Travel to a calm and peaceful place - in the heart of Central Florida - where moss hangs from ancient oaks. Where gnarled pines line winding two-lane roads which stretch through miles of green pastures full of grazing cows and horses. This quiet place in Cresent City, less than an hour from Daytona or Orlando, but worlds away from their drama and frenzy... that is... until... AMF Racing comes to town!
The Circus is in Town! This quaint little one-stop light village of 1,800 (legal) residents has for two years, been overtaken by the "AMF Racing's Crescent City Power Boat Run for Records" and while it may not yet rival Daytona, Homestead or Sebring for Florida's Speed Capital title. it is now in the running. John Haggin's AMF teams and guests take every bed and breakfast room in the area, plus a group of house boats at the City Docks. There, a myriad of powerboats, ranging from an 1100 hp Pro Stock flat bottom to a 51' Outerlimits, and a 17' Jersey Skiff, to a 9,000 hp turbine-powered handcrafted water rocket, dwarf the tiny marina. It's like the Red Neck Yacht Club on steroids and Extreme Boats was there to catch the action.
If you have ever been in the pits of an AMF race site "camp," you know it is atypical. Everything is smiling and having fun! no one is bitching, complaining or pouting - it's likely they are all drinking the same Kool-Aid-simplu overjoyed to be together, sharing the passion of speed, women, engines-and all that goes fast - including John Haggin. Haggin is a darting, moving target - a caricature of himself in a race suit, ball cap, cowboy or work boots and a woman on each ar; he is a beaming, charming host, a generous friend and race team sponsor and a fiery fan of powerboat racing - make that fan-atic.
His love affair with powerboats started when as a kid, his father bought a Donzi and the father-son duo hung with the notorious Aronow crowd in Miami. Haggin later raced boats and fondly recalls races in new Jersey - where he returned last year for an Offshore Powerboat Association (OPA) race and also married his "Princess" right there in the pits. His relationship with New Jersey remains tight as OPA - the home of the well-known and loved "Jersey Boyz" - is the race organization with which he closely aligns his teams.
Haggin is a turbine man - he dislikes gasoline engines after an accidental explosion took a friend's life. he then discovered the speed and economics of jet engines and fuels and figures he saves about $300,000/year in fuel and maintenance expenses on his fleet of boats. Plus, the unusual style, noise and performance of the turbines fit his "P.T. Barnum of offshore racing "image. "Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together-the circus is in town!"
AMF's show includes Haggin's 3 turbine (51' Outerlimits, a new 40' Platinum, and a 44 MTI on the way), a 42' Apache and a 35' pontoon party boat. The other AMF teams cover many performance and factory classes, ranging from a 27' Levy Craft, 24' Pantera, 29' Warlock and 32' Viper, to a 38' Fountain, 17' Jersey Skiff and homemade jet-hydroplane. And did we mention four Kenworths, three GMC 4500's, a NASCAR-style race support trailer - and one kick-butt stereo system?
This is no amateur gig - manager Laura Hanner is a race pro, Chief Savering is a top-notch operations director - and what other race team has a head of Entertainment?! Haggin surrounds himself with experts and aficionados - and shows his appreciation for what the do. "This is my love, this is my passion!" he says, "I want to be a winner, but I can't do it without everyone here around me."
This merry band of ANF men and women who share his passion, started at 3 and now total approximately 48 on staff - plus the teams and crews he funds and feeds. A jaded racing fan might call Haggin a Sugar Daddy and his teams, sycophants, but spend some time here and you'll see more men kissing than in Provincectown or San Francisco; there is real love here and they're not afraid to show it. "What would the world be like with more Haggin's in it?" one of the crew waxed philosophically. To tell the truth, I'm not sure the world is ready for more Haggins!