


“Want to try again?” he asked Knocky, who by then had regained con­sciousness also.


“Let’s go,” said House.


Since offshore racing rules prevent Aronow from risking his neck solitarily (each boat must contain at least two men), it is not surprising that there is occasionally some resistance when Don goes looking for crewmen. “Going out in a boat with Aronow isn’t the health­iest thing you can do,” confirms Mark (Big Dirty) Raymond, a Hollywood, Fla. fireman, ocean driver and sometime mo­torcycle racer who owes his nickname either to his knack for getting covered with oil during races (his version) or to his disdain for racing etiquette (a rival’s version). “You go down inside the hull to fix a fuel line or something dur­ing a race, and Aronow isn’t able to see you or hear you. You’re bouncing around down there, but he never slows down. The guy is all go. He wants to win, and you can’t blame him for that. it’s just not very healthy, that’s all.”


“The other guy in the boat is com­pletely reliant on you,” Aronow con­cedes. “You’ve got your hands on the wheel and the throttle, and you can an­ticipate the waves, but the other guy is at your mercy. The question is how far will you push the boat and whether you’ll take a chance of hurting somebody. That can be a tough decision to make.


“I guess I’ve hurt a lot of people in boats. I’ve broken Skitch Carroll’s ribs, and I’ve broken Dave Stirrat’s nose, and there was the time I hit a wake while Stu Jackson was lying on the engine, and he hurt his back pretty badly. I wouldn’t take my son out in a race with me, because I wouldn’t want to take the same chance with him that I would take with myself. You have to find some­body who feels the same way about rac­ing as you do.”


Aronow’s favorite partner recent years, and one who meets his exacting demands, has been House, a short, sturdy fireplug of a man who wastes few words and puts the energy thus con­served to good use, having in the course of a variegated career been a wrestler, a lacrosse player, a 12-year Navy man and a motorcycle racer. “Knocky’s a charger like I am,” Aronow says. “Whether during a race or in a strange bar or a strange country, I know I can count on him.”


As Aronow’s shotgun-riding mechan­ic, navigator and general troubleshooter, House enjoys a certain job security, since most others in his line feel that one or two rides with Aronow will suffice a lifetime.

Another man who has ridden with Aronow—once—is Allan Brown, pres­ident of Miami’s Nova Marine Com­pany. Brown blithely accompanied him on the 1966 Houston Channel Derby, which has the reputation of being a calm-weather race. What Brown failed to take into account were the huge wakes that oil tankers and oceangoing tugs churn up in Galveston Bay’s ship channel.

“Going over those wakes was just aw­ful,” Brown recalls. “We were jumping so fantastically high in the air that it seemed we could have flown over the tankers themselves. We were running sec­ond when we hit some really incredible waves, and that crazy Aronow never let go of the throttle. Within the space of three or four miles we went from a mile behind to a mile ahead. And that was going out in the channel. Coming back, jumping those wakes from the other direction was even worse. We were flying 100 feet out of the water.”

 “We won a real good trophy,” Aronow says.

Such escapades are a test of equipment as well as men, and Aronow has met the need for fast, durable boats with his usual directness—by building them himself. Over the past six years he has founded three different boat building firms—Formula, Donzi and Magnum— and used them to develop some of the hottest hulls afloat. When it suited his mood, he calmly sold each of the companies at a nice profit. Building boats for his own needs has helped Aronow win races. The rigors of racing, in turn, have suggested ways of building better boats. Working basically with standard deep-V racing hulls, Aronow and the designers he has teamed with— notably Jim Wynne, Walt Walters and Peter Guerke—have been responsible for many small but important refine­ments that have made boats lighter and faster, yet still rugged enough for offshore racing.


In the nautical version of natural selection, a boat that can endure an ocean race is presumed to be capable of with­standing anything that a weekend sail­or might do to it. Until he sold off Mag­num last year, Aronow thus enjoyed much the same kind of far-ranging in­fluence on the evolution of powerboat hulls that Mercury motors’ Carl Kieckhaefer, whose formidable MerCruisers are used by most top ocean drivers (including Aronow), has long exercised on the development of marine engines.


Although production-model Formulas, Donzis and Magnums continue to sell briskly among the pleasure-boat crowd, only Magnums still appear with any regularity in major offshore races. The most popular racing hulls nowadays are the 32-foot, deep-V speedsters built by Miami’s Bertram Yacht company, whose president, Peter Rittmaster, is a hot ocean racer. Aronow, one of the few racers who does not drive a Ber­tram (“I want to give Peter a goal in life,” he explains), utilizes a pair of identical 32-footers built to his specifications by Miami’s Cary Marine, Inc. Both are called The Cigarette after a celebrated Prohibition-era hijacking boat of that name, and Aronow runs one in Europe, the other in the U.S.


Aronow’s sales agreement with Magnum (an accord currently entangled in litigation) constrains him from going back into boatbuilding until next spring. In the meantime, his influence may be seen everywhere. Rittmaster, for exam­ple, got into racing at the helm of a Donzi borrowed from Aronow three years ago. Italy’s Vincenzo Balestrieri took the world championship away from Aronow last year in a 28-foot Magnum Don sold him. (This year Balestrieri is racing a Bertram.)


And then there is Bill Wishnick, another of the top drivers, but one who had never raced at all when he approached Aronow at the New York Boat Show in 1963. “Mr. Aronow,” Wishnick said, “I’m interested in buying a boat.” Aronow accommodated him first with a 23-foot Formula and later with a 28-foot Donzi. “I was a married, out-of-shape, middle-aged businessman,” recalls Wishnick, board chairman of New York’s Witco Chemical Company. “Now I’m divorced, an ocean racer and a swinger. Seeing Don was the best thing that ever happened to me.”


 Aronow’s reputation for exuberant behavior ashore and afloat is well grounded in fact. (“I wonder,” says his  16year old daughter Claudia, “what Daddy will be when he grows up.”) Who but Aronow would have barged into a formal banquet in a Jamaica hotel on horseback? Who else would have starred in the following true-Life vignette of ma­rine life: Aronow was a guest on the yacht of a European sportsman whose wife, suspecting the man of keeping a mistress, unexpectedly arrived on board. The European went ashore in a hurry, leaving Aronow to placate her. This involved relieving her of a .38 pistol. When Aronow flung it into the water, the woman jumped overboard, where­upon a crewman went over the side to rescue her.


Says Aronow: “I’m thinking, ‘How did I get involved in this?’ It’s like an Italian movie. Suddenly I realize this crewman can’t swim. He’s floundering. So I dive in and get the woman aboard. I look back and the crewman is still struggling. Nobody makes any move to save him, so I jump back in and bring him out, too.”


The experience amounted to something of a refresher course for Aronow, who, in his Coney Island days, gained a reputation for saving people from drowning almost before they had a chance to get wet. The son of a New York businessman who had lost everything in the Depression, Aronow attended the Merchant Marine Academy dur­ing World War 2, afterward became a seaman and sailed to Europe, Africa and South America in Liberty ships.


At Brooklyn College, which he attended both before and after his voyages as a seaman, Aronow won seven varsity letters as a football end, a track­man (hammer and shotput) and a heavy-j weight wrestler who knew only two holds but, as he recalls, “made up for it by being aggressive.’ It was during his second Brooklyn College hitch that Aronow married Shirley Goldin, who had caught his eye on the beach at Coney Island.


 To support her, Aronow began trading in war surplus goods. In 1950 he be­came a field superintendent for Shirley’s brothers, who were in the construction business in Northern New Jersey. Strik­ing out on his own 18 months later, Aronow reportedly made his first million by the time he was 28.


A New Jersey community magazine Said Aronow “moves too fast for the public to evaluate his incredible career.” By the time the article appeared, Aronow recalls, he had become bored with bui4ding “one house after another” and had “retired” to Florida.


Today Aronow lives at Coral Gables in a spacious, Spanish-style dwelling overlooking Biscayne Bay. His  2 ½  acres are adorned with palm trees, orange trees, lemon trees, lime trees. Parked in the driveway are the family’s Rolls-Royce, Mercedes 280 and Cadillac Eldorado. Out behind the house, Higgins, a bullterrier, stands guard over the swimming pool. He is a powerful but gentle animal whose only known act of ferocity was to bite the ear of a neighbor’s Irish Setter that encroached too far onto his territory. When the neighbor called to complain that the ear was mangled, Aronow offered, in the interest of sym­metry, to send Higgins over to bite the other ear.


After a particularly grueling race, Aronow nurses his wounds in front of a television set, reduced to the kind of utter helplessness that seems to afflict men of action. “Hey, Shirley,” he calls. “Bring me a heating pad, will you?”


“I’m busy,” his wife answers. “Can you get it yourself?”

Silence. “Well, where is it?” Don finally asks.

“In the linen closet.”

Longer silence. “Where’s the linen closet?”


 A few years ago a hurricane roared along the Florida coast, sending water seeping into the Aronow home. Don and Shirley mopped it up with bath towels. Don’s idea of wringing out a towel, it developed, was to press it against the sink as hard as he could. The next day a relative called to ask if the family had suffered any hurricane damage. “Only a broken sink,” said Shirley.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A Jolting Ride in a Power Boat

 Don Aronow Wins a Feverish Race In the Bahamas by Only a Second

Freeport, Grand BAHAMA By: John Peterson – Fall 1969



Most of the crowd on the Lucaya Ma­rtha fuel pier bunched admiringly about the millionaire Florida sportsman who had just climbed slowly out of his jet-black power boat with red-leather interior pad­ding. Standing off to one side a wrinkled skipper of a sailing Moop muttered softly, ‘No man should ask the sea for trouble— unless he’s touched.”


To some, Don Aronow may seem a bit mad, but he had just won the most punishing of ocean races, the Bahamas 500. “The $60,000 in prize money Is somehow sup­posed to justify this,” Aronow grinned.


For some eight hours the rugged racer had hurtled at speeds of 70 m.p.h. and higher over shoals, through reefs, and, of course, through thunderstorms and rain squalls. His 32-foot Magnum, powered by two Mercury inboards generating 475 horsepower, had crunched into wave after wave with bone-jarring jolts.


Don Aronow averaged 64 m.p.h. and lopped 2 hours and 35 minutes off the rec­ord time (new record: 8 hours, 24 minutes), but Incredibly, after th6se 541 miles,  he beat rookie driver Mel Riggs by only one second / four and one-half feet. This wasn’t surprising though; the sports buffs had expected the showdown.


The wealthy Aronow is America’s fore­most power-boat racer, world offshore champion in 1967, and now the winner of three straight races. He had never before won this race, however. Two years ago in its first running, Aronow’s boat had caught fire and finally sunk; last year illness had kept him out.


Odell Lewis: Out of Action

Riggs, a 31-year-old redhead, Is the last man to have beaten Aronow—in the ­Miami to Nassau race. Although a rookie, he drives the only factory entry In ocean racing, Kiekhaefer-Mercury’s Mona Lou III. Mercury’s top driver, Odell Lewis, who won the first two Bahamas 500s, has been out of action since he injured a disc in his back during an early-season race.


In Riggs’ last two races he has been plagued by injuries to his crew members, a common occurrence in the grueling sport. In both races his co-pilots lost their grip on the wheel and wound up unconscious. In the last race the third member of his crew tore cartilages in both knees. “They looked like bluish-black watermel­ons,” says Daniel Immel, one of Riggs’ mechanics.


Yet Immel expects to ride co-pilot with Riggs In the next race and looks forward to the challenge. “Those boats will leap 10 or 15 feet above the water and fly for 40 or 50 feet,” he explains. “A 70 m.p.h.-boat smacking into a white cap gives a real jolt. It’s a real kick if you can hang on.”


The race here had been postponed one day to June 14 because of high seas. But it was calm when the race started, the seas rolling softly with no white caps. Riggs jumped to an early lead and after rounding Bimini for Nassau on New Providence Island, across the Tongue of the Ocean, he was catching the rolling, rhythmic waves perfectly and surfing ahead. Just outside of Nassau he had a six-mile lead, but the racers had yet to circle the island and Golding’s Cay.


