The die was cast that day, when Don Aronow’s prototype Florida muscle boat set a 66mph average for the 238-mile race, almost twice as fast as the previous best.

August Bank Holiday, Torquay, 1969: mist and light rain. A future editor of Motor Boat & Yachting is sitting impatiently, freezing in short trousers, in a passenger launch secured to the harbour wall. It’s the famous Daily Express Cowes-Torquay-Cowes race, and for five shillings a time holidaymakers are stepping on board to go and see the powerboats round the mark.

While the coxswain lights a cigarette in the wheelhouse and his deckhand stands at the top of the steps trying to tempt the last few punters aboard, a distant flash of spray and a long, grey shape in the mist beyond the breakwater catch the young boy’s eye. A murmur of consternation rises like steam from the dripping passengers: the first boat already? It can’t be: it’s an hour early! Too late, the coxswain calls the deckhand aboard, swings the stern out and cons the launch out to sea – the legendary Cigarette is long gone, pounding back across Lyme Bay.

The die was cast that day, when Don Aronow’s prototype Florida muscle boat set a 66mph average for the 238-mile race, almost twice as fast as the previous best. The future was set: it was fibreglass and it was deep-vee. Visit the boat shows at Earls Court, Genoa, Düsseldorf or Fort Lauderdale today and what you see around you stands as a monument to the Florida pioneers of the sixties. North Miami Beach is still the place if you’re looking for a muscle boat. But these days there’s plenty of other reasons to go to Florida – it gets you out of the rain, for a start. Our special starts on p67.