Boating: Stealth Fighter

  • Fluto Shinzawa

Skip Braver, president and CEO of Cigarette Racing Team, has accumulated close to 4,000 flight hours, but not one was as significant as the hour he spent in a Boeing 747 simulator three years ago. When he entered the device at one of Northwest Airlines’ training centers in Minneapolis, he was stunned to find no gauges, just two computer screens displaying all the technical information he would need to operate the simulator: altitude, fuel level, and speed. The readouts and dials he expected to find were conspicuously absent—they were digitally imposed directly on the screens.

The experience made such a strong impression on Braver, a former Chicago auto dealer who purchased Cigarette last May, that he authorized the design and construction of the 46-foot Stealth, a one-off concept speedboat that features similar technology in its cockpit.

The primary aircraft-influenced touch—aside from the graphics of a gray Air Force fighter displayed on the hull—is the space-age quad-screen computer system. The color monitors feature digital gauges that display information such as speed, oil pressure, rpm, and water pressure at the click of a waterproof mouse, eliminating the analog gauges and dials that can clutter the cockpits of production speedboats. While larger yachts feature such displays, they are not present aboard go-fasts. "There are no gauges anywhere," Braver says. "This is what planes look like, and this is the future for boating."

Furthermore, the computer system stores all of the information from each of your cruises—speed, duration of outing, engine temperature—so that if there is a malfunction, a technician can access the computer’s log to determine what went wrong, virtually eliminating the need for any under-the-hood tinkering.

Naturally, the five-passenger boat offers jetlike performance to match its cockpit technology. Twin 557-cubic-inch, 1,050-hp supercharged Sterling engines provide the streamlined Stealth with a top speed of more than 115 mph. "This is not an entry-level boat," Braver advises.

The streaking Stealth is so powerful that when carving a high-speed turn or vaulting over a wake, you could possibly catapult a careless passenger into the water, a potentially life-threatening situation in the dark of night. Fortunately, the Stealth is equipped with a thermal imaging system. A heat-sensing, forward-aimed camera with a quarter-sized lens connects to a black-and-white dashboard-mounted monitor that displays shapes of objects located in front of the boat. Braver was sold when the system’s salesman, during the product demonstration, emptied his cup of hot coffee into the water in front of the boat; on the monitor, Braver could see coffee streams—the beverage was hotter than the water—trickling across the screen.

Despite the boat’s relatively high cost (the Stealth concept is currently for sale for $950,000, approximately $200,000 more than the 46-foot Rough Rider), Braver says that Cigarette will eventually incorporate the machine’s technology into its production models. It seems only fitting that heat-seeking missiles like the Stealth should have thermal imaging systems to match.

Cigarette Racing Team, 305.931.4564, www.cigaretteracing.com

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