‘That Man Loves a Challenge’

“Aronow cut inside the cay,” said Riggs, shaking his head with a knowing smile. “That man loves a challenge. Even the natives steer clear of that water—it has piled up plenty of boats. When he came shooting out we were running dead even.”


   For the last 250 miles the two boats were always within a few boat lengths of each other, miles ahead of the other 28 en­trees. As they roared toward the finish, both were In the power boat’s “porpoising” rhythm. A wave would lift the bow high out the water, slightly slow­ing Its speed; then gracefully the slim hull would settle back down. “It looks great,” says Mercury’s Immel, “but it can wham you.”


First Aronow would forge ahead by a few feet and then Riggs would grab a momentary lead. “You’ve got to save a little for the finish. That’s called pacing yourself,” Aronow says. “But I thought Mel had won.”


Explained the easy going Riggs: “Either one of us might have won It. It just depended on whose turn it was out in front when we hit the finish. This race, well I’m plenty happy to be second. I’m just happy to have finished.”


Aronow smiled wanly at that. The wind had ripped his shirt to shreds and whipped away his racing helmet. When his wife, Shirley, kissed him after the race, he grinned, “I had to skip out on you, honey.” She said that at 2:30 that morning he had been running a 101-degree fever and didn’t believe that he could race. “When I woke up again this morning, he was already out in his boat, heading for the starting line.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sports Illustrated

 By: Hugh D. Whall – Sports Illustrated September 6th 1971

What goes up—in the spectacular world of offshore powerboat racing — always comes down hard. In November the “Double-O-­Seven” of Britain’s brave Tommy Sopwith, scion of the Tommy who built the legendary Camel plane, catches fire between bounces and sinks near the Dry Tortugas. Sopwith bails out into shark waters and is saved by world-champion-to-be Vincenzo Balestrieri of Italy. In April a fearful greenhorn grasps the sissy-bar so decisively in a rough South African race that his fingers split open like overdone franks. In May a 1,000-hp 36-footer swaps ends at 60 mph off Fort Lauderdale. In July another loops the loop off New Jersey. In any season, in or out of trouble, these seagoing missiles provide the color camera with scenes of extraor­dinary power and beauty, as the following pages show. Read on for the story of one champion who has found the formula for the quickest way across the bounding main.


Along the Brooklyn waterfront they still remember a rum-running boat called The Cigarette. Long, lean and rapid, she was built by one Benny Higgins for thirsty Irish-American free-enterprisers whose business was booze in the days when it was both profitable and illegal. One day, however, the gang lost The Cigarette to some other inventive businessmen who liked her lines and speed. Why waste time and fuel running Out to meet sup­pliers offshore, they had reasoned, when it was much easier to hijack other boats as they sped home. Embarrassed  by The Cigarette’s gangland fame, the Coast Guard ultimately captured her and made an honest boat of her.

When he began building his latest, fast­est crop of ocean racers, Miami’s Don Aronow recalled the infamously quick Cigarette and named his new hulls after her. And why not? He was a Brooklyn boy himself. Most recently a Cigarette piloted by world point leader Bill Wish-nick won the race across the strait from Sweden to Finland and back. Earlier, Cigarettes captured the Key West race, the Sam Griffith and the Bahamas 500, among other events, while putting together a remarkable victory string, in­cluding every race this year. In fact, they have been undefeated since the 1970 Mi­ami-Nassau crossing.

Among men who know their boats best, ocean racing has reached the point where, to win, it seems one must have a Cigarette. The present world champion, Vincenzo Balestrieri, has two—a 32-foot­er and a 36-footer. Dr. Robert Magoon drives a 36-footer, as do Wishnick and the Bahamas 500 winner, Doug Silvera. Roger Hanks of Texas duded up his model, called Blonde II, with handsome teak decks and an $8,600 set of tuned exhausts.

‘Aronow is the house,” says one driv­er. “No matter how the dice roll he’s got to come up winner.’

Like the original rum runner, Aro­now’s Cigarettes are long, low and lean. His 36’ hull has a beam of only 9’ 4”. By comparison, the stock hull nearest in dimensions is four feet shorter but nearly 1½ feet broader. This leggy slim­ness permits the Cigarettes to span the waves rather than pitch from crest to crest as a stubbier boat might. ‘These boats ride on their tails and the props stay in the water where they belong, always grinding,’~ says Aronow.

Aronow also gave the Cigarettes wid­er than usual strakes, those lift-provid­ing corrugations. “With wide strakes the boats do not roll from side to side the way they used to,” he explains.

Finally, Aronow provided “the most refined deep-V bottoms we have ever made.” In practice this means a Cig­arette is supposed to settle back into the water after a flight, not with a slam but a bouncy sigh. As a result, speeds are up and drivers’ fears of’ cardiac ex­periences down.

Twenty workmen craft the basic 32-foot and 36-foot racing models at Aro­now’s North Miami Beach plant. Each boat costs about $43,000 complete with either outboard engines or an inboard I outdrive setup. Aronow achieves light­ness—the 36-footer weighs only 7,700 pounds—without sacrificing strength. If, occasionally, a Cigarette rips apart un­der the stress of pounding the seas at nice­ly competitive 75-plus mph, that is part of the game. “It’s bound to happen,” says Aronow.

As a spin-off from his racers Aronow also molds several stock Cigarettes a year. They bear a close resemblance to the race boats, but in addition to con­taining more creature comforts, they also are smaller and heftier. When amateur drivers run them into things, Aronow doesn’t want his “civilian” Cigarettes to buckle.

When Aronow shows up for work of a morning—usually at the executive hour of 11 a.m. or so—he rolls up the sleeves of his open-throat silk shirt and goes out onto God’s own test tank, the open ocean. He concedes that conventional tanks, like the one at Stevens Institute in New Jersey, are O.K. for testing mod­els of sailing yachts, but he fails to see how a tank can tell how hard the ride is going to be for an ocean race-boat driv­er and his crew. Nor does he see how a tank can tell whether or not a boat will roll at top speed under varying sea con­ditions. He believes in performing full-scale experiments with full-scale models. “When I get that boat out there in the ocean,” he says, “I know what it can do and I know what we have to do to make it a faster boat and a better boat. So far we haven’t been wrong.”

Since he first began racing in a wood­en hull built in 1961, Aronow has ac­quired a unique fund of knowledge on racing boats and their behavior plus the customary collection of broken bones, bumps, bruises and a network of scars. He started building the hulls himself with a number called the Formula, progressed from Formula to Donzi, from Donzi to the Magnum. From Magnum he switched to Cary, whose boats he de­signed and raced but did not build. And with Cary he set a single-season record of eight major victories. Nine months ago he began anew with the Cigarettes, the culmination of his amazing decade in the sport.

But Aronow is not standing pat. He may even have a catamaran in his fu­ture. Until now, catamarans like the Zippé II on page 33 have been erratic per­formers, but as soon as someone dis­covers how to make them light enough to get up on a plane when fully loaded with fuel, there will be a 100-mph ocean racer. Or, at least, so Aronow believes. Of one thing you may be sure: no cat of Aronow’s will be a dog. —HUGH D. WHALL


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

February 20, 1983


ERIC SHARP- Herald Boating Writer


A few years ago, boatbuilder Don Aronow ran one of his speedboats past Alan Brown's Donzi shop and washed one of Brown's boats completely out of the water and onto the dock.

Brown took revenge by getting a pistol and shooting out all the lights at the back of Aronow's boat yard next door.

Aronow's carefully plotted retaliation against his old friend, former employe and rival began when a cohort signaled that Brown was standing on the dock. Aronow came ripping down the canal in one of his new Magnum boats at 70 miles per hour, trailing a huge wake and wearing a monstrous grin.


"He cut the throttle and threw the wheel over to wash me down with the wake," Brown recalls. "The only problem was that the throttle was broken and the boat never slowed down. The last we saw of Don, he and the boat jumped the seawall and disappeared into the woods at about 50."


Aronow, The Herald's 1983 South Florida Boater of the Year and the man who almost singlehandedly created the offshore powerboat boom, doubles over with laughter when reminded of the story.


"Oh, God, yeah," he says, a huge grin seaming his craggy face like the lines on a road map. "But did they tell you about the time a kid got a new jet-powered ski boat, and his dad asked me to test it for him? Well, we went out in the bay and came back down the canal here, doing 65, 70 m.p.h., with about 50 or 60 workmen from a couple of boat factories watching us.


"I decided to show off and go right down to the end at full speed, then spin it in a circle. When we got to where I was going to turn, I cut the power. I'd never driven a jet boat before, so I didn't know that without power you can't steer the damned things. There was a piling right in front of us with a seawall next to it, and I couldn't miss 'em."


The eight-foot-wide boat looked considerably worse for wear after Aronow made it fit through a five-foot-wide opening. He then drove the sinking craft over to the stunned crowd, hopped out and told the boat's owner, "See, kid. I saved your life. That boat's dangerous."


On another occasion, Aronow called the office and told his employes to send a trailer to pick up his Donzi at a public marina. When someone casually mentioned that the marina in question was a hard place to find a space to tie up a boat, Aronow answered, "That's no problem. The boat's up in the parking lot."


The ability of Aronow, who has won the world offshore powerboat title twice and the American championship three times, to laugh at himself also has made him one of the best-liked people in the boating industry. But it is his immense energy, acumen and capacity for work that has made him one of boating's most successful businessmen.


A small empire

Northeast 188th Street is a short street in North Miami Beach, four-tenths of a mile long and unpaved for one-third of its length. You can't even reach it directly. If you're coming north on Biscayne Boulevard, you have to turn on NE 187th Street to get to it.


It is along this unpretentious stretch of road -- still largely lined with Florida scrubland and concrete block and pre- fab buildings -- that Aronow founded and sold five companies that bear some of the hottest names in high-speed boating: Formula, Donzi, Magnum, Cigarette and Squadron XII.


"I never built a boat for the public," Aronow says. "I designed them for racing, and for myself. I was never in a position financially where I had to worry about whether the public would like it.


"To me, speed is the product of beauty. Look at the Concorde. To me, that's magnificent. The lines of speed made that airplane beautiful. They didn't have to do anything to make it look better. And we didn't have to jazz up our boats with hardware. They were beautiful because they were fast."


Aronow has sold Cigarette to a New York Firm called Integrated Resources. He was included in the deal as a consultant, and the sales contract limits him to building boats over 60 feet, under 24 feet, and those that use a surface effect system (similar to a hovercraft).


His office in the Cigarette complex in Miami is homey and comfortable. A built-in bookcase and shelves are filled with dozens of silver cups, plaques and bowls, racing trophies that are tarnished and dusty and obviously receive no care whatsoever. Aronow and his boats have won so many races that the silver bowls are nestled four and five deep, and they are only a fraction of the original number. He has given away trophies literally by the dozens.


Adorning the walls are ceramic lions and elephants, ship models in glass cases, and oil paintings and photographs of his latest passion, horse racing.


"I could always sleep comfortably the night before a big boat race. I'd just get in the boat and feel good and go. But it's so different with the horses. Before a race, I can feel my heart palpitating. I'm not light enough to ride, and it kills me. I guess it's because I'm in a situation where I don't have complete control."


His Aronow Stables at Ocala houses 60 horses, and he has started an ambitious breeding program that he says will net him 15 farm-produced two-year-olds at any given time.


"I'm trying to run it the way I run a boat business, to control everything ourselves. We have our own stud now, and we don't have to go outside for anything. I'm still claiming horses, but pretty soon we'll have enough of our own that we won't have to claim."


Last year, Aronow had a horse named Victorian Line that was a Kentucky Derby contender until he cracked a leg. This year, his Derby prospect is called My Mac. My Mac won the Tropical Park Derby in January, and the next big test is the Florida Derby March 5. But even if his horses never reach the Kentucky Derby, Aronow points out that the horses, which he bought for $30,000 each, have earned him more than $360,000 in prize money.


On the social scene

Four years ago, Aronow married the former Lillian Crawford, then a model for the Wilhelmina agency in New York whom he had met through a mutual friend, King Hussein of Jordan. Her father, James Crawford III, was a famed blue-water yachtsman and ocean racer.


