sunreef 88 catamaran

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My Life In Boats: powerboat racing champion Tim Ciasulli on his 27-metre Sunreef in build

2 February 2024 • Written by Grace Trofa

The offshore powerboat champion tells Grace Trofa how he went from racing cats to a Sunreef cat...

In boating I was a risk-taker from early on. Out on Manasquan River in New Jersey I got a kick out of riding the wake of big fishing boats with my dad’s Boston Whaler. The river was also home to the Hennessy Grand Prix. I’d watch these high-powered boats go through the fog out into the ocean at 90mph then come back hours later all busted up and I’d say, “I must do that!”

We had a 12-metre houseboat and my father would always get seasick and I’d have to get us back to the marina. I guess having that responsibility early on and loving the speed fuelled the passion. I rode hard and, trust me, nobody asked for a second ride. The first really fast boat I raced was a metal plate jet boat, a low-profile boat with a big-ass motor and a Berkeley jet drive. 

Ciasulli set records and won multiple trophies in offshore racing
Courtesy of owner
Courtesy of owner

I’d do 80mph when that was something. Luckily, I started off in small boats, because to win you really need to learn how to turn, and that experience served me well in the offshore arena. I’d pass in turns at 150mph on the inside, which is the hardest, while other boats were flipping.

My favourite high-performance boat was my 14-metre Skater catamaran. I did so many crazy things with it and still came back alive. I set a couple of national and world speed records over 200mph, but with three young kids at home my wife gave me an ultimatum and I stopped racing for 10 years. I was runner-up world champion the very year I went back in 1999.

If you are not operating on the edge, you are not going to win. We were going so fast that sometimes the entire boat was out of the water. On day two of the 2001 World Championship, I got T-boned. I was OK and on the final day we won by a big margin. I got out of that boat, kissed it goodbye and said it’s time to sell. I knew if I continued to race, I would probably kill myself. I raced catamarans for years but now I was looking for size and stability – my wife doesn’t like a choppy ride or speed.

Ciasulli's Benetti Oasis, the 40-metre yacht named Rebecca

Cats have become a lot sexier and sporty. Sunreef has been building a lot of cool ones with solar panels so I talked them into building me one with big power diesel engines. It will go purely under electric power, the batteries charged by solar panels, but with the diesels it will be flying at 40mph. This cat is only 27-metre long but so wide, it offers 4,200 square feet of living space. My previous 40-metre Benetti Oasis was a spectacular boat, and we won a World Superyacht Award, but after having gone 12 knots, 40 knots is looking better.

A rendering of the Sunreef 88 Ultima, the model Ciasulli has ordered
The yacht will spend much of her time in the Exumas, a favourite cruising ground

This new boat is perfect for the Bahamas where she is going to spend most of her life. I’ve spent a thousand days in the Exumas; it has some of the world’s best cruising. A close second are the islands of Sicily. The best time to approach is at night, with Stromboli spewing fire; it’s a constant light show. I’ll tell you, if I am ever on the lam, that’s where I would hide.

I’ll take delivery of the new boat this year or early 2025. Because it is being built in Dubai, the plan is to explore that part of the world and then do the Italian coastline, which should be on everyone’s bucket list. I own three properties in Italy – one in the Dolomites and two in Tuscany – and spend three months a year there. Two Italian men told me, “You Americans have it all wrong, you live to work; we live for the richness of life and relationships with friends and family.” They might be on to something.

Read More/My Life In Boats: Carlos NúÑez on refitting Kontiki Wayra

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