After 30 years at Mercury Marine, Rick Mackie is calling it a career. Following the introduction of the 450R outboard in June, Mackie is retiring as senior marketing manager of Mercury Racing on Aug. 16.
“I’m going out on a high note with the 450R launch,” the 57-year-old told Trade Only Today. “It’s one of those things where once it comes off and you see the reaction, it’s kind of a motivator.”
Mackie grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. His brother Jim, a naval architect who is 10 years his senior designed a hydroplane that Mackie built and used on a lake near his home, though he never raced.
All of Mackie’s boats were Mercury-powered, and as a youngster he used to write letters to Mike Butler at the engine manufacturer. He and his brother visited the Mercury facility in Oshkosh, Wis., and Butler told Mackie to look him up after he graduated from high school.
When Mackie was 26, Mercury hired him as a product support specialist, and he drove a van loaded with T-shirts and merchandise to tunnel-boat races around the country. He became friends with the top drivers in the sport, including Bill and Mike Seebold, Chris Bush and others. They took Mackie for rides in a two-seat Formula 1 boat that was used for the media at the races.
“It would be the top drivers in the Champ boat series, and whenever they would get set up for the rides, they would put me in the boat for ballast,” Mackie said. “Running into the turn at 100 mph and bam, slam, you’re turning 90 degrees.”
Through the years, he said, some of his most memorable moments came during the 24 Heures Motonautique de Rouen, a 24-hour endurance race for outboard boats, where Mercury went to prove its outboards. In the early days of the Internet, Mackie, Mercury Racing president Fred Kiekhaefer and Tony Esposito, who worked in marketing with Mackie, would do hourly updates from the River Seine.
On the offshore racing side, Mackie remembers brushes with Don Johnson. At the offshore powerboat racing world championships at the Trump casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Mackie was walking down the docks when he saw Johnson sitting on the bow of his Team USA catamaran. The first thing he asked Mackie was how he could get more power from his engines.
Mackie said the fastest he’s driven is about 100 mph in a bass boat. He reached similar speeds at Mercury’s Lake X test facility near Orlando, Fla., in a 21-foot Skater catamaran powered by a Mercury Hi-Performance 2.5 EFI Offshore outboard. He calls Lake X one of his favorite places. The fastest speed he’s ridden is about 150 mph in an MTI catamaran when Mercury Racing’s QC4 turbocharged sterndrives first came out.
His own boat is a Sea Ray 240 SDX with a 300-hp Mercury Verado Pro. He bought it a few years ago, and in early August, he surpassed 140 hours, mostly logged with his 15-year-old son Jordan.
Mackie says he’s going to take some time off before deciding his next move. He’d like to do some traveling, and he’s a drummer, so there’s the possibility of playing some gigs.
“It’s literally been a dream job,” he said of his three decades at Mercury Marine. “At my high school reunion people said they remembered me drawing pictures of boats when we were kids.”