Aronow says his wife is "a pretty good little athlete" who ran her own 16-foot Donzi from Palm Beach to New York when she was 16, long before she met the man who built it.


"We met in Palm Beach," he says. "She was going through a divorce, and I was going through a divorce, and we just kind of hit it off."


While the rough edges have not been entirely scraped off, Aronow has become a prominent fixture in the Palm Beach and New York social set. He has homes in Southampton, Long Island and New York City, in addition to his South Florida residence.


Aronow has four children, three from his first marriage and one from his second. His oldest son, Michael, is a horse trainer in New York.


"My kids range from 33 to 3," says Aronow. "Michael is doing real well as a trainer. He doesn't work for the Ocala farm, although he has trained horses for me."


Michael is in a wheelchair, the result of an automobile accident while he was a 19-year-old University of Florida student.


"Mike was like me, kind of a wild kid," Aronow says. "He and a friend were going to see a couple of girls in Tennessee at the time, and they crashed at 100 m.p.h. The other boy was killed."


He shook his head and said, "All those years, I never took my kids in a raceboat with me. I was afraid they'd get hurt during a race and I'd have to slow down. Then Michael gets badly injured in a car wreck."


Reckless abandon

Aronow himself has survived numerous wrecks in boats, cars (hot cars and vintage autos also are passions of his), and motorcycles (he has wrecked three of them.)


While discussing the latter, he points to a scar near his left eye and says, "There's my last motorcycle accident, last year. I hadn't been on a bike in years, and Lillian decides she wants to ride one. So I say, 'Well, I'd better test it before you get on it. So I get on and ride around near the house, and by about the third time around I'm getting pretty cocky again and going faster. Then: Wham. Down I go on some sand." It took 52 stiches on his face and 32 on his body to repair the damage.


Ironically, Aronow insists that "I'm not really a boater. I don't even own a boat right now. I really don't care much about going for pleasure cruises."


"Jim Wynne's a boater, and Dick Bertram's a boater, guys that know about knots and docking and stuff like that. But I'm a racer and a builder and an experimenter. I've tested every new boat myself, and I love the competition."


He has achieved something with his boats that is the ultimate mark of success: As Xerox has become a generic term for all copying machines even though there are numerous other brands, so has Cigarette become a generic term for the offshore speedboat.


And every time some drug smuggler is caught in what is described as "a Cigarette-type boat," Aronow simply grins, realizing the truth in the old saying about not caring what they say about you as long as they spell your name right.


Besides, he knows that stories about police and customs officers who track down smugglers will talk about the officers' "Cigarette-type boats," many of which have been seized from the bad guys.


Donald Joel Aronow, 55, is the product of a middle-class upbringing in the Sheepshead Bay region of New York City. He says he was "something of a juvenile delinquent" until he was 17, when he began attending King's Point and Brooklyn College "and I had to deal with adults on an adult basis."


He earned a degree in education and taught for six months in a junior high school but quit because "I just couldn't make a living at it. I had a wife and a kid by the time I graduated from college, and teachers weren't paid anything."


In college, he picked up extra money buying and selling war-surplus equipment, especially marine gear, but he would handle anything that could turn a profit. He once bought an Army surplus bulldozer in the Bronx and had to deliver it to Brooklyn at the other end of New York City. Aronow sidestepped the usual problems of getting such a monster delivered; he went to an Army surplus store, bought a set of fatigues and GI helmet and drove the thing through city streets.


Aronow then went to work for the construction firm owned by the family of his first wife, Shirley, and learned the business. He then struck out on his own, putting up housing developments and shopping centers at a pace that made him a millionaire before 30 and sent him into retirement at age 32, mostly as a relief from what had become a boring job.


Fast crowd

He moved to South Florida, where he fell in with a fast- moving crowd of gamblers and boat racers. Offshore racing in those days was an incredibly rugged sport, one in which macho determination was more important than skill. Rocky Marciano, the world heavyweight boxing champion, once decided to go along for a race from Miami to Nassau and back. At Nassau, the bruised and bleeding boxer crawled out of the boat and refused to get back in, flying home later that day.


Aronow started racing in 1962 in a deep-vee boat designed by Wynne, but those early deep-vees were a far cry from today's offshore powerboats. The deadrise on the hulls was not great enough, and the boats were so short that riding in one in a big sea was like doing 50 miles an hour in a car that was being dropped from a height of 10 feet or so five times per minute.


It was late 1963 when Aronow started the Formula Boat Co., which initially was a tax dodge to finance a new 23-footer he had Wynne design for him. That boat proved successful, mostly because it was strong enough to withstand Aronow's brutal, push- it-till-it-breaks style of driving.


Brown, now located just down NE 188th Street from Cigarette as president of the rival Cougar Marine USA, remembers running a race in the Houston ship channel with Aronow when the latter started Donzi Marine in the mid-60s.


"We could do maybe 65 m.p.h., and the race included hydroplanes and GN boats that would do over 100," Brown says. "We were running way back in the pack, a half-mile behind the leaders, when we crossed Galveston Bay. Then we came up on three tugboats and a couple of oil tankers. All of the other boats came off plane when they saw those huge wakes. Don never brought the throttle back an inch. By the time we crossed their wakes, we were a half mile ahead."


Aronow soon began designing boats himself, and in 1969 he came up with a 32-footer that he called The Cigarette, after a Prohibition era rumrunner. It was a brute of a boat and was virtually uncontrollable (a year later he sold it to two Australian friends, brothers Val and Paul Carr, who were killed when they turned it over at 70 m.p.h.).


But it flew in big seas, ripping through six-foot waves at nearly 80 m.p.h. in an era when 70 was fast on flat water. If you could keep the deck pointed upright, nothing could touch it. That was the year Aronow earned his second world championship by winning eight of 11 races, a string of victories that stood until 1977, when there were many more races in which to compete.


Aronow's go-for-it attitude brought him plenty of setbacks along with racing victories. It took three years before he realized that he was losing races he might have won if he had not insisted on keeping the boat going full speed no matter what the sea conditions. In another race, the boat was taking a horrible beating when Brown, who was riding along as navigator, said, "You know, we can still win this even if we back off a little." Aronow stared at him for several seconds, grinned, and then shoved the throttles wide open. That time, the boat held together.


Before a race in Italy, Aronow's longtime friend and mechanic, Knocky House, ran up and said the Italian dock workers had refused to lower the boat into the water unless they received a bribe. Furious, Aronow ran down the dock, looked back and yelled, "Is this the guy, Knocky?" When House confirmed that it was, Aronow delivered a right-hand punch that knocked the crane operator into the water. Aronow then climbed into the cab of the crane and lowered the boat himself.


Aronow and his cohorts also had highly inflated opinions of themselves as ladies men. Four of them once made a bet. They each put $100 into a kitty, and the money was to go to the first man who could pick up a girl in a local bar and get her to leave with him.


"Well, we went into the bar, and we each picked out a good- looking girl and started talking to her. Then I saw Aronow come in," recalls one of the competitors. "He looked around, picked out the ugliest woman in that bar and sat down next to her. Five minutes later, he whispered something in her ear, and they left before the rest of us had finished our first drink."


Larger than life

Aronow is one of those people commonly described as larger than life. You can almost see him vibrating with energy. He is extremely restless, toying with pencils and papers when on the telephone. When he walks, shorter people have to scurry to keep up with his powerful, 6-3, 210-pound frame.


Aronow's top priority now is his Surface Effect Ship, which really is a surface effect boat, a 45-foot tunnel hull that uses a 170-horsepower gasoline engine to lift the boat off the water by blowing a cushion of air underneath. Then two 400-horsepower gas engines turn twin No. 3 Speedmaster outdrives to drive the boat at 60 m.p.h.


"This would make one hell of a pleasure yacht," Aronow says as he stands on the big yellow boat, obviously already envisioning such craft skimming over seas from South Florida to the Mediterranean. "And can you imagine what kind of houseboat it would make. You could build these up to 110 feet long. Power them with diesels. I think this is the big boat of the future, although you still can't beat a deep vee for real rough water."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

March 11, 1984


ERIC SHARP- Herald Boating Writer

The man who made the deep-vee offshore boat the ne plus ultra of rough-water racing says his new catamaran has made the deep-vee obsolete.

"Look at this! Can you do this with any deep-vee you can think of?" Don Aronow asked as he put the 39-foot cat into a locked- wheel, hands-off turn at 60 miles per hour while slicing across three- to four- foot seas on the Atlantic off Baker's Haulover. "And feel it in your feet. No pounding. This is the best rough-water ride you'll ever come across."


The high-pressure, high-energy dean of blue-water speed demons virtually began the deep-vee revolution 20 years ago when he designed the Donzi 27 and drove it to numerous offshore championships.

A lot of people think the Bertrams of that day were just as good, but they didn't have a Don Aronow behind the wheel, jamming his boat to victory through seas that left other boats broken and their crews battered.


The next big step also came from Aronow. It was the 35-foot Cigarette, which dominated the sport for years and was copied shamelessly.

"When the deep-vee came along, that was a breakthrough over flat-bottomed boats," said Aronow. "This catamaran is the next step."

While Aronow's earlier evolutions brought the drivers ever closer to the edge of disaster because of their increased speed, the new cat should appeal to those who like the rough-water ride of a deep-vee but also are concerned with safety.


Aronow's boat is not a racing catamaran like those built by Cougar Corp. a half mile from his new USA Racing Team on NE 188th Street (a road, incidentally, that holds in its short stretch no less than five boat-building companies started by Aronow).

Cougar cats have dominated offshore racing in recent years. The 38- to 40-footers run well in excess of 100 m.p.h. with 1,500 horsepower, and the new 50-foot supercats top out at about 135 with 2,800 horsepower.


But the raceboats are designed to carry two or three people, they tend to be wet, and they must slow considerably in seas over three feet because the tunnel between the hulls is relatively low and starts pounding on the waves.


Aronow's version, being marketed as the Bluewater Catamaran, has a narrowed tunnel between the hulls but also is deeper, giving more clearance above the waves. Aronow said the unusual shape of this tunnel compresses the air as the boat drops onto a wave, cushioning the impact.

Also, while cats often have a hard time getting up on plane, this one pops up like a small runabout, and the twin chines on each hull keep it flat as it reaches planing speed. The boat rides so flat that it does not have trim tabs, just in/ out trim controls for the outdrives.

The version Aronow uses for demonstrations has twin 440- horsepower Mercury engines and tops out at 61 m.p.h. It is equipped with twin Mercruiser outdrives, standard versions rather than the Speedmaster racing models.


"We could put full race engines in this boat and get close to 100, but why would we?" Aronow said. "It's the same reason we wouldn't race this boat on the offshore circuit. We can't beat the racing cats in smooth water, and when it really gets rough now, they postpone the race. This boat is for the guy who wants to go fast in rough water offshore, but he wants to do it with a safer, more comfortable ride than he'd get in a vee."

The Bluewater Cat is 39 feet two inches long, 11 1/2 feet in beam and weighs about 9,500 pounds. It has considerably more freeboard than most cats -- 38 inches -- and the tunnel is four feet wide. ("Don't print that," Aronow said, grinning. "Make them measure it themselves before they rip it off."). It

goes for $130,000, and Aronow said he has sold seven.


Aronow's plant is building a twin-diesel, 75- to 80-m.p.h. version that Willie Meyers will race in the inaugural, 1,400- mile Round Britain Offshore Powerboat Race next July, a wild and demanding event that will see the competitors circumnavigate England, Wales and Scotland in 10 daily stages ranging from 60 to 185 miles each.


"Top speed isn't going to be as important in this race as endurance," said Meyers. "You race in the Atlantic Ocean, Irish Sea, North Sea and the English Channel, and it can get very, very rough. I think this boat is going to be ideal for those conditions."

Blasting down the Intracoastal Waterway, Aronow slowed to about 40 for a few seconds to make sure no one was in our way as we went under the Haulover Bridge. Then he slammed the throttles all the way forward, where they stayed for the next 10 minutes until we slowed to yell to a deep-vee Cigarette 35 to see if it wanted to race.


