Playboy model Julie Cialini operating the 35 Playboy Cigarette on the Key West Poker Run
It takes a few seconds, but Branton can recall all of the Cigarettes he’s ever owned including his 35 Playboy TS model, which was unveiled at the Playboy Mansion. THERE MAY BE SOME MEMBERS in the Florida Powerboat Club who have owned more performance boats than Louisiana’s David Branton, but you’d be hard pressed to find any who have owned more boats overall. You name it—tournament boat, center console, flat-bottom fishing boat, yacht, cruiser, sport fish and even a couple of rare Riva models. Of course, powerboats, of both the catamaran and V-bottom variety, are quite possibly his favorite. And by the looks of the New Orleans native’s current rides, his boat of choice is a Cigarette. Branton and his family—wife, Leeann, daughters, Elizabeth and Abbee, and son, Jim— enjoy every minute they can spend on the water, as well as sharing their hobby with as many people as possible. “We’ve grown up around boats,” said Branton, who estimates he’s owned more than 40 boats in his lifetime and currently possesses 16 boats. “It’s just a part of our life. We use boats for hunting and for fun. The whole family loves it. “My dad bought my first boat for me when I was 5,” he continued. “I got it for Christmas, a flat-bottom with a 2-hp motor. I’ve been fascinated ever since. My mom told me there were two things that changed me in life—the smell of gasoline and the smell of perfume.”
in the Cigarette display at the Miami International Boat Show in February. The 39 Top Fish Sport was a near perfect match to the beautiful blue boat Branton was actually at the show to take delivery of: his LipShip Performance edition 50 Marauder, which is powered by a pair of turbocharged Mercury Racing 1350 engines, that he would drive in the Florida Powerboat Club’s Miami Boat Show Poker Run. Featuring an elegant and straightforward paint job with various shades of blue and the classic World Champion Cigarette Racing Team logo in gray and white, the 50-footer, dubbed Voodoo, has proven to be one of the most fun-to-drive boats Branton has ever owned.
ran, a quad-engine 50-foot V-bottom and a 39-foot center console. “We just love the 50—Mercury’s 1350 package is awesome,” Branton said. “It accelerates hard and when it gets a little bumpy, the boat gets up on top and settles right in. And seriously, the engines are like set of 500EFIs, they’re that tame.” Branton’s good friend and fellow FPC member, Walter Molosh, enjoyed the club’s Tampa Bay Poker Run in March as a passenger in the new 50-footer, and couldn’t say enough good things about the boat. “It’s a very impressive boat,” said Molosh, who hails from New Jersey and owns a 40-foot Skater. “I ran in David’s 50 Nor-Tech Happy Hour for many years and this Cigarette is different. The four-engine boat ran great, but this thing is a rocket. And it’s a beauty, no doubt about that.”
In the beginning, Branton was planning to build the boat with triple Mercury Racing HP700SCi engines, but opted not to after Lip-Ship Performance owner Phil Lipschutz finished his first 50-footer with staggered 1,350-hp engines. “David originally ordered the boat with triple 700-hp engines, which was a very proven and reliable engine package and would have had him running 100 mph with a stock one-year warranty,” Lipschutz said. “Everyone thought we needed three engines for the 50-footer, but I knew two engines would be enough if it was the right package. “We did a 46 for Tom Abraham with a pair Mercury’s 1200SCi engines and it was a great-running boat,” he continued. “But the new 1350 package is a different story. The boat accelerates like a dragster. We took the first one out on the first leg of the Miami Boat Show Poker Run in 2011 and Skip (Braver) was convinced we had a winner.” Braver, owner and president of Cigarette Racing, allowed Lipschutz to take control of the original project with the 1350s and Lipschutz redesigned the deck to make it more proportionate.
“It was all hand-made,” Lipschutz said. “Then after out first run, CigaJackie Jones rode on board David & Leeann Branton’s rette made a mold for the deck and 35 Playboy Cigarette for the Emerald Coast Poker Run 2002 David got the first boat from the Some 48 years and more than a mold. After running the first one, I dozen performance boats later, Branton has told David he should go with the twin engines And that list is extensive. It takes him a few graduated to elite status. His current rides for seconds, but Branton can rattle off the 10 Ciga- instead of the triples. It cost more money, but it the poker run season include two new boats rettes he’s owned from his first one—a 28-foot- was worth it.” from Cigarette Racing—a 50 Marauder and er with a 330-hp MerCruiser engine and a TRS Braver, who has been responsible for some of the all-new 39 Top Fish Sport. drive—to his 35 Playboy TS model, which was the most luxurious and innovative models in the actual boat at the Playboy Mansion unveilPowered by triple 300-hp Mercury Verado Continued on next page ing party in March of 2000. He’s also had a few engines, the 39-footer wasn’t on his radar but he and his wife fell in love with it after seeing it Nor-Tech models, including a 36-foot catamaPOWERBOATING IN PARADISE 81