Going to E11even

Miami’s E11even is no ordinary nightclub. The hedonistic spot has spawned residential towers, its own vodka brand and a global cult following. And now, incredibly, there’s talk of creating an entire new district in its image.

By Jay Cheses 17/04/2024

It’s close to 3.00 am on the Friday before Formula 1 weekend in Miami, and the nightclub known as E11even is heaving. At the owner’s table, just above the dance floor, managing partner Dennis DeGori is showering the crowd below with stacks of cash. “Make it rain,” he says, demonstrating the proper tossing technique so the bills scatter high and wide. Thousands of singles carpet the floor already. 

Waitresses hoist magnums of Dom Pérignon, cutting a path through VIPs in the pit. These guests shelled out extravagantly for a prime spot in the club’s throbbing centre. This weekend, the most coveted tables—which encircle an elevated stage, a dance floor, and the DJ booth—will require a minimum tab of US $30,000 (around $46,000) apiece for booze, food, and entertainment. Unlike at most venues, the big spenders here aren’t roped off along the periphery. “I flipped the usual formula,” DeGori says. “At E11even, everyone else is a spectator to the VIP experience.” 

A pair of acrobats suspended from ropes contort above the dance floor, their routine pausing the smoke-machined, laser-beamed, strobe-battered madness. Drones buzz around the room, filming everything for the post-party highlight reel. 

Just after 4.00 am, DJ Deadmau5—the electronic-dance-music (EDM) superstar who often sells out stadiums—begins his set, filling the 1,250-square-metre club with pulsing sound, the LED eyes of his signature mouse helmet glowing green. Large frosted bottles of E11even-brand vodka are crammed into ice buckets everywhere. Go-go dancers, clad only in race-car helmets and body paint applied to look like F1 driver uniforms, flank the DJ booth. Other young women in lingerie are gyrating on platforms throughout the room. In the middle of it all, a “massage girl” offers head rubs. Down in the pit, a bride-to-be celebrates with friends, flipping back her white veil. 

The party rages on well past dawn, as it will the next night, when rapper Travis Scott headlines, and the night after that, when another star, DJ Tiësto, will whip the crowd into a frenzy. The club will earn millions in just three or four days. And night after night, long lines of hopefuls will wait hours to get in, paying anywhere from US$350 to US$100,000 for a table, depending on who’s performing—and the location of that table. 

In the decade since it opened its doors in downtown Miami, E11even has transcended the space most nightclubs occupy to become a full-fledged phenomenon, with a cult following and vast global reach. In 2023, E11even-hosted parties popped up at the Cannes Film Festival and the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, exporting the club’s particular brand of unbridled excess as they’d done previously at seven Super Bowls and the 2018 World Cup, in Moscow. Recently, management has been scouting locations for new clubs in Tokyo, London, New York City and Las Vegas. “We’ve had a ton of offers, but it has to be right,” DeGori says. 

noop Dogg is one of a long list of big-name artists who’ve performed in the club.
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

E11even is an unlikely sensation, mixing the risqué, somewhat tawdry, world of bachelor-party lap dances and dollar bills stuffed into G-strings with A-list musical acts and Cirque du Soleil–style theatrics, all packaged with plush gold banquettes and a bone-rattling sound system. It’s an oddly seamless mash-up of manic luxury and sexually charged hedonism, fuelled by large-format bottles of Champagne, vodka and tequila. “It’s many different things to many different people,” says DeGori. “To explain how it works together—you can’t do it.” 

Over the years, E11even has spawned brand extensions in music and vodka and NFTs, in millions of dollars in merchandise—mostly US$50 baseball hats—and in the billion-dollar real-estate developments rising on the lots around the club. The 213-metre, 65-storey E11even Residences condo-hotel tower is under construction across the street and expected to open in two years, with interiors from NYC firm AvroKO. A 1,860-square-metre poolside day club will overlook E11even’s new rooftop restaurant, Giselle, a fitting showcase for chef Gustavo Zuluaga’s maximalist cooking. His more-is-definitely-more menu pairs toro-tartare cones, lobster thermidor and wagyu beef tomahawk steaks with a thumping beat. A second, equally tall tower called E11even Residences Beyond will follow, connecting to the first by skybridge; a third is planned for just up the street.

11EVEN might be the first nightclub anywhere to birth a residential tower, which is not all that surprising when you consider its roots. The club’s origins go back to the early 2000s, when co-founder Marc Roberts—a former sports agent from New York who had worked with heavyweight boxing champ Shannon Briggs and NFL star Tyrone Wheatley—began buying land in South Florida. Entering the real-estate- speculation game, he set his sights on Miami’s mostly desolate Park West neighbourhood, snapping up as many abandoned buildings and vacant lots as he could. Roberts didn’t know what the area, tucked between Miami’s Design District and the luxury enclave on the waterfront at Brickell, might eventually become, but he was willing to bet it would be worth a fortune one day. “I just knew it was the best land in Miami,” he says. 

A rendering of the residents’ day club
ADINAYEV/RENDERS ARX SOLUTIONS

Attempts to transform the area into a 24-hour entertainment district, bringing a bit of Las Vegas into central Miami, had mostly fizzled out by 2012, when Roberts began angling to acquire the Gold Rush, a strip club with a rare 24-hour license to serve alcohol and host nude entertainment, abutting plots he’d already bought. Roberts guessed owner Jack Galardi, an octogenarian gentlemen’s-club mogul known to be a shrewd and intractable businessman, would drive a hard bargain—if he could be persuaded to sell at all. 