The handling on the new cat is spectacular, literally one- finger control even while making turns at full throttle with the wheel locked hard over.

The boat does turn inside a vee-hull, and it does so with virtually no fuss or heel, even in a four-foot sea. The 35-foot Cigarette, equipped with twin 540-horsepower engines, had a speed advantage of about 12 m.p.h. and pulled away from us as we ran away from the beach. But once we hit the four-foot rollers offshore, the deep-vee started to fly off the wave tops and we soon were closing on the other boat.


"I wish it was even rougher," Aronow said. "The rougher it gets, the better it is for us. When you get down to it, what we have here is two deep-vee hulls, split apart, going into the water. This boat is fun to ride. A vee-hull isn't in a sea like this; it's work."


While the driver of the deep-vee worked hard at the wheel to keep the boat tracking and upright and the throttleman continuously worked the engines, we scooted along with the throttles shoved wide open, the steering wheel centered and our arms crossed on our chests.

Aboard the cat, the ride was so soft the passengers could brace themselves in the bolsters without holding onto the grab rails. On the deep-vee, we could see the three- man crews' heads snap forward every time the boat touched down on a big wave.


Steering on Aronow's boat is wonderfully precise. Aronow's idea of driving is to turn no more than necessary to avoid objects in his path, and at first it was unnerving to watch steel daymark posts and buoys and concrete bridge supports rip past only a couple of feet away at 60 m.p.h. And I apologize to the guys in the 40-foot ketch whose stern we shaved by five feet on our way offshore (they were where Aronow wanted to go).

Running back to the plant on 188th Street, Aronow whipped up behind the Cigarette and put the Cat's left sponson on the wake and the right sponson on the flat water on the outside. He took his hands off the wheel and the cat continued to run straight and true, heeled at 20 degrees.


"Isn't this the way you'd like a boat to run?" he asked. And for a guy who thinks stability comes way ahead of speed, there wasn't any answer but, "Yep."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

PATRICK MAY and REINALDO RAMOS Miami Herald Staff Writers    Wednesday, February 4, 1987


Aronow, 59, who won two world powerboat racing championships and went on to breed and race horses, was hit by four or five bullets fired from a car that pulled up beside his on Northeast 188th Street, behind the Loehmann's Shopping Center.

According to witnesses, both drivers stopped in the road, facing opposite directions. Aronow rolled down his window, spoke a few words and was shot. The other car made a U-turn and disappeared.

The engine and air conditioning of Aronow's white Mercedes were still running when Bobby Moore, one of his longtime friends, reached him. "He had rolled the window down on the driver's side and apparently the guy opened fire on him at close range," Moore said.

"I could see that one of the bullets had gone through the car door. There was so much blood on him, it was hard to tell how many times he had been hit, but I could see he had been shot in the neck and jaw."

The motive for the killing was not known.

"I've been with him so long, I'd know if there were any problems," said Patty Lezaca, Aronow's secretary and office manager for 15 years. She notified Aronow's wife, Lillian, who was at Mount Sinai Medical Center when he died there at 4:45 p.m., about 15 minutes after the Metro-Dade Air Rescue helicopter brought him. Dr. Stuart Lerman, chief of emergency medicine at the hospital, said Aronow died of blood loss, but the wounds alone would have been fatal. "He was on artificial life support when he arrived here."

During a 25-year career as a designer, builder and racer of powerboats, Aronow founded the Formula, Donzi, Magnum, Cigarette and Squadron XII boat companies, all on Northeast 188th Street. Aronow, who lived on Miami Beach, is best-known for the rakish Cigarette, a dip-nosed speed craft he designed for racing. Its name has become the generic term for the boats most favored by smugglers racing loads of marijuana and cocaine ashore from freighters in the Gulf Stream.

Aronow, who lived at a speed comparable to that of his boats, enjoyed the association. He made up for it by designing and building an even faster boat, nicknamed Blue Thunder, for the U.S. Customs Service. Once, he gave Vice President George Bush a hair-raising ride on Blue Thunder. Bush also owns a 28- foot Cigarette boat designed by Aronow and built by the Cigarette Racing Team of North Miami Beach.

In recent years, although he had sold the boat companies, he remained a consultant with an office at Cigarette and operated the USA Racing Team on the same street. He also had been active in the growth of a successful racehorse breeding farm, Aronow Stables, in Ocala. One of his horses, My Mac, ran in the 1983 Kentucky Derby.

Tuesday afternoon, he left his office at Cigarette and stopped for a visit with Robert Saccenti, a former protege. Saccenti heads Apache Performance Boats at 3161 NE 188th St.

Aronow was leaving there when he was shot, said Metro-Dade police spokesman Glenn Stolzenberg. He said the driver of the other car stopped beside Aronow's white Mercedes 450 SL sports car. Stolzenberg said it was not known if the drivers knew one another.

Lezaca, an officer in all Aronow's corporations, said she talked with many people who heard the shots, saw what happened or heard about it from witnesses. She works in his USA Racing Team office.

"He was in a meeting this morning at another company and came in after that, around 2 p.m.," she said. "He stayed an hour or so, dropped off his mail and said 'I'll see you tomorrow.' "

His next stop was Apache Performance.

"The other car was parked across the street -- a dark car with the windows tinted, sitting across the street like they were watching him," Lezaca said. "He was driving out of the parking lot when he was shot. Mr. Aronow wound his window down and they shot him."

Lezaca ran out to the street when she heard what had happened.

"I believe he took five bullets," she said. "one in his wrist, one around the jaw, another right through his chest and apparently another through the car door. When I went down, I saw him lying in the middle of the street and paramedics were working on him."

At Apache Performance Boats, a man who would not give his name said a witness described the murderer's car as a late-model black Lincoln, and reported Aronow spoke with someone in it just before he was shot.

Moore said he was told a passer-by tried to stop the fleeing suspect. "Someone said a car was heading west, in the same direction as Don," Moore said.

"The driver must have seen the shooting because when the guy in the Lincoln tried to pull away, the oncoming car pulled across the street and tried to stop his getaway. You can see the tire marks on the lawn where the Lincoln had to pull up on the grass to get around the car blocking the street."

- Herald staff writers Arnold Markowitz and Jim Hardie contributed to this report.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

February 4, 1987



Don Aronow loved speed. When he died Tuesday, shot at close range on a North Dade street by someone in a car with tinted windows, he had already devoted the last 25 years of his life to racing, first with the speedboats he designed, later with horses.

"To me, speed is the product of beauty," Aronow said in 1983. "Look at the Concorde supersonic passenger aircraft. To me, that's magnificent. They didn't have to do anything to make it look better. And we didn't have to jazz up our boats with hardware. They were beautiful because they were fast."

Aronow, 59, a boat designer described as "the godfather of powerboat racing," died a fast death, too. Witnesses said someone in a Lincoln Continental laid in wait for Aronow as he left a boat shop on Northeast 188th Street. A few words were exchanged when the gunman suddenly fired five shots at Aronow, sitting in his white Mercedes inches away.

Aronow, who almost single-handedly created the offshore powerboat boom, was shot in the middle of a road that was a veritable monument to the man: Both sides are lined with dry docks that store hundreds of the Aronow-designed Cigarette boats. Many of the boat companies had been founded by Aronow.

"You can't say powerboats without using his name," said Mike Thaler, who used to do odd jobs around Aronow boat shops. "He is the one who started it all. He is powerboat racing."

Like the boats he designed and the racehorses he bred, Aronow led a fast life. He was a friend of kings and celebrities. And he was a hard-driving man who had won the world offshore powerboat title twice.

Aronow's boat-racing life, which began after he retired from the construction business in New York and moved south in 1960, was ripe with anecdotes that made Aronow seem larger than life.

During an offshore powerboat race off Long Beach, Calif., for example, Aronow collided with a helicopter when a huge wave swelled beneath him, lifting him and his boat skyward and into the bottom of the chopper.

Although Aronow was notorious for pulling dangerous pranks, often to harass business competitors, friends said the man's ability to laugh at himself made him one of the best-liked people in the boating industry.

"To me, Mr. Aronow had a good heart," said Patty Lezaca, 43, who has worked as Aronow's corporate secretary almost 16 years. "I can't say anything bad about him. He had no enemies." Friends said it was Aronow's immense energy and capacity for work that made him one of boating's most successful businessmen. Along the street where he was shot are some of the companies Aronow founded and sold, bearing the hottest names in high-speed boating: Formula, Donzi, Magnum, Cigarette and Squadron XII.

Donald Joel Aronow, who would have turned 60 on March 1, was brought up in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn. After a short teaching career, Aronow went into the construction business, putting up buildings at a pace that made him a millionaire before 30 and sent him into retirement at age 32, mostly as a relief from what had become a boring job.

"When he came down here in 1960," Lezaca said, "he bought himself a boat, but he was unhappy with its construction so he decided to design one himself."

It was a decision that would make him famous throughout the world. "He started with the Formula," Lezaca said. "Then he founded Donzi, which was named after him, then Magnum. He sold that and started Cigarette," the sleek craft favored by, among others, South Florida drug smugglers. In 1981, Aronow sold Cigarette, the company that produced the boat he designed in 1969 and modeled after a Prohibition-era rumrunner.

In 1973, Aronow started an ambitious horse-breeding program. His Aronow Stables at Ocala now houses more than 100 horses, Lezaca said. "They race all over South Florida, as well as at tracks in Kentucky, Ohio, New York and Maryland."

Friends were confounded after learning of Aronow's murder, a slaying that looked suspiciously like a planned execution. "It sure sounds like a hit to me," said Ana Barnett, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami. She said she had met Aronow through his work with the U.S. Customs. She said it was ironic that some of the designer's boats were used simultaneously by drug smugglers and the Customs agents trying to snag them off South Florida's coast.

"I know he had designed Blue Thunder," Barnett said, referring to the high-powered catamaran designed to catch Cigarette boats.

After divorcing his first wife, Shirley, with whom he had three children, Aronow married Lillian Crawford, a one-time model for the Wilhelmina agency in New York whom he had met through a mutual friend, King Hussein of Jordan. According to Lezaca, they had their second child, a boy, just four months ago.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

August 29, 1987




International powerboat racing champion and boat builder Benjamin Barry Kramer was ordered held without bond Friday on charges that he ran a criminal enterprise that distributed more than half a million pounds of marijuana Nationwide.

In a two-count federal indictment handed up in Southern Illinois, Kramer, 33, was charged with running a continuing criminal enterprise in at least 11 states, including Florida, between 1980 and June of this year. That charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Kramer also was accused of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

The Illinois indictment claims that Kramer distributed at least four large marijuana shipments, worth $305 million wholesale, in New York, San Francisco and New Orleans between 1983 and 1986.

Friday afternoon, federal agents swarmed into Kramer's Fort Apache Marina, 3025 NE 188th St., sealing it off until they can determine who owns the nearly 200 boats stored there. Kramer's property will be seized under a sealed warrant issued Friday. Agents also seized the property at Fort Apache Marine, at 2800 N. 30th Ave., Hollywood, a boat repair facility where the molds for Kramer's high-powered offshore boats are stored.

Kramer was arrested Thursday at his Williams Island residence as he prepared to leave for a powerboat race in Bay City, Mich. His boat, named Apache, was seized in Bay City.

Kramer appeared before U.S. Magistrate William Turnoff Friday, who ordered him held until a bond hearing Monday.

"We consider him to be an extreme risk of flight," assistant U.S. attorney Dan Cassidy said. "We consider him to be an extreme danger to the community."

Kramer, convicted of marijuana smuggling in 1978, will be tried in Benton, Ill.

Known as a brash and impatient man and a superb skipper, Kramer rose to powerboat prominence while associated with Robert Saccenti, a boat builder and the protege of the late Don Aronow. Kramer and Saccenti won the 1986 United States Open Class Offshore Powerboat Racing Championship and the 1984 world title.

Aronow was gunned down Feb. 3 just after visiting Kramer and Saccenti's Apache Performance Boats. Aronow's own company, USA Racing Team, is nearby. Kramer's lawyers said their client was not involved in Aronow's death, which is unsolved.

