Mercury Racing

In 1947 a boat powered by the new Kiekhaefer Mercury Lightning outboard won its class in the grueling, 130-mile Albany to New York powerboat marathon. Carl Kiekhaefer quickly realized the marketing potential presented by racing and in 1948 encouraged the American Powerboat Association (APBA) to sanction grass-roots, Stock Utility classes to showcase the speed of Mercury outboards alongside rivals Evinrude and Johnson. Success in competition established the Mercury reputation for high performance. Kiekhefer’s unquenchable desire to dominate his competitors created a culture of winning at Mercury. The race was on.
In 1957 Carl Kiekhaefer crisscrossed Florida in his plane scouting for a warm-weather location that would offer him absolute privacy for testing new Mercury outboards. A patch of water near St. Cloud called Lake Conlin looked promising. Only a rough dirt trail through a cypress woods infested with snakes and alligators led to the shore of the 1,400-acre lake. There were no buildings on the property, and no utility services were available. It was essentially cut off from civilization. Kiekhaefer thought it was perfect.
To maintain secrecy Kiekhaefer began calling his new “undisclosed location” Lake X. In 1958 Kiekhaefer attempted Operation Atlas, a 34-day endurance trial that would see two boats powered by 70-hp Mercury Mark 75 outboards run non-stop on Lake X for 25,000 miles, equivalent to a circumnavigation of the world. Over the ensuing years development of new Mercury performance and racing engines, hydrodynamic testing, and race-boat rigging was conducted at Lake X. Some of the fastest boats on the water earned a Rigged at Lake X sticker.