“Everybody said, ‘That’s the golden piece—of everything you assembled, you’re not getting that. Nobody will get that. He’s not selling, ever,” ‘recalls Roberts. Worried his reputation as a real-estate player might drive up the price, Roberts refrained from approaching Galardi directly. Instead, he sent in a “beard”, a young restaurateur who found Galardi in the hospital, dying of cancer. “I always use a beard,” says Roberts. “I’ve done maybe 60 deals in this neighbourhood; they hear my name, they think it’s lottery time.” The stand-in outlined fantastical plans for a celebrity-backed restaurant—with just enough star power to make it interesting. “I sent my good buddy, he had a little restaurant, just a little guy,” says Roberts. “He said, ‘I want to buy this with an athlete, he’s really hot on it, we better act quick.’ ” Roberts says he even convinced a former client from his sports-agent days (he won’t say who) to lend their name to the ruse. 

In the weeks after the Gold Rush deal closed for US$11.9 million, news reports began trumpeting developments coming to Park West and its environs. All at once, a number of long-debated infrastructure improvements were announced: the neighbourhood wasn’t on its way to becoming a new Las Vegas Strip, exactly, but suddenly a train station, a mega-mall (which Roberts had been attached to early on), and a highway extension were all in the works. The value of the land soared overnight. 

Roberts and his actual partner on the Gold Rush deal, Michael Simkins—a young power player on the Miami real-estate scene with deep roots in the community (his industrialist father, Leon, had been a major local philanthropist)—decided to keep the strip club going as a revenue source while they considered the fate of the site. They hired a consultant to help locate a third party to run the place for them. “Every strip-club operator in the world contacted us,” says Roberts. “We were the prettiest girl at the prom.” 

Rather than partner with any of them and fork over the bulk of the profits, Roberts and Simkins decided to build their own management team. They flew in DeGori, who’d spent more than 30 years running clubs and who came widely recommended, from Vegas. DeGori had opened dozens of venues across the country for his mentor Michael J. Peter—the founder of the Solid Gold and Pure Platinum brands who is sometimes called the godfather of the modern gentlemen’s club—before launching his own spots, including Scores Chicago and the Penthouse Club in Las Vegas. Instead of simply taking over the Gold Rush, DeGori suggested replacing the club with a new sort of hybrid nightlife model, mixing elements of a gentlemen’s club, a classic dance club and a live-music venue. It was an audacious idea, and one he’d been toying with for decades. “I thought, ‘I can put everything together, and it will be spectacular,’ ” he says.

Partners (from far left) Michael Simkins, Dennis DeGori, and Mark Roberts on one of the club’s banquettes.
JEFFERY SALTER

Roberts and Simkins, seduced by DeGori’s vision, brought him on board as a partner. Together they began developing plans, eventually gutting the building down to its exterior walls. (To retain the valuable 24-hour license, the club itself couldn’t get any bigger than its original 1,250 square metres.) Simkins told friends he believed it “would be one of the top-five most successful nightclubs in the United States after it opened.” They had their doubts. 

“I’m spending all this money and I’m telling people this, and it’s in this neighbourhood no one is really visiting—it was totally off the radar—and they all thought it would be out of business within a year,” Simkins says. 

DeGori—who, despite the whole “Make it rain” thing, describes himself as reserved and behind-the-scenes—began assembling a dream team, a sort of Oceans Eleven heist crew to help him execute his plan for the club, luring high-powered operating partners, many from Las Vegas, with generous offers.

 “Moving bonus, signing bonus—I felt like a first-round draft pick,” says Gino LoPinto, a veteran of the after-hours-club scene in Vegas who came on as the gregarious front man in charge of marketing and talent booking. Daniel Solomon, who had helped Marquee, in Vegas, become the highest-grossing dance club in the country after rising to become the youngest general manager in the Tao group at 25, brought his deep contacts in the EDM scene. A VIP wrangler named Rob Crosoli made the move from Chicago. Even security chief Derick Henry, who had done protection work for Prince, the Jonas Brothers and Mary J. Blige, got a piece of the business. “In a club like this, security is huge,” says DeGori. 

Two dancers in body-painted F1-style driver uniforms
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

As what would turn out to be a US$44 million build-out continued, the owners and managing partners brainstormed ideas for a name. They wanted something open-ended, vague, hard to define. It wasn’t a classic dance club, concert venue, lounge or cabaret theatre. It was all of those things, and none of them. 

The address was on 11th Street. DeGori, whose daughter had just turned 11, began seeing the number everywhere. “I really like it, because it says nothing,” he explains. They couldn’t trademark a number, but a distinctive spelling, E11even, would work. In the build-up to opening, they erected cryptic billboards across Miami. “Whatis11.com” followed by “It is what you think it is.” According to LoPinto, “We never explained what it was.” 

A pre-opening party, announced in the New York Post, doubled as a casting call for “60 sexy beach bodies” to appear in the Entourage movie—the film’s writer-director, Doug Ellin, was an old friend of Roberts’s. Invitations to other launch festivities, sent to several hundred VIPs, arrived in black boxes that played opera music when opened. Inside was a gold mask and a silver key to the club. “We sent one to Steve Wynn, to Trump, to a lot of people we knew wouldn’t come,” says LoPinto. Another list, of people more likely to show up and spend money, received an American Express–style black card loaded with US$11,000 in credit to be used during the club’s first year in business. 