"There's no indication that I received whatever that he's involved in the Aronow case," attorney David Bogunschutz said.

Lt. Jerry Burgin of the Metro-Dade police homicide unit said he could not comment on who is or isn't a suspect.

FBI agents in Illinois came across Kramer's alleged smuggling operation while on the trail of race car driver Randy Lanier of Davie. Now a fugitive, Lanier failed to appear in court after his Jan. 23 indictment on a marijuana smuggling charge. Lanier is one of several unindicted co-conspirators in the Kramer indictment.

At the time of his arrest, Kramer was under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service and New Scotland Yard.

Dubbed Operation Man, the investigation has targeted marijuana smuggling and money laundering schemes in Britain's Isle of Man, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the tiny European principality of Liechtenstein.

The Illinois indictment returned Wednesday pressed DEA and IRS agents into action, DEA spokesman Jack Hook said. When agents learned that Kramer's associates were liquidating his assets -- estimated at $15 million -- they moved to seize them, Hook said.

Most of the vessels at Fort Apache Marina are owned by boaters who pay monthly storage fees. Agents began an inventory Friday, telling owners their boats would have to stay ashore until at least noon Monday.

One owner, Andrea Pardes, was miffed that her weekend of boating was ruined.

"This is real cute, you know that?" she said. "Just wait till the innocent victims can't get their boats."

Kramer purchased the property for his marina with the help of Don Whittington, a Broward race car driver who pleaded guilty last year to drug and tax evasion charges, Hook said. Whittington helped Kramer negotiate for the purchase, he said.

The Fort Apache Marina, which has slips and dry storage for about 200 boats, was built with $3.6 million from Kramer's smuggling operation, Hook said. He allegedly hid his company's ownership behind shell companies, Hook said. Kramer allegedly set himself up as the renter of Fort Apache Marina and, Hook said, and then paid himself $60,000 a month rent.

Saccenti, Kramer's partner, could not be reached for comment.

Paul Teresi, the agent in charge of the DEA's Fort Lauderdale office, said, "Our information does not indicate that he is associated with this particular block that we are seizing."

Apache Performance Boats, located at 3161 NE 188th St, was not seized.

Kramer's father Jack speculated his son's arrest was meant to put the squeeze on someone else.

"This is from something that happened back in 1978 and 1979," Jack Kramer said. "I don't know why they've done this."

Operation Man has resulted in 15 indictments thus far, Teresi said, including that of Elton Gissendanner, the former director of the Florida Department of Natural Resources. Gissendanner was indicted June 22 on an extortion charge that claims he accepted $80,000 from a convicted smuggler in exchange for recommending that convict receive probation. Gissendanner pleaded not guilty.

DEA agent Teresi said the Kramer investigation is continuing.

BEN KRAMER: BOAT CHAMP, LIFESAVER IS REIGNING U.S. open class offshore powerboat champion, winning the title last September in a race that began at Government Cut off Miami Beach.

SAVED throttleman Bob Saccenti's life after a crash Sept. 9 in Rochester, N.Y., that nearly killed Kramer himself.

WON the 1984 offshore powerboat open class world championship.

IN MAY 1986, he helped save Hollywood restaurateur Joe Sonken, whose car plunged off a dock into the Intracoastal Waterway near the Gold Coast Restaurant. Kramer and a restaurant bartender dived into the water and freed Sonken from his car, pulling him to shore.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

January 31, 1988

PATRICK MAY - Herald Staff Writer

The speed demon called Donzi was gunned down a year ago Wednesday. Whoever ambushed race-boat builder extraordinaire Don Aronow is still out there. So are enough hypotheses to fill a shelf of pulp suspense novels.

Take your pick:

Jealous husband. Nervous smuggler. Vengeful mobster. Or a fellow boat builder who felt Aronow had stiffed him.


Homicide detectives are as stumped as ever. So are the private investigators hired by Aronow's widow. One lead after another has self-destructed. Cops thought boat racer Ben Kramer, indicted on drug charges last August, might be their man -- but nothing shook out. The lead detective had a sneaking suspicion about a certain jealous husband who might have ordered the hit. But beyond a gut feeling, zip.


Here was Donald Joel Aronow, 59, the self-made millionaire; the acknowledged guru of the offshore powerboat set who built and named the celebrated Donzi after himself; the rich and handsome deal-doer who was adored by friends and family, killed on Northeast 188th Street in broad daylight.


When the stranger in the dark Lincoln Town Car calmly shot Aronow in the chest, blasting his way down to the groin, on a street lined with boat companies the victim had founded, he killed one legend and created another -- bestowing upon Don Aronow even more intrigue in death than he had in life.


"Everybody has a story," says Dr. Bob Magoon, Miami Beach eye surgeon, offshore racing champion and one of Aronow's best friends for 20 years.


"That's the problem with this thing -- the further the cops got into, the more rumors they'd hear. You've got 50,000 stories, and still, every lead has led no place."


Metro-Dade homicide detective Mike DeCora has followed "easily 1,000 leads." He has spoken with everyone from a space case on the Beach who claimed to be Elvis Presley's daughter to yes men of George Bush, vice president and good pal of the victim.


"I have a list of people we haven't eliminated yet," DeCora says. "Less than a dozen."


Yet despite a $100,000 reward offered by Aronow's widow Lillian, a composite drawing of the murderer and a description of his car circulated across the United States, police say they have no idea who killed Aronow -- or why.


Investigative paperwork abounds: For example, to try to track down the suspect's car, cops got a computer printout of 2,000 Town Cars sold in Florida. It has taken a year to check out half.


Ambition was Aronow's middle name: "He could be your best friend, but in business, he was all business," detective DeCora says. With a vengeance, Aronow bought and sold racehorses. He sold high-tech boats to the world: the Israeli government. Baby Doc Duvalier. King Hussein of Jordan. He designed and built a line of sassy speedboats nicknamed Blue Thunder for the U.S. Customs Service.


He sold George Bush a boat and Aronow took a lot of calls in his kitchen from the vice president. And he sold the sleek, super-fast Cigarette boats to characters, as DeCora put it, "with doper written all over their face."


When Aronow was murdered, Bush's office called DeCora to check on things.


"Can I help?" King Hussein also asked.


"I don't think we ever even scratched the surface of the world he moved in," DeCora says. "We still don't have a solid motive. And without a motive, we can't focus on one person."


Last week in Miami, though, with the anniversary of the boat builder's death approaching, motives were still washing ashore. Here are just four:


The Angry Husband Theory


A high-performance ladies' man, Aronow reportedly once leaned over at a large dinner party and whispered to a friend: "I've had every woman at this table."


His wife Lillian insists her husband was true to her. "And I think she really believes that," DeCora says. "But his first wife, Shirley, told me: 'I used to think he was true blue, too, when I was married to him. Only later did I find out that that wasn't the case."'


No one doubts Lillian's assertion that Aronow came straight home after work each night. After a year's silence about the murder of her husband, Lillian told The Herald last week: "It was the happiest time of his life. We were moving into a wonderful phase, with the new house, the new baby. The horses were winning. Everything was just wonderful. It was really a total fantasy."


Could her husband have had a paramour?


"The man was home at six o'clock every night for dinner. He was reaching into the refrigerator and I'd say, Honey you have to wait. He was so Father Knows Best, you wouldn't believe it."


But daytime was another story. People say Aronow would come and go -- to the office, the track, the magnificent waterfront home he was renovating on North Bay Road in Miami Beach. He'd travel alone to his stables in Ocala, DeCora says. He was a very hard man to trace.


"There were allegations," DeCora says, "rumors that he had extramarital affairs. Three women were named. We talked to them and they all vehemently denied it, said they were just friends of Aronow's."


"That's ridiculous," says Magoon, the eye doctor. "He may have had girls here and there, but that's not the reason he was killed. He was such a dynamic guy -- he was into all sorts of things."


Don Soffer, Turnberry developer and a friend and customer of Aronow's, said: "If that were the case, it would have surfaced long ago. Had there been another woman involved, people would have known about it. Don was not the kind of guy to sneak around corners. I'd discount that theory completely."


The Mob Hit Theory


Did Aronow have ties to organized crime during his years in the construction business in New Jersey?


He made a fortune building homes and shopping centers; by 28 he was a millionaire. Some say he "retired" to Florida with $2 million. Some say he was fleeing. Others say he continued to work with the mob while he opened one successful boat-building firm after another.


A man who calls himself an "old friend" of Aronow's: "I heard it was a mob-type deal and they'd been trailing him for 17 days to do it in some bizarre place. That two guys were involved.


"The fairy tale," he says, "was that the second car was a crash car, someone acting like an innocent bystander who would run into whatever car tried to give chase. The story about his retiring from New Jersey was bull. He was in the mob up there -- he wasn't a builder. He grabbed his wife and kids and blew down here, stayed six months in a hotel. Up there it was pretty unwholesome. And he had tremendous mob ties down here."


DeCora doubts it. "We checked out the mob theory," he says. "He had friends in New Jersey -- quote mobsters unquote -- and we talked to them and to authorities and he didn't owe anybody anything. He was really a self-made man."


Says Aronow's son Michael, 37: "He had no mob connections at all. He made it on his own, did everything by himself. No one helped him. He worked for his father-in-law in New Jersey. I've heard it all before."


But people say Aronow was a pal of gangster Meyer Lansky.


"Don knew all sorts of people," eye surgeon Magoon says. "But so what? I knew Meyer. He was a patient of mine. I'd see him once a year for a checkup. I used to love talking to him. I thought of him simply as this nice little old Jewish man. I don't know what that means."


Turnberry's Soffer on the mob link: "That's a total lie. That's a Disneyland movie."


The Kramer Theory


Detective DeCora wonders. "From early on, Ben Kramer was one of the more promising suspects. All I can say is that he has not been eliminated as a suspect." Kramer, a world-class powerboat racer, built boats at Fort Apache Marina, just down Northeast 188th Street from Aronow's USA Racing Team. Aronow was gunned down moments after visiting Kramer's dealership.


Kramer is in jail, awaiting trial on charges he distributed more than a million pounds of marijuana nationwide. He and his father Jack also were indicted last year on federal money- laundering charges in Miami. Kramer's lawyers have denied their client was involved in Aronow's murder.


The Kramer-Aronow link still bothers DeCora: "Kramer was the big one we looked at on the street. Because of his background" -- Kramer was convicted of marijuana smuggling in 1978 -- "and because of his dealings with the victim, there maybe was some animosity between the two."


The detective says Kramer had bought USA Racing from Aronow for $600,000 in 1985. But when the U.S. government said it would withdraw from its Blue Thunder contract if Kramer kept the company, Aronow bought it back, DeCora says. "It appears Kramer lost on the deal."


Mike Aronow: "Kramer has nothing to do with nothing."


Lillian: "I've never even met the Kramers. That's just nonsense."


The IRS/Drug Theory


Goes like this: Aronow was selling fast boats to drug dealers for cash. Federal authorities, unable to beat the smugglers at their high-speed offshore game, decide instead to go after the profits.


As a straight-up, everything-by-the-book businessman, Aronow not only talked to the feds -- he talked too much, some people think.


"The IRS was trying to catch them like they caught Capone," says an Aronow associate, "and Don was the only guy who could testify that yes, I sold so-and-so 10 boats for a million in cash."


Turnberry's Soffer: "That's my theory. A lot of these guys buy stuff for cash. Don was an honest businessman and reported all his stuff. Now we know these drug guys are all crazy and don't care if a life can save them 10 minutes. Someone was afraid Don would testify for the government against some guy who doesn't even have a green card and is buying a $150,000 boat with cash."


Detective DeCora tends to discount this theory. He says Aronow agreed to testify only once for the government -- and that was only on public records in Virginia. DeCora says there were no hard feelings between the parties.


There's a variation on the IRS/Drug Theory. Some say Aronow allowed his boats and facilities to be used by smugglers.


Son Mike doesn't buy it.


"No one knows what happened," he says. "But it's not related to Kramer or drugs in any way. That's the biggest joke of all. That's stupid. That's No. 1 in stupidity. My father was the cleanest guy in the world. He had nothing to do with those idiots. He owned the street."


A year after the murder, Mike clings to his own explanation about his father: "I treat it like he's away on vacation and I'm just waiting for him to come back."


Herald boating writer Eric Sharp contributed to this report.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

June 13, 1990


ARNOLD MARKOWITZ - Herald Staff Writer


Robert S. Young, a convict with cocaine conspiracy and murder charges on his rap sheet, has been charged with the murder of speedboat builder-racer Don Aronow, one of South Florida's most sensational crimes of the 1980s.

Young, already a federal prisoner in Oklahoma with a 10- year narcotics sentence imposed there and two earlier Florida state court sentences still to serve, was indicted for the Aronow murder by a Dade County grand jury on March 28. That was kept secret until Tuesday, when he was brought back from Oklahoma City.

Aronow was killed during the afternoon of Feb. 3, 1987, on a block of Northeast 188th Street called Thunderboat Row, where he had created several speedboat companies that he eventually sold to others.

The killer, riding in a black or dark blue Lincoln Continental, stopped beside Aronow's white Mercedes sports car and shot him to death.

Investigators have believed all along that at least two people were involved in the killing, and the prevailing theory for three years has been that they were working for someone else.

If the police have evidence against anyone other than Young, they are not saying yet.

Gary Rosenberg, an assistant state attorney in charge of the case, was asked if anyone else is being charged with the crime.

"Not today," he answered.

Other than making the charge and the jailing of Young public, neither Rosenberg nor Metro-Dade police would release any details.

Young, 41, is scheduled for a bond hearing this morning in Dade Circuit Court. Young will go through the procedure even though the charge against him, first-degree murder, is a no-bond offense.

The prosecutor said an arraignment is scheduled for July 3. More details may be made public then.

Pre-trial release also is prevented by three prison sentences Young still has to serve -- 10 years for the federal
drug case in Oklahoma, 17 years for a Fort Lauderdale abduction and attempted murder committed in the summer of 1987 and 17 for a Miami drug-related murder in 1984, for which Young was arrested two years ago.

The Aronow case has been investigated in considerable secrecy, by a squad of Metro-Dade homicide detectives known for making little information public even in routine cases. The Herald, using public records and interviews with other people, reported in mid-April that Young was the prime suspect, but did not know that he had been indicted already.

It is known that at least two convicted criminals have reported to investigators that Young spoke to them about killing Aronow. Prosecutor Rosenberg refused to say if there is any other evidence against him.

Skip Walton, a co-defendant who tattled on Young in the Oklahoma cocaine conspiracy, told FBI agents that in 1986, Young showed him a list of people who certain Colombians wished were dead. Walton said Young had misappropriated 80 kilos of cocaine from the Colombians, but they were willing to forgive him if he killed some of the people on the list.

Aronow's name was on it with a $250,000 price tag, Walton said.

It is not known publicly if his story has been verified, if the police are sure that is why Aronow was killed, or if they believe Young did it alone or with someone else.

A few minutes before the murder, a stranger was in the office of Aronow's USA Racing Team, inquiring about having a speedboat built for an employer whose name he did not mention. The man met Aronow, then left without further discussion -- an indication that he was only a "fingerman," establishing the target's identity.

A composite drawing police made from descriptions given by witnesses depicts a man with wavy brown hair, a tanned complexion and a couple of days' growth of whiskers. The sketch does not look like Young, a blue-eyed blond. When the sketch was shown to Aronow's office staff, they did not recognize it as the man who had inquired about a boat. At least one employee, who was shown a photograph of Young, did not recognize him.

Fear might have altered their ability to identify anyone.

"Everyone was terrified," said John Crouse, who was Aronow's public relations adviser for 20 years and became acquainted with his circle of offshore power boat racers.

"Don mingled with all sorts of people. He sold boats to mobsters. He was a high roller and in the fast world of fast boats, Rolexes and Porsches there are strange bedfellows. You couldn't be an offshore racer and not have an association with somebody involved in drugs."

Young, who also uses the name Jason Robert Scott, was indicted on narcotics charges in Oklahoma in April 1988. He had been in the Oklahoma County Jail for some time when he was sentenced last Thursday to a 10-year prison term.

He pleaded guilty to two conspiracies -- to smuggle cocaine from Colombia to the United States, and to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it. A judge granted his request to serve his 10-year sentence in Florida, along with the two state sentences.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miami Herald

September 26, 1996

MANNY GARCIA Herald Staff Writer


JUST IN CASE: Metro-Dade police closed off half of the courthouse's second floor and used SWAT teams as Ben Kramer, who once tried to escape prison, pleaded no contest to killing Don Aronow.

Benjamin Barry Kramer, who once owned a $150 million casino, raced titanic ocean racers and jet-setted the globe with champagne and women, pleaded no contest Wednesday to the 1987 murder of his rival, power boat king Don Aronow.

Kramer, no longer tanned, way out of shape and missing 11 teeth, said he took the manslaughter plea just so he could leave the Dade County Jail.

Kramer, 41, already serving a life sentence on a federal conviction, was sentenced by Dade Circuit Judge Michael B. Chavies to 19 years for killing Aronow. The sentences will run together.

``I've lost teeth in here. I haven't seen a doctor in years,'' Kramer said after the hearing. ``That was the decision -- or don't take the plea and die.''

Kramer appeared in court wearing an aqua-and-orange, cotton-blend Miami Dolphins jump suit -- his favorite team. His ankles were shackled. A chain tied to his handcuffs and wrapped around his waist was secured with a Master padlock.

He occasionally glared across the courtroom at Dade prosecutors Gary Winston and Penny Brill, who alleged that Kramer ordered Aronow killed nine years ago in a business dispute.

Aronow, 59, the millionaire guru of the powerboat set, was gunned down outside his USA Racing office in Northeast Dade. Metro-Dade homicide detectives pursued the ambush slaying for six years, interviewing terrified witnesses, discreet mistresses and mobsters, dopers, spies and snitches.

In 1993, prosecutors indicted Kramer and Robert ``Bobby'' Young, the alleged hit man, on first-degree murder charges. But the case soon soured.

Young refused to turn snitch. Last year, prosecutors let him plead no contest to the hit, a $60,000 job long considered one of the most sensational murders in South Florida. He received 19 years.

The state's key witnesses against Kramer were Melvin Kessler, a defrocked attorney and convicted money launderer, and two jail-house snitches, who would have testified that Kramer implicated himself.

``Time hurt us,'' Winston said Wednesday. ``The murder happened in '87. Our case was always built upon snitches, phone conversations and these links weaken over time.''

A sure sign the state was in trouble: Prosecutors recently waived the death penalty against Kramer.

``Robert Young pleaded and he is the acknowledged killer,'' Winston said.

Defense lawyers Jose Quinon and Kenneth Kukec said their client remains innocent despite the plea.

``It was a plea of convenience,'' Quinon said. ``This is his way of getting out of this jail. He was housed like an animal.''

Kramer's notoriety contributed to his problems. In 1990, he tried to escape by helicopter from the Federal Correctional Institution in South Dade. The spectacular jail break went awry when the helicopter that plucked him from an athletic field snagged on a fence and crashed.

Because of the escape attempt, every time he was walked from jail to the Metro Justice Building, SWAT officers and police dogs scoured the courthouse for bombs, weapons and other devices.

Kramer remained confined to a sixth-floor cell under constant watch by correctional officers -- an arrangement he hated primarily because he detested sharing the wing with Juan Carlos Chavez, charged with killing 9-year-old Jimmy Ryce.

``The conditions are horrible,'' said Kramer, who found some solace in being a frequent contributor to the jail's television sports show.

His expertise: Picking the winners of football games.

Donald Manning, Dade's jail director, had no sympathy for Kramer.

``This is a dangerous individual,'' he said. My main concern is protecting the community and not jeopardizing my officers just to accommodate him. We're glad to be rid of him.''

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Published Winter 1996
Smoke On The Water
High Speed Powerboats Offer Thrills--and Chills--to Adventurous Boaters and Their Wallets

by Edward Kiersh

Jumping off such offshore race boats as "The Exciter," "Demented" and "Bad Attitude," a dozen blondes and brunettes in skimpy bikinis parade into Shooters, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, bar on the Intercoastal waterway.

Each 20-year-old Miss Bountiful bobs and sways, flaunting Perfect 10 equipment. Cheers ring out, drowning the roar of 1,600-horsepower deep-V Apaches, Cougars and Cigarettes riding in the water.

Yet the beauty show is still the perfect accompaniment to the thunderclap of these 110 mile per hour "bay-busters," boats with an attitude. For the women--along with those needle-nosed superboats, designed to fly out of seven-foot seas, to softly reenter and to launch back out--all scream fun in the sun.

"They're a rush, a dangerous, yet still exhilarating adrenaline high just like sex," says Ron Beline, a V-bottom builder and driver on the Nightmare Racing Team. "There's nothing like standing a boat up, going as fast as you can on top of waves, launching, jamming, winning races and pushing the envelope."

The machines of choice among drug smugglers, royalty, police and plain speed freaks, these mean V's foster all sorts of spirited dreams. To the scanty thong set, a joyride on an ear-splitting powerboat with three 600-horsepower motors surging under the hatches means life in the fast lane, entry into the Gold Coast glamour circuit.

Other wanna-bes, dubbed "land trawlers" by more serious racers, cruise bars like Shooters, hoping their deep-V's with sharp-angled hulls will be their limitless ticket to fast and easy sex.

But for Beline and his boat-building competitors in this fuel-injected, supercharged world, where surviving 120 mph crackups is the ultimate badge of honor, the dream is far more complicated.

They, of course, want to design--and race--the perfect hull, discover that cutting-edge mix of plywood, foam and fiberglass. In the late 1980s and early '90s, these dreams turned into nightmares, as the boat market took a dive because of the federal luxury tax. But now the tax is gone and buyers are back, and outrunning a competitor means Miami Vice-styled thrills, money, fame and the imprimatur to succeed the legendary Don Aronow, the king of offshore performance boats.

Competing with this aura of greatness is heady stuff, for Aronow, the 1970s pioneer of the 35-foot, aptly named "Awesome" hull (which is still the industry standard), gave these machines international cachet. From designing the first Cigarettes, to building such companies as Magnum and Donzi and selling boats to such celebrities as fugitive financier Robert Vesco, the Shah of Iran and George Bush, the wheeling 'n' dealing, no-holds-barred Aronow personified deep-V's flamboyance. He was the Man.

It's easy for scores of modern-day boat builders--and average Joes-- to buy into the Aronow mythology. They all dream of going fast, faster, fastest, writing one more installment of man's conquering the sea.

But mirroring the caution consumers should exercise when buying and handling a powerboat, today's builders must also know when to throttle back in their chase with Aronow. For nothing intimidated him, not broken boats or bones. Known as "The Animal," the fearless Aronow lived too close to that proverbial edge, pushed it way too hard. In 1987 he wound up dead, his own dreams exploding in a hail of bullets. (According to Blue Thunder, an account by Thomas Burdick and Charlene Mitchell of the investigation into Aronow's death, Mafia connections may have led to the killing.)

Coughing up dirt with each passing truck, powerboating's mecca is a short stretch of blacktop tucked between rotting hulls, weed-covered fields and a row of hangars. Located on the northern edge of Miami Beach, N.E. 188th Street, otherwise known as Thunderboat Alley, is the heart of America's powerboat industry. It has no visible reminders of the go-go history that was made here in the 1970s and '80s. There are no plaques to celebrate the coming of the Cigarette, no signs marking the site of Aronow's gangland-style execution. But the street is still famous for its hot machines--the Apaches, USA Racing Team Cigarettes and $3 million Magnums.

Anyone wanting to buy a deep-V, to hook into the high-performance, high-speed scene, must visit this street of dreams and high-octane sales talk. For this is where Aronow's spiritual descendants, builders like Bob Saccenti and Katrin Theodoli, grapple with the latest glass laminates, fine-tune hydraulic systems and, in general, blueprint one-upsmanship claims to the king's throne.