E11even, billed as the “world’s first and only 24/7 Ultraclub,” was originally open non-stop seven days a week. (Hours were later curtailed by the pandemic, and now the club is open around the clock from only Wednesday to Monday.) The first few months were a struggle. “We were bleeding money,” says Roberts, “and then all of a sudden, it just started clicking.” Soon, celebrities began showing up. Leonardo DiCaprio made an early appearance. One night, Miley Cyrus jumped onto the pole in the middle of the pit. Idris Elba moonlighted in the DJ booth. 

Cardi B. ringing in the New Year in 2023
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

After Usher performed during the club’s first New Year’s Eve, E11even began booking some of the biggest names in hip-hop and electronic music, from Diplo to DJ Marshmello, Cardi B. to Snoop Dogg. Drake, who rang in the New Year in 2016, was the first artist to perform in the pit, surrounded by fans, pioneering the up-close-and-personal staging that has since become a hallmark of E11even at its wildest. (Altogether, Drake has played the club seven times.) 

For the first few years, as the business’s fortunes began soaring, Roberts and Simkins remained mostly hands-off—more landlords than operators. Simkins, active in the civic affairs of his Miami Beach community, worried about the reputational risk of attaching his name to the club and the potential strain on his marriage. His wife, Nikki, who’d been his high-school sweetheart, “was freaked out,” he says. “It was one thing to buy it and lease it, which she was on board for, but this shift into partnering on the business was heavy for her. So certain promises were made… that I would only go to the club with her, and that was the rule for the first six years.” 

A rendering of E11even’s two residential towers.
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

But as the cult of E11even soared, the stigma soon faded. “People were connecting emotionally with the brand, superfans were developing,” Simkins says. Eventually Nikki, a former diamond dealer, took on a role in the business herself, helping to launch the club’s vodka, produced in Florida under the E11even label, as CEO of the brand’s spin-off company. 

The E11even management team, always quick to capitalise on new trends, jumped on the cryptocurrency craze early on, as Bitcoin mania engulfed Miami during the rise and fall of Sam Bankman-Fried’s house-of-cards exchange, FTX. E11even became the first nightclub in the country to accept Bitcoin. During Miami’s inaugural Bitcoin Conference, the club was often packed with big spenders flashing their crypto wallets. E11even even sold a special diamond-encrusted Bitcoin hat for US$50,000. 

In late 2021, the company spent nearly US$400,000 acquiring a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT—No. 11, of course. (The value of Bored Ape NFTs has since plummeted.) E11even’s Ape became the new mascot and the launching pad for a label, E11even Music, run by LoPinto. (It later released a track from a new EDM artist, 11Ape, an in-house creation who performs anonymously wearing a Bored Ape mask.) In the spring of 2022, the club released its own collection of 1,111 NFTs. Buyers were granted membership in the E11even Captain’s Club and special access to the facilities, among other perks, for 3 ETH (about US$7,900 at the time). 

A voluminous coworking space, one of the many amenities
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

The halo effect of an unforgettable evening may help explain why so many of the club’s business partnerships have succeeded. Real-estate developer Ryan Shear, principal of PMG, which has built many condo towers in Miami and New York, was having a big night out at E11even a few years ago when he asked to meet Roberts, who was seated upstairs at his usual table overlooking the pit. Soon they were tossing around ideas for an E11even high-rise on the land Roberts and Simkins owned across the street. “We’d kill it,” said Roberts, selling the proposal hard. 

A few meetings later, Simkins and DeGori were in on the deal. Soon the club’s managing partners also signed on, enthusiastic about expanding the debauched spirit of E11even to a much bigger platform. “There’s not really a Vegas-style property in Miami—great beach club, great spa, great food and beverage offerings, 24-hour lobby bar,” says LoPinto of the hybrid condo-hotel plan. 

The helipad on top of E11even’s second tower.
COURTESY OF E11EVEN

The first units went on sale in January 2021, a year and a half before a foundation was poured. All were sold fully furnished, so they could function as hotel rooms when not in use by their owners. A few deep-pocketed E11even fans bought up entire floors. Prospective buyers were tantalised by a whole set of perks, including access to a beach club on South Beach, about a 20-minute drive away, and to the tower’s many amenities, among them a 930-square-metre spa and wellness studio offering Ayurvedic treatments designed by Deepak Chopra (his first residential project), a cigar club and a restaurant. The 449-unit tower, containing everything from US$300,000 studios to US$10 million penthouses, sold out in six months. 

A second tower hit the market in late 2021, with plans for condos, a private members’ club, and a helipad on top. Sibling influencers Jake and Logan Paul both reportedly bought penthouse units, with listing prices of US$20.5 million apiece, off-plan. A third tower went on sale a few months later. A fourth isn’t out of the question, says Simkins, once the last one sells out. 

“Come back in a couple of years—you’re not going to believe your eyes,” says Roberts, a born salesman, of the partner s’plans to transform the area surrounding the club into one massive brand extension. Recently, they have started referring to it as District E11even. “This is a whole new city,” he says. “This will be the most famous entertainment street in the world when we’re done with it.” ● 

E11even

Click here to subscribe to Robb Report ANZ.

ADVERTISE WITH US

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Stay Connected

You may also like.

Watch of the Week: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph

Roger Dubuis unveils its innovative chronograph collection in Australia for the very first time.

By Josh Bozin 21/05/2024

When avant-garde Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis revealed its highly anticipated Chronograph Collection halfway through 2023, it was a testament to its haute horology department in creating such a technical marvel for everyday use. Long at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technological excellence, Roger Dubuis (pronounced Ro-ger Du-BWEE) is no stranger to such acclaim.

Now, fans down under will finally get a taste of the collection that made headlines, with the official Australian unveiling of its Chronograph Collection. Representing precision engineering, extraordinary craftsmanship, and audacious design, this collection, now in its fifth generation, continues to redefine the chronograph category.

Roger Dubuis Australia welcomes the Excalibur Spider Collection to the market, featuring the exquisite Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph, as well as the Excalibur Spider Revuelto Flyback Chronograph (a timepiece made in partnership with Lamborghini Squadra Corse). Each model speaks at lengths to the future of ‘Hyper Horology’—watchmaking, as Roger Dubuis puts it, that pushes the boundaries of traditional watchmaking.

Roger Dubuis

“Roger Dubuis proposes a unique blend of contemporary design and haute horlogerie and the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is the perfect illustration of this craft,” says Sadry Keiser, Chief Marketing Officer. “For its design, we took inspiration from the MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph, while we decided to power the timepiece with an iconic complication, the flyback chronograph, also marking its come back in the Maison’s collections.”

The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is bold and flashy—a chronograph made to be seen, especially at its 45mm size. But Roger Dubuis wouldn’t have it any other way. The supercar-inspired watch is certainly captivating in the flesh. Its multi-dimensional design reveals different layers of technical genius as you spend time with it: from its case crafted from lightweight carbon to its hyper-resistant ceramic bezel, black DLC titanium crown, open case back with sapphire crystal, and elegant rubber strap to tie the watch together, it’s a sporty yet incredibly refined timepiece.

The new RD780 chronograph calibre powers the chronograph, a movement fully integrated with two patents: one linked to the second hand of the chronograph and the other to the display of the minute counter. The chronograph also features a flyback function.

The complete set is now available at the Sydney Boutique for those wishing to see the Roger Dubuis Chronograph Collection firsthand.

Roger-Dubuis

 

Roger-Dubuis

Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
Diameter: 45mm
Material: C-SMC Carbon case
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: RD780 calibre
Complication: Chronograph, date
Functions: hours, minutes, and central seconds
Power reserve: 72 hours

Bracelet: Black rubber strap

Availability: upon request
Price: $150,000


Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Federer and Nadal Team Up in New Louis Vuitton Ad

Just in time for the French Open, Louis Vuitton serves up a winning new campaign.

By 19/05/2024

They have scaled the dizzying heights of tennis, and now great rivals and friends Roger Federer and friend Rafael Nadal climb a majestic mountaintop in the new Louis Vuitton campaign.

The latest installment of the LV’s storied Core Values series of ads, once again shot by renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz, reunites two tennis legends who have not faced off against each other since Wimbledon 2019. (Federer retired in 2022 and in his last match teamed up with Nadal in doubles, with the pair famously crying and holding hands afterwards.)

Three thousand metres high in the Italian Dolomites and in less familiar attire than their usual on-court drag, Federer sports a classic Monogram Christopher Backpack that is every bit as elegant as his balletic prowess, while Nadal’s is a fittingly dynamic Monogram Eclipse version.

The campaign recalls the brand’s 2010 grouping of soccer legends Diego Maradona, Pelé and Zinedine Zidane.  

Louis Vuitton’s 2010 campaign featuring Diego Maradona, Pelé and Zinedine Zidane in Madrid’s Café Maravillas. Photo: Annie Leibowitz for Louis Vuitton.

“I know how many important icons have been part of this campaign,” says Nadal. “Being part of it is something I am very proud of—especially sharing it with Roger who has been my biggest rival and is now a close friend.”

Federer adds, “It’s a unique opportunity to be working on this campaign with Rafa. How we could be such great rivals and at the end of our careers be beside each other doing this campaign is very cool.” Tennis fans everywhere agree.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video shot of the new Louis Vuitton campaign.

LouisVuitton

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Will Smith, Tom Brady And More Celebs Are Team Owners in a New Electric-Boat League

Will all that star power deliver?

By J. George Forant 16/05/2024

At one point during the debut broadcast of the world’s first electric-boat racing circuit, an on-air host stands on a platform overlooking the water and pummels the camera with enthusiasm: “I hope you’re ready for a landmark moment that can change the future of water transportation. The nerves, the excitement, the energy, it’s electric!” Behind her, a few dozen people mill about, leaning on a rail, drinking coffee, staring at their phones. One turns to look at her as if he’d like to ask her to keep it down.

That singular image might best encapsulate the cognitive dissonance that permeates the new UIM E1 Series Championship.

Take the boats. They look like remnants from a Star Wars movie, with long tapered noses leading to a glass-enclosed cockpit flanked on each side by a curving wing that acts as a hydrofoil, allowing the hulls fly over the surface while sending off huge sprays of white foam—but they’re nearly silent and, while they have explosive acceleration, they reach a top speed that wouldn’t even merit a ticket on an interstate.

The Racebird could be out of a Star Wars movie, which is not far off, given its futuristic foils and hyper-drive.
E1 RACING

Then there are the team owners, a mélange of famous people who don’t necessarily bring to mind boats or racing. For that matter, they don’t really have anything to do with one another. Sorry, but it’s going to take more than a few brief hype videos and a recorded Zoom call in which the eight celebrities playfully talk trash before anyone believes the relationship between, say, NFL legend Tom Brady and pop singer Marc Anthony contains any real competitive juice.

There’s also the meeting of mission and money. The series defines itself as “committed to healing our coastal waters and ecosystems . . . through innovative clean technologies and aquatic regeneration.” But Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which controls more than $USD700 billion in cash largely derived from oil production, holds a chunk of equity and occupies the top sponsorship space. (Disclosure: Saudi Arabia’s Research and Media Group has invested in Penske Media Corporation, Robb Report‘s parent company).

The series had its first race in Jeddah, with the next scheduled for Venice on May 12. Expansion plans include 15 races globally.
E1 RACING

None of it quite seems to go together, and yet, by many measures that first race, held on an inlet of the Red Sea in Jeddah on Feb. 3, was a success. Expect a ninth team headed by a famous Hollywood actor. The series will host seven more races this year, starting on the waterways of Venice on May 12.

All of which raises the question: Can this actually work?

“Boat racing has never really caught on,” admits Powerboat P1 CEO Azam Rangoonwala, who’s been in offshore racing for more than 20 years and is also a principal on E1’s Team Aoki. “We got involved with E1 because we see an opportunity to finally make that breakthrough happen.”

In 2020, Rodi Basso spent a fair part of the year trying to visualise life after the pandemic. Unlike many others, Basso wasn’t so much longing for the way things had been, as attempting to conjure what new world would emerge.

An aerospace engineer who’d transitioned into motorsports, he’d held jobs at Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren Applied Technologies, but he’d recently stepped aside and moved to England in pursuit of some then-undetermined new challenge.

When the world shut down, he started running to stay fit and get out of the house, excursions on which he was often joined by Alejandro Agag, who lived nearby. Agag had founded Formula E and Extreme E, each a successful racing series featuring electric vehicles. The pair had met when Basso, through McLaren, developed an improved battery pack that allowed Formula E drivers to complete a race on a single charge.

E1 founder Alejandro Agag, Racebird designer Sophi Horne and CEO Rodi Basso established the electric raceboat circuit following Agag’s success with Formula E.
E1 RACING

Basso, an Italian, and Agag, from Spain, debated the next big thing as they traversed the streets of London. Agag had invested in a start-up, Seabird, that was working on a foiling electric boat, and he asked Basso to help with the engineering. That simple request quickly morphed into a new idea—an electric boat racing series.

Perhaps no two individuals were better positioned to make it happen, and that night Basso created a deck summarizing the concept. The next day, he sent it to Agag who immediately signed on. The E1 World Championship Racing series was born amid expectations that it would become the next trending motorsports entity.

Within months they’d secured exclusive rights to stage electric boat races for 25 years through UIM, the international racing organization, and landed the PIF deal. Asked about the irony of Saudi oil money underwriting a series with a mission of “promoting sustainable energy use in marine sports,” and about assertions of greenwashing and sportswashing, Basso looked away from his computer screen.

CEO Basso, an aerospace engineer with a background in F1 racing, designed the electric drivetrain while Horne designed the foiler.

Turning back, he offered a joke and then framed his answer in terms of investing strategies: “I focus on the day-to-day job of the people working at PIF who study markets and industries and place bets on what will bring the highest return. In that sense, it’s a privilege to be noticed and have that initial funding.”

Asked a similar question via email, Brady chooses not to respond, but otherwise replies: “This is a new competition and it has great growth potential, so it was a no-brainer for me to be involved with E1.”

Basso later adds another point: “PIF’s money allowed us to get going. It paid for the development of the boat and the series. Now we have to stand on our own as a functioning business.”

What will that look like?

Location, location, location. Part of the difficulty for boat racing has been the “where.” Contests usually took place offshore or on small—often remote—lakes that offered flat calm, neither of which are particularly spectator friendly.

In recent years, the Sail GP series has solved that problem with a global race circuit featuring smaller, more maneuverable versions of full America’s Cup boats slugging it out on metropolitan waterways, such as San Francisco Bay and Sydney Harbor. In contrast to traditional America’s Cup racing yachts, the smaller SailGP boats also reduce the costs of building, maintaining, outfitting, and shipping them to races around the world.

“When I decided to get into electric, I researched how to compete with combustion engines, which led to foils,” says Sophi Horne, the CEO of Seabird, who designed the boat for E1. “I started with a cruiser for seven people, but then Alejandro and Rodi asked me to switch focus to a race boat and that led to the Racebird. At seven meters (23 feet), it can run at top speed for roughly 40 minutes.”
E1 has followed the same approach as SailGP, with one-class, techy raceboats, a global tour and extensive social media exposure.
SAILGP

Besides that, the boat looks sleek, part spaceship, part waterbug, as it skitters above the surface. And while 50 knots (92.5 kmph) on a boat is fast—especially an open boat low to the water—it’s not an attention-getting number to the general public. Still, the Racebirds distinguish themselves with a burst of acceleration that’s visible when they compete.

The power comes from a Mercury outboard built specifically for the purpose, with input from Seabird. It has a booster that jacks the output from 100 kilowatts to 150 for 20 seconds per minute, adding to the notable jumps in speed and putting a focus on driver skill and strategy. Each team has two pilots—as they’re called—one male and one female, who alternate turns behind the wheel through a qualifying round, the semi-finals and finals.

“We’re now packaging the propulsion system to sell to other builders,” says Horne. “What drives me is the mission to electrify boats, so we want to partner with other companies out there and help build the infrastructure with fast charging that we’ll need.”

ach team has one female and one male driver who both race. Team Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen and Sam Coleman won race 1 in Jeddah.
E1 RACING

The series’s green agenda goes beyond pushing the development of electric engines, high-output batteries and hydrofoils, which reduce drag in increase efficiency by lifting the boat’s hull out of the water. E1 intends to employ sustainable practices on-site at events—including the use of local vendors—and install and leave in place high-speed electric charging stations at each locale.

According to its website, organizers will collaborate on coastal restoration projects and education initiatives directed by chief scientist Carlos Duarte, an ocean ecology professor at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

“One of the barriers to ownership and sponsorship in powerboat racing has been the sustainability question,” says Rangoonwala of Powerboat P1. “E1 answers that question up front by building it into the mission.”

Whatever seeming contradictions arise from the use of PIF funds, the series has already had a real-world impact. Mercury Marine has incorporated much of the technology it developed for the Racebird engines into its Avator electric outboards. More than 12,000 Avators have been built in the last year. “Racebird was a good place for us to start,” David Foulkes, CEO of Brunswick Corp., Mercury’s parent, tells Robb Report. “It was a way to gain experience in a controlled environment, where the boats are centrally maintained.”

F1’s Sergio Perez was the first A-lister to sign up, followed by tennis great Rafael Nadal. The others soon followed.
GETTY IMAGES

Basso calls Agag a “marketing genius” for the way he tapped into existing audiences for Formula E and Extreme E by luring well-known names from Formula 1 and extreme racing—and their social media followings—into the fold. It’s a proven approach, but one that would not work for E1. “Unfortunately, in powerboat racing, there are no star drivers or famous owners,” Basso says.

The alternative involved finding celebrities from other walks of life to invest in teams. “First, we approached Sergio Perez and evidently our presentation was done right because he joined, then Rafa Nadal signed up,” Basso says. “The rest came as a consequence of a sort of missing-out syndrome, which worked out nicely for us.”

The sell might have been easy, but the selections reflect the sort of calculated demographic cross-section that would make a pollster drool. Besides Brady, the white American hero of seven Super Bowls, Smith, the Black Hollywood superstar, Nadal, the internationally known Spanish tennis star, Anthony, the Grammy-winning musician with Latino roots, and Perez, a Formula 1 driver from Mexico, there’s Didier Drogba, a Black European soccer icon from Ivory Coast; Steve Aoki, a world-renown DJ of Japanese descent; Virat Kohli, a cricket star from India; and Marcelo Claure, a Bolivian tech entrepreneur.

All appear engaged at the outset, sitting for video interviews and promoting the series on social media. Four showed up for the opening race and Brady plans to be in Venice. “I’ve been involved in a few things since retiring but this racing series has been incredible,” Brady tells Robb Report. “I love competition and racing. Seeing the vision of the sport come to life has been very fun and fulfilling.”

Basso says he and Agag intentionally created a “business mechanism that would give owners skin in the game and keep them engaged.” The owners put up €2 million (about $2.15 million) to license a team. E1 owns the series and the boats and handles all the logistics, including transportation, for which they charge teams another €1 million. The buy-in, Basso says, will go up for Year 2, since three of the original eight license holders have already resold them at five times the initial investment.

To ensure those values keep rising, E1 plans to cap the series at 12 or 15 teams competing in 15 races, hopefully by Year 3, with five events in Asia, five in the Mid-East/Europe and five in the West, where potential venues include Miami, Mexico and Brazil.

To help control costs, the boats must run as they come out of the box, and though teams can hire as many engineers as they want back at headquarters, they can’t have more than seven crew members, including drivers, on the dock during races.

The concept, launched in Venice in 2022, will return there this weekend.
MERCURY MARINE

“They made some really smart decisions to limit costs at the outset,” says Ben King, one of of Team Brady’s co-principals. “The plan is to start modifying the boats in Year 3, which would mean greater outlays for teams, but by then, hopefully, the circuit will be well established.”

Teams can bring on sponsors outside those attached to the wider series, including everything from patches on pilot uniforms to on-the-boat decals to partnerships that showcase technology. Visibility shouldn’t be a problem. E1 has both linear and streaming deals with 120 broadcasters that range from Asia through India, MENA, Europe, and the Americas, where CBS owns the US television rights.

In all, E1 says its global reach extends to 1.7 billion people, and media coverage of the Jeddah race in February had a total reach of 2.1 billion, with 125 million digital impressions. “For the first race, we are pleased,” Basso says. “We have a long way in front of us, but we are pleased.”

On the course at Jeddah, the four finalists line up for the rolling start of the final race, among them Team Brady. As the boats pass the marker buoy signaling the beginning of the first-ever E1 championship, three surge ahead while the Brady boat founders and wobbles forward, dropping to last.

In the previous heat, Brady’s Emma Kimiläinen finished third, meaning teammate Sam Coleman has to not just win the heat but make up the time deficit to claim the title. As the boats approach the first turn, Coleman mashes the booster and jolts forward, closing the gap and creating a three-boat bottleneck around the first buoy.

The scene turns chaotic as the boats speed through the curve within yards of each other and geysers of whitewater and churning wakes fill the space around them. Emerging into the straight, they jockey for the lead. “Racing these boats is super intense—insane,” says Coleman. “The trick is constantly managing the foil height. Too much power and the boat will drop and you’ll lose speed. The working window is so small, and while you don’t have engine noise, there’s feedback through cavitation and vibration that you have to learn to feel.”

Staying on the foils is tricky, but key to winning.
E1 RACING

Most of the drivers have come from other disciplines, motorcycles, cars, even Jet Skis and WaveRunners. Coleman started in motocross, then teamed with his sister to become a world champion and two-time U.K. champ in P1 Powerboat. Whether it’s that experience or his feel for his craft, Coleman’s boat levels and rises high on its foils as it shoots to the front.

Through the next turns, Coleman’s lead builds, creating another bit of intrigue. The course layout consists of a small oval inside a larger one, something like a paperclip. Over a five-lap race, each driver must circumnavigate the inner oval four times and the outer once. As Coleman continues to pull away, the question of when to take the long lap rises.

The Racebird and electric engines will be redesigned for season 2 if the series is successful.
E1 RACING

And while that gives the announcers something to talk about, it also highlights a shortcoming. The moments of close-quarters racing, the nuance of working the trim and booster and the strategic quirk of the long lap all make for good, engaging viewing. At the same time, the difficulty of keeping the boats running clean on the foils and the long lap spread the field, sapping most of the drama from the action. Those instances of intense, close-quarters racing are few and far between.

Ultimately, that’s what success will come down to: Will people understand the level of skill and strategy on display and will the competition hold up? A sustainability mission and a few 30-second hype videos from Tom Brady (whose team pulled through in Jeddah as the winner) provide a sense of purpose and attract eyeballs, but for people to continually show up and tune in—to pay up—the races themselves have to deliver.

Formula E and Extreme have made it work. Will E1? Ladies and gentlemen, start your very-quiet engines.

 

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

10 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About Porsche

The automaker is a sports car standard-bearer with a long, impressive history in racing.

By Bob Sorokanich 16/05/2024

Porsche has long stood at the pinnacle of automotive achievement. The automaker has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans 19 times—more than any other competitor—and has successfully competed in everything from rally racing to Formula 1. The history of Porsche vehicle production is equally impressive, as the company rose from the rubble of World War II to become one of the most widely recognised luxury and performance brands in the world today. Let’s dive into the history of Porsche with 10 facts you might not have known about the German brand.

Photo: Keystone

Ferdinand Porsche was born in 1875 in what is now the Czech Republic. Despite the fact that he had little formal education, from an early age Porsche was recognised as a brilliant engineer. In 1901, Porsche built the world’s first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle, a motorised carriage that used a Daimler internal-combustion engine to generate power for electric motors in the wheels. Soon, Porsche was hired as technical director of Stuttgart-based Daimler, where he worked on Mercedes race cars including the hugely successful Mercedes-Benz SSK.

Photo: Fox Photos

In 1931, Ferdinand Porsche launched the company that still bears his name today. It wasn’t a car-building operation: Dr. Ing h.c. F. Porsche GmbH was a consulting agency, supplying design and engineering expertise to various automakers. Soon after launching his company, Ferdinand Porsche received an assignment directly from German Chancellor Adolf Hitler: A project to build a simple, durable, affordable vehicle that could be purchased by everyday Germans, codenamed Volkswagen, or “people’s car.”

Photo: Topical Press Agency

Ferdinand Porsche unveiled the first Volkswagen prototype in 1935; in 1939, the Volkswagen factory began production, with Ferdinand Porsche appointed as an executive. As part of his work with the government of Nazi Germany, Porsche renounced his Czechoslovak citizenship, joined the Nazi Party, and became a member of the SS paramilitary group. Ferdinand Porsche contributed to the design and engineering of Nazi tanks and troop transport vehicles, and after World War II ended, he was arrested for war crimes including the use of forced labor, serving 20 months in prison in France.

Photo: DOMINIK HILDEBRANDT

Following the end of World War II, Ferdinand Porsche’s son, Ferry, sought to build a sports car according to his father’s vision. In 1947, the first examples of the Porsche 356 were assembled in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria, where the Porsche family had moved operations to avoid Allied bombing. The 356 bore some resemblance to the Volkswagen, and like that vehicle, it used a rear-mounted four-cylinder engine along with some other VW components.

Photo: Porsche

Porsche built several versions of the 356 until 1965, but by the end, the vehicle was badly out-of-date. Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, grandson of the company’s founder, designed a new rear-engine sports car, this time with an air-cooled six-cylinder engine. The company intended to call this model 901, which was the internal code-name for the project, but Peugeot owned the trademark on all three-digit model numbers with a zero in the middle, so the name was swiftly changed to 911.

Photo: Wesley

Porsche found racing success with the 356, 911, and various competition-only prototypes, but the automaker’s rise to motorsport dominance began with the 917. First shown publicly in 1969, the 917 was the brainchild of Ferdinand Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche who would later go on to lead the entire Volkswagen Group. The race car used an air-cooled mid-mounted flat-12 engine, and it was so compact, the driver’s feet sat ahead of the front axle. After some early developmental troubles, the 917 became a dominant endurance racer, winning the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Monza 1,000km, the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans back-to-back in 1970 and 1971. The 917 was a monster, reliably cresting 230 mph at Le Mans in an era when the typical racing prototype couldn’t break 200, and it launched Porsche on a path to becoming the winningest manufacturer in Le Mans history.

Photo: Porsche

The late 1970s were difficult for sports car companies, and in 1980 Porsche had its first year of financial losses. The 911 had gone without significant updates and was slated for cancellation, with the front-engine, V8-powered 928 intended to replace it. Newly-appointed CEO Peter Schutz, who was born in Germany but was raised in the U.S., realised that the impending death of the 911—considered the quintessential Porsche sports car—was contributing to low morale at Porsche. Schutz walked into the office of chief Porsche engineer Helmuth Bott, where a chart showed continued production of the 928 and 944, and the end of 911 production in 1981. In a scene that has become legend, Schultz took a marker from Bott’s desk, extending the 911’s line off the chart, onto the office wall, and out the door—signifying that the 911 would never be canceled. “Do we understand each other?” Schultz asked, and Bott nodded in the affirmative.

Photo: Porsche

In 1986, Porsche unveiled a supercar that shared the general shape of the 911, but was shockingly advanced in nearly every way: The 959. Developed to compete in Group B rally racing, the street-legal 959 had a twin-turbo engine making 326 kilowatts, Kevlar composite bodywork, wide-body fenders, and all-wheel drive. It soon became the fastest production car in the world, sprinting from zero to 96 in 3.7 seconds and reaching a 317 kmph top speed.

Photo: Porsche

Amazingly, from 1963 to 1997, Porsche never undertook a full redesign of the 911. In 1998, a brand-new sports car emerged. Internally known as Type 996, the all-new 911 had a completely redesigned body shell and an all-new flat-six engine that, for the first time, was cooled by water rather than air. Early 996s shared their front bodywork and some interior panels with the more affordable mid-engine Boxster, causing some controversy among Porsche fans, but today the 996 is considered the model that saved the Porsche 911.

Photo : Porsche

In 2002, Porsche introduced the Cayenne, the automaker’s first sport-utility vehicle. A few years later, in 2009, the four-door Panamera luxury sedan was launched. Today, Porsche’s best-selling model is the Macan, a small SUV, with the Cayenne not far behind. The automaker also sells an all-electric sport sedan, the Taycan, and is moving toward the future with plans for hybrid and all-electric sports cars.

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected

Sitting on the Dock of Balmain

Is The Dry Dock Sydney’s Hottest New Pub Renovation?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 15/05/2024

At its peak, in the late 1890s, Balmain had 55 pubs. They were noisy watering holes that serviced thirsty hordes after a day’s labour at the suburb’s harbourside coal mine and shipyards. Today, Balmain is dotted with charming workers’ cottages set behind picket fences and stolid corner pubs, which have been converted into restaurants and homes.

One such establishment, the Dry Dock on Cameron Street, has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. As an original public house built in 1857, it remains fixed in a local backstreet and offers a porthole to the suburb’s blue-collar roots.

Locals can still bring their dogs into the front bar, or retreat to the lounge to sit next to a crackling log fire. 

The renovation carried out by Studio Isgro and H&E Architects combines rustic touches—like the acid-etched sandstone exterior, exposed brickwork and beams  —with elegant light fittings, an incredible sound system and tasteful art. “It has a transportive, escapist quality, where you could be anywhere, or right at home,” says interior designer Bianca Isgro of Studio Isgro, who spent two years on the overhaul. Her team designed a modern gastropub on the site after gutting and stripping the building, which had been neglected for years. 

Founder and managing director James Ingram (ex-Solotel and Merivale) has assembled a warm, friendly service team that matches the pub’s character. He says his team has fought hard to preserve the pub’s long-standing connection to residents and to get the mix of old and new right.

“Balmain is home to so many devoted residents who are rightly proud of the suburb’s working-class roots,” says Ingram over a frothy beer in the warm-toned front bar.

“The Dry Dock has been designed to have that timeless feel that stands the test of time.” 

The large open kitchen features an oyster bar and serves French-style fare, delicious sides, and hot desserts. The wine list is on point, with something in every price range and a friendly sommelier doing the rounds. 

The kitchen is led by seasoned chef Ben Sitton, who previously rattled the pans at institutions including Felix, Uccello and Rockpool Bar & Grill. His kitchen faces a large dining room with unclothed tables, bentwood chairs, tumbled marble floors and exposed trusses that give it a contemporary feel.

The back of the room overlooks a walled garden, with a giant ghost gum at its centre and views of neighbouring residential fences. 

 

Chef Sitton says his team relishes the opportunity to cook from an expansive modern European repertoire with quality produce. The robust flavours and textures are centred around the smoky quality that comes from Josper charcoal grills, wood-fired ovens, and the rotisserie.  

You can order steak frites with charred baby carrots, or baked market fish with a cheesy, potato gratin.

The Peninsula Hospitality Group, the team behind Dry Dock, is now looking to expand its foothold in Balmain by opening at least one other venue.

Visit for the food, stay for the vibe.

The Dry Dock, Public House & Dining Room, 22 Cameron Street, Balmain, NSW 2041. P: 02 9555 1306; drydock.com.au

Buy the Magazine

Subscribe today

Stay Connected