Those conflicting boasts, usually reserved for debating the strength of Kevlar, S-glass, closed-cell foam or some other composite hull, are best epitomized by Aronow's rightful heirs, his sons Michael and David. Antagonistic rivals in this keenly competitive business, each is convinced he's taking his father's designs to new glory, recapturing the magic that coupled Aronow's name to sleek, fast and sexy.

David has his 313, a 32-foot split-console recreational boat, "a variation of my dad's 27-footer, strong enough to pound through the torturous seas," he says, while Michael is finalizing plans to market a 24-footer, its drawing-board name The Legend, and featuring an engraved signature from his father.

"No one has a little Cigarette, but I plan to build a real runner, a boat my father designed yet never built," insists Michael Aronow, echoing the passion that drives builders to breathe noxious laminate fumes and to risk their lives testing boats offshore. "Now that this beauty's time has arrived, I'm going to make the most luxurious, safest, easiest handling boat in the world."

Thunderboat Alley (along with scores of boatyards scattered across the United States and Europe) also resounds with promises, beautiful brochures, all the right words pledging safety, seaworthiness, comfort and speed. So how does a buyer wade into this market of conflicting claims and distinguish between a Fountain, Jaguar or Powerplay, boats all sporting shiny gel-coat hulls, dazzling graphics and race-tested horsepower?

Gingerly, with extreme caution and a game plan. Any prospective buyer must summon up the diligence to talk with boat owners, visit marinas or showrooms, and, most importantly, be convinced that hurtling in and out of rough water at 90 mph is fun, not hellish punishment.

As the otherwise macho Rocky Marciano discovered during a Miami-Nassau-Miami race, the G-forces pounding against the body in an open cockpit boat are so intense, the bruised prizefighter left his boat in Nassau, conceding, "It's too tough. At least in the ring I can hit back."

One way to avoid embarrassment or the financial pounding of winding up with a boat that only inspires fear and loathing is to take numerous trial runs in V-bottoms. "The entry-level buyer has to go slow every step of the way, get their feet wet with a slower-class boat," urges Ron Beline. "Buying a used V the first time out also makes sense. But jumping into a superboat is crazy, for if the inexperienced buyer flips one of these babies at 100 mph, he doesn't walk away from it."

Going the used-boat route through brokers and newspaper ads has its pros and cons. One distinct advantage is the lower cost. A buyer can get a six-month exposure to offshore by the "50-in, 50-out" approach, that is, purchasing a boat for $50,000 and recouping most of his investment if the boat is properly maintained.

"If you buy a new V-bottom for $250,000 and put hours on those motors, you get hit hard [financially]," says Fort Lauderdale broker Curtis Chapman, the son of Nick Chapman, who did celebrated hull design work for Don Aronow. "But for the guy who's never operated a boat before and is looking to discover what type of accessories and cabin comforts he really wants, buying used is like leasing. If he buys an old Cigarette, or some other boat with marquee value, he'll be able to get out of it without coming upside-down hard."

There are risks here, however. An older boat has taken a beating in the water, endured shock after shock, and that can easily mean fractures in the inner core of the hull. A naval engineer or surveyor can detect those flaws and must be hired to inspect the boat's structure. But since boat buying is often on impulse, without any lemon laws protecting consumers, Chapman says, "It's easy, very easy, to get screwed."

Engines are another major concern, mainly because these steel blocks with aluminum parts are being exposed to their worst enemy, salt water. "You can never tell what corrosion and deterioration is going on inside an engine," says Apache builder and throttleman Bob Saccenti, the winner of numerous international races. "The magic question here is how many hours have these gasoline engines logged--200, 300, 400? A surveyor can only check motors to a slight degree, and if the seller says he's rebuilt the engines, the buyer must demand to see the invoices. My advice is buyer beware."

Motors, whatever the power package of four-barreled carburetors, crankshafts and cams, can be replaced. Repowering a 35-foot boat with twin-600 horsepower MerCruisers will cost about $60,000. But since there are so many blind areas on used boats, such as the electronics and the fuel systems behind those gleaming gauges, future expenses must also be factored against the cost of buying new. It's intoxicating to find a deal; there's a rush Saccenti calls "a fever." Yet the smart buyer also knows when to step back to avoid getting burned.

Buying a new boat also poses numerous challenges and choices. The buyer must first decide how he's going to use the boat. Will it be a family pleasure craft, loaded down with a cabin, showers and other creature comforts? Or is the boat total testosterone swagger, stripped of weighty accessories, and only race-equipped for pushing down hard on the throttle?

Balancing realistic lifestyle demands against the fantasies of breakneck speed affects everything from motor size to cockpit design and maintenance. The family boat designed with lots of room to move around, overnight sleeping accommodations and engines topping out at 80 mph is a whole different animal than the much lighter, 100 mph-plus racer. The pleasure cruiser, riding deeper and smoother in the water than catamarans and other superpowered boats, may lose WOW appeal. Yet lost sexiness has to be weighed against servicing far more "radical" engines, and that, even in the hands of pros, airborne bay-busters are a jarring rollercoaster ride.

"On one of our gentleman's performance boats, a guy can hold a drink in one hand or put an arm around his girlfriend and still enjoy a smooth ride," says Rick Dubois, a Deerfield Beach, Florida, sales agent for Formula, an Indiana company specializing in $70,000 to $300,000 boats designed for "safe and sociable" family outings.

"Unlike the Cigarette or Apache, we're not out for full speed. A Formula stresses comfort; it won't beat anyone up with its sounds or crashing spray on the water. Even better, you won't get beat up in the yard, cleaning and repairing those radical race engines that cause many more maintenance problems."

Formula, along with its much-heralded competitor Fountain, are production boat companies. The flamboyant Reggie Fountain, the world record-holder in a V-bottom at 131.94 mph, will build specific boats on demand. But in this category of pleasure V-bottoms which, according to a Fountain catalogue, is filled with "fast-fading rivals like Wellcraft, Cigarette, Sonic, Baja and Hustler," the main thrust is on boats made on the assembly line.

Workers turn out hundreds of V's yearly, and for the boat buyer that means speedy delivery. Yet a mass-produced boat will have numerous clones, and among glitz seekers, it's become popular to disguise their factory V's with the graphics of a more exclusive machine, like the Indian warpath regalia of an Apache. That same general look of a stock V, especially if it's dressed up with motors to go 80 mph such as the award-winning Fountain 38 Fever, still has certain resale value.

"Once you have all those fancy colors you have to find someone who wants that same look, and that can lead to your getting burned" in a resale, says Curtis Chapman. "With a production boat, everyone knows what it looks like, what the gauges and seating are like, and that often makes selling it a lot easier."

So don't be misled by roaring big engines and shiny trappings. The keys to buying a production boat are: 1) above the waterline, the sides of the boat must be straight without any waves or bulges; 2) except for pricier offerings, many production V's come without thick coring in the hull, so make like Mike Tyson and punch the hull sides to judge whether they feel solid; 3) budget manufacturers just slap the hull and deck together like a shoebox top, so inspect the screws or bonding agents used on the joints--a fiberglass sealer is the preferable choice; and 4) the windshield must be solid, without any dangerous rough edges, and as for deck hardware, navigation lights are a must.

As for the power package and its setup, Powerboat magazinerecommends making sure that: there's a latch to ensure that the engine hatch doesn't fly open at high speeds, the batteries are tightly secured, the motor mounts are firmly bolted (vibrations on offshore V's are intense) and you have an expert check the wiring. Remember, getting stuck on the highway is one thing. Drifting helplessly offshore is quite another.

Reggie Fountain will argue that fine workmanship can be found on a production boat. Yet dream teamers on and around Thunderboat Alley insist there's only one way to buy dependable V's that make "kick ass" statements--buyers must spend the extra $200,000 to $400,000 and go custom.

Ron Beline argues against that approach for the first-time buyer, insisting, "He has to get some experience on a less expensive boat,otherwise he'll make mistakes, not knowing what he really wants or needs in a boat."

Yet if a buyer is dead set on this course, Beline's injunction is "to only work with a very competent builder, a guy who'll steer you away from radical motors and other costly add-ons that just serve to attract bimbos in bikinis."

In boat-crazed south Florida, where there's a plethora of highly regarded builders (most quick to bad-mouth each other), choosing a yard is no easy task. Dan Weinstein at Powerplay Marine has been building quality 25-, 28- and 33-footers since 1982. Curtis Chapman, also a builder, says the Cherokee boat line "is an up-'n'-comer ready to bust out." And then there's Beline, who is teaming with expert craftsman Jack Clark of Jaguar Marine to build a line of family pleasure V's with so-called S-glass hulls.

Standing in Clark's Hollywood, Florida, factory, amid those rolls of fiberglass cloth that are slowly wrapped around a foam core to give the S-glass lightweight hulls extra strength, Beline says, "Our building motto is: When in doubt, rip it out. On a production assembly line, the workers are in a hurry, and use weights or clamps to push the [hull] lamination down. But here, no matter how time-consuming it is, we vacuum-bag [or compress] every inch of the panel. That way there can't be any air bubbles in our hulls, which very easily can lead to catastrophic failures."

Less talkative about his hull's fiberglass composition (the exact combination of Kevlar and other laminates remain "a trade secret"), Apache's Bob Saccenti, the Legend of Thunderboat Alley, rarely needs to discuss engineering specifics. His racing fame speaks volumes, and if a potential buyer needs any further coaxing, there's always one of his 100 mph offshore performances.

"A lot of people will slam, slam a V, but Bobby sets it up, bop, bop, bop, right over the tops of waves; he never lets the motor miss a beat," Chapman says about Saccenti. "Forget his just making the sale. With him launching off waves, dropping in and out, pulling back and opening the throttle, the buyer immediately gets [excited]."

A protégé of Aronow from his days in the marinas of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Saccenti was one of the mechanical wizards-cum-hot boat riggers who helped Aronow turn Cigarette into an early 1970s racing phenomenon. Later, Saccenti founded Apache Boats and started building limited production high-performance race boats (about 12 a year). Now, after 25 years of making 1,600 horsepower "sex and speed" statements, Saccenti engineers boats such as the Renegade and an autographed 47-foot "Superboat" edition that sell for $200,000 to $650,000.

Yet the 53-year-old Saccenti, the winner of several U.S. and world speedboat championships and survivor of innumerable offshore crashes, is not just looking to market go-fast V's to thrill seekers. His dream was to win another world championship with a newly designed 36-foot Warrior this past November in Key West, Florida.

"There's no secret to speed. Anyone can make a light boat that shakes the fillings in your teeth," says Saccenti, frenetically hopping from one boat to another in his factory.

"The crucial key in boat-building is the hull's strength; laying the Kevlar by hand gives that boat resiliency. Sure, opening the throttle is life on the edge. But with all that slamming into rough water, guys torture boats. That's why we baby the lamination process along for a month. Our boats don't start coming apart in two years. Ours take the pounding, are far more forgiving."

All the builders on Thunderboat Alley want to be associated with hulls that withstand terrific punishment. In that regard, Apache has won the reputation as "the Lamborghini" of its 100 mph class.

If a buyer prefers a somewhat slower but swankier boat, say a 60- to 75-mph boat with Roche Bobois furnishings, there's the Rolls-Royce of pleasure cruisers, a diesel-powered Magnum that sells for between $2 million and $4.5 million. In these waters, where King Juan Carlos of Spain, the Agnellis of Fiat fame and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi scamper around in 70-footers, "Katrin the Great" rules.

Katrin Theodoli might seem demure in her designer silk sundresses. But she's the shrewdest of businesswomen, with a doctorate in modern literature, who revved up a company started by Aronow in 1976 and delights in mixing it up with her Muscle Boat Row competitors.

"Everyone thought a fast, open sports yacht, which could speed from Italy to Sardinia, was a crazy idea," recalls Theodoli, remembering that the wealthy only cruised the Mediterranean in slow yachts with crew during the mid-1970s. "But we [she and her late husband Fillipo "Ted" Theodoli] still felt speed could be combined with seaworthiness and comfort, with such amenities as double staterooms and guest showers.

Initially, the Theodolis only brokered Aronow's 35-foot Magnums in Europe. But the Cigarette King was only interested in speed, not bigger V-bottoms (his first boats had no passenger comforts whatsoever), so he sold Magnum to them in 1976 for $1.5 million. They subsequently designed a cross between a high-performance speedboat and a motor yacht, now ranging up to 70 feet; a military interceptor craft dubbed "The Barbarian" that will be used for Navy Seal duty; and, soon to debut, an 80- to 90-foot boat with dual 3,000-horsepower engines, which will go for approximately $4 million.

"I see the offshore market moving into bigger and bigger boats; that's what men of power want these days," insists Theodoli, proudly talking about her 70-footers, all "overbuilt" with layer after layer of Kevlar and sporting interiors by Pininfarina, the Italian firm that designed the Ferrari 308 GTB.

Soon leaving her plain office in Thunderboat Alley to show off a Bestia 50-footer docked beside her factory, Theodoli turns on the turbo-charged diesels and flaunts another selling point of this beast. Instead of the customary engine roar that drowns out all conversation on a smaller, gasoline-powered deep-V (on fully rigged race boats all communication is through headsets), diesel power, operating at lower RPMs than gas engines, packs a quieter wallop.

"My boats are heavier and beamier than Cigarettes, loaded with comforts, and far smoother to ride," says Theodoli. "The King of Spain went from Genoa to Palma in very rough waters [in a 50-foot Bestia], and later said my boat was 'extraordinary, no pitching, no lurching.' While I'm always thinking safety, and not 100 mph, my boats can still outrun the paparazzi. These aren't boats; they're beasts."

Off on another high-speed romp in the Mediterranean, the King of Spain couldn't be reached for comment. Yet 88-year-old entertainer Victor Borge says of his 50-footer, the fifth Magnum he's owned in 20 years: "Just as I have a favorite piano, Katrin makes perfect music with her boats. At my age I need to get to places fast, and Magnum's quality is unsurpassed."

Or you can forget about a mere 100 mph. If you have big enough balls, and want to leave mono-hulled V's in your wake, a 120- to 160-mph catamaran, or "cat," is the only way to go.

The badass of offshore boats, with a reputation for flipping over and laying upside-down in the water, these smokin' winged-type cats with two hulls (called sponsons) and a tunnel running between them are not for the faint-hearted (and arguably not for the entry-level buyer).

Catamarans are said to be less forgiving than V's since each hull can respond to waves differently in rough seas. Air rushes under the hulls and is compressed in the tunnel, giving the boat extra air-lift. While going airborne is exciting, the inexperienced driver can easily launch or hit the water at too precipitous an angle. Which is why Beline describes a cat's rocket-style kick as "a ticket to the jaws of hell."

Recalling the catamaran crash that claimed the life of Stefano Casiraghi, the husband of Monaco's Princess Caroline, off the coast of Monaco in 1990, Beline says, "Cats are just too radical a boat for the beginner. They don't handle rough water well and don't right themselves after tipping over, forcing the occupant to swim out and up. Cats are simply too dangerous."

Cruising at 100 mph, cats still offer the ultimate thrill on water: head-turning speed, especially in a top-of-the-line Douglas Skater, a 46-footer with four gasoline turbines selling for $700,000.

This is the machine for those who want to wreak havoc--and maybe lose some friends en route. "Pit this baby against an Apache, a Cigarette, any deep-V, and you annihilate them," boasts Douglas Marine owner Peter Hledin. "The only drawback to owning a cat is intimidating your friends. They hate you, for once you open a cat up, their V-bottoms are ancient history."

Yet even if cats are short on socializing (usually not for sunbathing, most cats have protective canopies with riders strapped and helmeted in separate compartments), catamarans are that expression of freedom a cigar smoker can relate to.

"Cats are the last true refuge for speed freaks," says Connecticut anesthesiologist John Golia, who traded in his Cougar V-bottom for a Skater about two years ago. "Very fuel-efficient, cats are the future. In them, having no fear of getting ticketed on the open sea, I can escape, numb myself and just go crazy."

Don Aronow is alive and well. At least for a few days in Margaritaville, among the Animal's successors trying to outrun his long shadow.

In Key West last May for an American Super Boat race, a prep for last month's World Cup Championships, Bob Saccenti and other dreamers are all nerves during the day. Standing around in the wet and dry pits reworking wiring and revving their 2,000-horsepower motors, they're in no mood to talk. Not with trial runs looming, and with everyone worried about blowing an engine.

But at night, once they hit the bars in their "Apache," "Jaws" and "Zero Defect" racing team polo shirts, the mood lightens a bit. Looking like hard-assed bikers, they couple each Bloody Mary with a tale about their 120 mph crashes, new power packages and, if you believe these seafaring yarns, how every lady in town wants a piece of them.

Eventually, however, reality returns. These muscle boat guys have to stop imbibing on racing's heady sexy stuff and come to terms with the dangers always stalking them--and buyers who want in on this fast boat action.

"We're flying, setting records, having a ball out there," says Phil Hall, a crew member of the Jaws catamaran racing team. "The dream is to go even faster. Maybe one day soon we'll even crank it up to 200 mph." (Last year, Jaws teammate Dennis Kaiser set an American Power Boat Association record at 158.5 mph.). "I love the water," continues Hall. "But my advice to anyone getting into this is still: 'Be straight with God.' For anything can happen out there with a V or a cat. That's why we always give our wives and girlfriends a long goodbye kiss."

Edward Kiersh is a freelance writer living in Florida.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How a Kid From Brooklyn Put Go-Fast Boats On The Map
By Capt Ken Kreisler (Power & Motoryacht/July 2000)


Herman and Gertude Aronow emigrated from Russia to the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1900. After a succession of jobs, Herman wound up working in and then owning a gas station and then, in the 1940s, a taxi company. On March 1, 1927, Gertrude gave birth to Donald Joel, the couple's third child, who joined sisters Sylvia and Lillian.

Even as a young boy, Aronow displayed the personality of a highly motivated self-starter by helping out in his father's gas station, where he had a knack for working with engines. So much so that in the early 1940s, the entrepreneurial teen had a nice little side business going: He bought used and junk cars, fixed them up, and sold them at a profit.

But there were other things in Aronow's life, chief among them athletics. By the time he graduated from James Madison High school in 1944, he had been named the borough's all around top athlete, had received the prestigious Wingate Medal for his accomplishments, and was Coney Island beach's chief lifeguard. Little wonder Aronow entered Brooklyn College that fall as a physical education major.

It may have been his restless spirit or the tenor of the times, but 1945 found Aronow leaving his studies and enrolling at the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York. Shortly after that, Midshipman Aronow was transferred overseas.

He returned to Brooklyn College in 1947 and resumed his studies, getting back his lifeguard job for the summers until graduation. In 1948 he married Shirley Goldin, and by the time Aronow received his degree in 1950, he'd earned letters in football, wrestling, and track. After briefly working as a physical education instructor, Aronow received an offer from his father-in-law that not only changed his life, but also helped him transform high-performance powerboating.


The offer to take Aronow into his southern New Jersey construction business could not have come at a better time. The strong post-WWII economy meant lots of work for the company. So much work that Aronow struck out on his own in 1953, by establishing the Aronow Corporation. Within just seven years the Aronow Corporation became one of the most successful builders in the state and made its owner a wealthy man.


But there was a price to pay for all the sleepless nights, long hours, and anxiety. At 34, Aronow, burnt out and suffering from ulcers, decided to pack it in and moved his wife and three children to Miami Beach. For a while he enjoyed the sunshine and slower pace of life and spent much of his time aboard his 40-foot sportfishing boat. she was berthed at a small marina on the Miami River that happened to be located next door to the Prowler Boat company. And Prowler built race boats.


Getting friendly with Prowler owner Forest Johnson, Aronow began to pick up on all the talk about the upcoming 1962 Miami to Nassau powerboat race. It didn't take long for his competitive spirit to kick in, and he soon found himself with ace mechanic Dave Stirrat in the Shop of celebrated custom boat builder Howard Abbey designing Claudia -- named after Aronow's then-nine-year-old daughter. Aronow was about to get his first taste of powerboat racing.


The 28-foot, semi-V wooden boat, equipped with triple 327-cid Chevy V-8s, did 60 mph during sea trials, a prodigious accomplishment at the time. With the race a few days away, Stirrat asked Sam Sarra, another marine mechanic with a stellar reputation, to have a look. Sarra thought the boat would do better with a pair of 409-cid Chevys he had just modified. Aronow agreed..

Claudia as in the lead with about 10 miles to go when one of the engines blew a clutch. Aronow and crew managed to finish fourth. But the near victory had him hooked. Applying the same determination that had propelled his construction business to the top, Aronow built Claudia II, a 27-foot deep-V fiberglass boat designed by Peter Guerke and powered by a pair of 427-cid Ford Interceptor V-8s. In early 1963 he rolled her out of the facility he had built on a deserted corner of North Miami Beach's NE 188th Street. The boat, designated the Formula 276, became the prototype for Aronow's first boat company, Formula Marine, a name he chose because it utilized the talents of such soon-to-be legends as Stirrat, Jim Wynne, Walt Walters, Buddy Smith, and Jake Trotter. For Aronow, this was the right formula. The shop would be the first of many that would make NE 188th Street known as Gasoline Alley and Thunderboat row and Don Aronow as its reigning monarch.


Formula Marine's race-tested production boats were an immediate success, and in 1964 Aronow sold the molds to Thunderbird while he and his team were busy moving on to the next phase of making racing history.


Aronow kept a 17-foot hull mold after the Formula sale and trimmed it to 16 feet. Launched early in 1964, the Sweet Sixteen prototype became the first boat from Donzi Marine, which got its name when record producer Morris Levy ribbed Aronow about the new boat being another Donzi," a critique of the Formula 23's less-than-macho plush interior. By the end of the year, Donzis were a force in powerboat racing.


After making Donzi a success, Aronow sold it and moved on to Magnum Marine, where he built 35-footers in a new factory next to the formula and Donzi plants on NE 188th Street. Using the same "formula," he then started and sold Cigarette -- named for a famous prohibition-era rum runner -- with Squadron XII, Cigarette II, and USA Racing Team.


By 1987 Aronow had become an acquaintance of celebrities and leaders the world over and even had a personal relation-ship with President George Bush that reportedly helped secure a contract to build catamaran patrol boats for the U.S. Customers service for USA Racing Team. It all came to an abrupt and tragic end on February 3, when he was shot to death while sitting in his car on the very street he had made famous. Theories abound regarding the cause -- many surrounding Ben Cramer, who had been a partner in USA Racing and was later convicted of smuggling-related irregularities associated with another boat building company -- but the case has never been closed.


Over the years Aronow's powerboats won more than 350 races both at home and abroad, accumulating more than 11 world championships and 25 U.S. championships. They have also held 25 world speed records. Whether serving as a driver or a builder, Don Aronow was the kind of guy who left a wake others could only hope to follow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Så där, nu fick väl intresseklubben en del att läsa sig igenom... ;)


Dags att kasta in lite båtbilder till handingen! :)


Vi börjar med en fläskig akterspegel på Don's Magnum 27'a innan sjösättningen inför Getingloppet 1967.

Tre 110hp Mercurysnurror på akterspegeln ingav nog en hel del respekt.



The man, the myth, the legend himself.



Den, för oss Bogisägare, legendariska Magnum 27'an, eller pluggen till formen till...



Bild från Båtnytt. I förgrunden Bröderna Gardners Delta med 2x500hp. Bröderna kom först över mållinjen men diskvalificerades då de hade genat så segern tillföll Aronow i stället.



Bild från loppet.



Bild från loppet (EDIT: eller förmodligen ett annat lopp ser jag nu då färgerna på hjälmarna eller typen av landskap i bakgrunden inte stämmer).



Bild från loppet.



Omslagsbild på fjolårssegraren på programbladet för 1968 års lopp.


  • Thumbs up 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mer Vincenzo:





Racerbåtsförarens arbetsplats:



Oooopppssss.... :(



Världsmästarna i offshore 1968, Vincenzo t.h. tillsammans med sin mekaniker Don Pruett:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies