Tunneling. Band burning. Puffing too soon. Puffing too late. One by one, a cigar-smoking error takes each person down.
It’s the U.S. Finals to see who’ll represent the U.S. in the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CSWC) in Croatia. Coined the Slowest Race on Earth, CSWC is all about “slow smoking” a competition stick, the Rocky Patel CSWC Cigar, which ranked No. 9 in Cigar Journal’s Top 25 of 2020. Box Press Host Rob Gagner interviewed contenders and the champ at BURN by Rocky Patel in Pittsburgh, PA.
- The official cigar size? Mareva 5 1/8 x 42.
- Winning time in the U.S. in 2021? One hour, 56 minutes.
- Who won? Watch the video to find out.
Watch 15-Minute Highlight of The Finals
A well-humidified cigar burns more slowly and evenly. Extend your own smoking experience by storing cigars at the ideal RH in your humidor with Boveda, a global partner of CSWC. Shop Boveda for cigars here.
Read Full Interview: Video Transcript
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita]- I am, deadly focused when I do this. I do know this cigar well enough to know the flavor of the filler. Versus the flavor of the filler, the binder and the wrapper. What I do want to try to do tonight, is claim the U.S. record. I’m one minute behind the U.S. record on this season. I always say I would love to get into this, but it was never here in the U.S. As soon as I found out, we’re doing it, I said I’m in on this.
[Rob Gagner] – The finalists from across the United States come to BURN smoke lounge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here the best of the best will compete to see who will advance to the international show.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – So I qualify two hours, one minute and change, puts me number nine in the top 20. So I feel really confident tonight, but anything can go on. It’s a handmade product, so who knows.
[Michael Gomez]- The first time I heard about it, I was kind of confused like, what’s the deal? Whoever can smoke one as fast as possible? But then I learned it was quite the opposite.
[Chris Van Mill] – My wife was out of town and I thought I deserve a night out on the town as well. So I entered, I didn’t even practice I went in and ended up winning the event.
[Zahrah Green] – Happy to represent the ladies. That was like the main thing, represent the ladies because it’s a man-dominated field here. So I was like, I made it!
[Michael Gomez]- I’m trying to get a good even burn right off the right off the beginning, you know, make sure you know the fires in there well, and it stays lit.
[Zahrah Green]- Burning the band.
[Rob Gagner] – Burning the band?
[Zahrah Green] – Yes, I cannot for the life of me get through it. Without burning it. I’ve tried a million times. I fail each time. So I stop right before it burns.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – I have yet to figure out three hours and eighteen minutes. My head can’t get wrapped around that yet. I am an engineer by trade so, trust me I’ve analyzed this a lot. I’ve talked to fluid flow analyst friends of mine that we’ve talked about, what I should be doing. As far as flow rate through the cigar.
[Chris Van Mill] – I did get one side that was burning more quickly than the other. Just let it set for a while. And it seemed, it did eventually, even out. By the time my cigar went out at the end, it was a perfect, straight, line.
[Michael Gomez]- None of them are rolled exactly the same. You have to adjust and modify your smoking, according to the cigar. When I first, the first competition, I tried taking a puff every two minutes, you know, that only got me as far as an hour and you know fourteen.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – I’ll be taking my glasses off a lot. I have to look at it like this, the glasses blurred at that point. So I’m going to be focused on the cigar. You’re going to see me doing this, watching the smoke.
[Chris Van Mill] – I really want to stick to just what I was doing before. The main thing is just keep the dang thing lit.
[Zahrah Green] – Maybe every other minute, I look at it and kind of pull that draw. And that’s pretty much it just as long as I keep that red ring around and it’s moving slow, I’m good.
[Michael Gomez] – I really have no strategy other than just smoke it as slow as possible. Take as many as minimal micro puffs as I have to. And if I can get it to that band, just as it starts turning brown, call it.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – I’ll never want to risk it going out. That’s the death strike.
[Rob Gagner] – Right?
[Max Bichler]- Once everybody has a cigar afford everybody one minute, to prepare the cigar, inspect this cigar, decide if there’s any issue with it. If there is, call us over, we’ll swap it out. If there’s not, cut it, and then we will start the clock. And when the clock starts, you will have one minute to light the cigar. And once the cigar is lit, two matches, everybody knows the rules.
[Rob Gagner]- A lot of rules for three simple things. Lighting the cigar, keeping it lit and not dropping that ash. There’s no rules against eyeing up the other guy. Checking out your competition. Seeing who’s focused, and who’s not. Who’s in, and who’s actually checked out. Same cigar. Same rules. Same pressure.
[Max Bichler]- Guys are dropping early.
[Rob Gagner] – How many guys are out?
– All three of you guys went out, kind of at the same time.
[Chris Van Mill] – Right. Right at the 15-minute mark.
– Yup! The tunnel rolled in, it’s all right. Happens.
[Rob Gagner] – So they all tunneled?
[Rob Gagner] – All tunneled.
[Chris Van Mill] – Not mine like I said, I didn’t. Mine I- I- drew, and 30 seconds later, I’m looking I’m like I don’t see any, any smoke.
– I got four holes in the tunnel. And it just, like I said it, unfortunately went out.
[Rob Gagner] – Were any of you seeing the burn around the wrapper at all? Or was it literally not burning?
– Yeah, I saw red around the edge, and like I said my last puff, I barley got any smoke did a nice big draw, get it going again, it went out.
[Rob Gagner] – They’re out. Tunneled cigars, they’re out. I don’t know this is going, five people have dropped.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – In the early stages of this, you’ll see my holding it like this. Right? Because what it, this right here I’m gonna feel the heat, and when I rotate that cigar I can feel when it’s hotter than others, and you’ll see me at times close my eyes, and I’m what I’m doing there is I’m actually counting until I, it’s ouch. Right? If time is like two seconds more than the last time, it’s time to puff.
[Max Bichler] – There are seven contestants remaining. Seven contestants remaining. Let’s hear for the remaining contestants. Half of the field remains.
[Zahrah Green]- I’m out.
[Max Bichler] – Okay, we are down to six. Six contestants left. I’m sorry. Thank you for being here. You did an unbelievable job. Zahrah, let’s hear it for Zahrah—all the way from California tonight. Thank you. Okay. We got another one dropped, guys. Virginia. Virginia is now out. So we are down to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 contestants. We started with 12, we’re down to five.
– My guy’s still there.
– He’s going good.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – I studied this cigar so much. I’ve, 26 dates I’ve taken this cigar on. So I know what she likes and I know what she doesn’t like. I don’t like the whole foot. All I need to do is light just the edge of the cigar. Puff real hard, okay? And just get the very edge of that cigar starting to burn. It’s an extremely well-constructed cigar. It’s going to start to find its way, like a good cigar should. Right? And go around eventually and you just rotate that and catch it. And it’ll just start working its way around. You sit down and burn time and smoke will be pouring out of it as it’s doing it. While others are sitting there at this point in, in 10 minutes, I can get an eighth of an inch or a quarter of an inch, and it’s still working itself across.
[Rob Gagner] – His lighting strategy is very unique. He only lights, like, if you were to look at full cigar, he only lights like a corner of it.
[Michael Gomez] – Oh, then is spreads. That’s smart!
[Rob Gagner] – Yeah!
[Michael Gomez] – You know when I first sat down, when I first did this, a rapper was a, you know, judging the whole thing. He was telling me oh, there’s a whole bunch of ways to cheat and people do I’m like, you gotta be kidding me, there’s a way to cheat at this. He said, that’s why you can’t have a watch, you can’t have a cell phone because there’s ways to cheat. You can’t touch your glass really, and palm it because then you’ll dampen it and, that’s another way and I’m like, you gotta be *BEEP* kidding me who, like who thought of this *BEEP*?
[Rob Gagner] – Your finger.
[Michael Gomez] – Yeah! Who thought of this?
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – I’m okay with the rules. My, I would say it’s anxiety. So the anxiety moment is the first 40 minutes, of carrying the ash because if you drop the ash before the 40 minutes, there are various minute penalties that are taken depending upon how long in that forty minute you went. Carrying the ash for 40 minutes but, you need to able to be the last man standing, and still have smoke coming out of that cigar.
[Rob Gagner] – He’s tried to ash that thing. He was literally, shaking.
[Michael Gomez] – It wouldn’t come off?
[Rob Gagner] – It would not come off, so now my worry is that he’s tunneling. Is he actually burning the wra- the binder and wrapper. Because it could just be burning the ligero right now in the center.
[Michael Gomez] – Yup.
[Rob Gagner] – And that’s very hot and maybe holding an ash but he’s not getting it spread. I have not seen the edge of his cigar go up, you know, like with the ring.
[Michael Gomez] – Neither have I.
[Rob Gagner] – So.
[Michael Gomez] – So technically that, that cherry, it could be halfway between there and the band by now.
[Rob Gagner] – Maybe, I don’t know how far it tunnels. Look at him, he’s holding it sideways he’s holding it upside down I mean, it is still not falling off.
[Michael Gomez] – I think if he were to knock that ash down, it would screw him.
[Rob Gagner] – You think so?
[Michael Gomez] – Because of he’s tunneling that hard…
[Rob Gagner] – Only if he’s tunneling, but I have not seen it glow around the edge. So it is in his best interest to keep the ash on.
[Dalton Cole] – So I’ve been trying to just burn down the wrapper, and I’m assuming I’ve got pretty good construction still in the middle. I was flaking pretty early, it’s just hanging on. It’s a well-constructed cigar.
[Rob Gagner] – Do you, is the wrapper and, and binder burning? Is it burning right now? Okay, so it is burning. But the ashes won’t come off. Is that part of your strategy? Or do you want the ash to fall?
[Dalton Cole] – I was trying to get it off earlier but now I’m a, I’m just trying to save my shirt really.
[Rob Gagner] – All right.
[Dalton Cole] – Yeah, not really part of the strategy.
[Rob Gagner] – Sounds good. Well, good luck.
[Dalton Cole] – Thank you.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – When I got to the qualifying round, the lounge, the ceilings were all black. They’re all flat black. All right? And when I was doing this, I could see the smoke much better on the black background, a black shirt, you can kind of see the smoke. The other thing and that’s important because you want to watch the smoke volume and see when it starts to fade.
[Rob Gagner] – What time did you go up?
[Fred Rewey] – Just now.
[Rob Gagner] – Like 57 seconds, or 57 minutes.
[Fred Rewey] – Somewhere around there.
[Rob Gagner] – So what ended up happening is it kind of had an uneven burn.
[Fred Rewey] – The smoke was really, really weak and 20 minutes on the smoke was great, but I mean, like I had the black shirt, the guy in front of me is in black, and I’m like, I could feel heat, but I wasn’t getting smoke. I couldn’t figure it out.
[Rob Gagner] – Really? So not a lot in the first 20 minutes, and then after that, was good.
[Fred Rewey] – Yeah, I may have, should have ashed it sooner and tried to equalize it, dealing with the doorway there a little bit. Just trying to always face into the doorway where the wind was coming to correct it. Just, somehow lost it.
[Rob Gagner] – So it just ended up kind of
[Fred Rewey] – Well, I started pivoting it this way so the heat would level it off and start trying to catch up. And then it just didn’t, it was already just too far in it.
[Max Bichler]- We are down to our final two and we’ve got “Boston” Jimmie and Ryan head-to-head sitting at the same table. Little did they know they were the only guys that weren’t under the air conditioning vents. Congrats on picking those seats.
[Michael Gomez] – Kind of like NASCAR, you know, most people just watch it for the wrecks you’re just waiting for the wreck, you know? And that’s the exciting part. So you’re waiting, waiting, waiting for something cool. When it gets towards the end, that’s when the exciting stuff happens because everybody’s close to that band. And you’re just, you’re, you’re trying to see, who’s going to cross that finish line. It’s going to be a photo finish for the most part.
[Max Bichler] – Creeping on that 133, get in the 133, 1, a top 20 in the world. So, you’ve got five minutes. Keep it up, guys.
– Either way it’s going to want to go.
– So he’s like barely lit, see how, he just literally puffed on it and barely got anything out. He’s pretty much done.
– If he can keep it lit for two more minutes, we’ll be impressed.
– Come on, Jimmie.
– Still lit, he’s still got smoke.
– That’ll keep him lit for another 30 seconds easily.
– Two minutes.
– Two minutes easily, yeah.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita] – Out.
– Hey man
– He did a great job.
– Great competition.
[Rob Gagner] – It was awesome.
[“Boston” Jimmie Vita]- Everybody, root for Ryan in Croatia, man. Hopefully he has his passport.
[Rob Gagner] – So, what did it come down to?
[Ryan Janus] – Slow and steady.
– Slow and steady.
– Slow and steady and just take a real nice soft. And just try to keep it as happy as possible.
[Rob Gagner] – I know you’re recently married.
[Ryan Janus] – Yes!
[Rob Gagner] – About a week ago.
[Ryan Janus] – Yup!
[Rob Gagner] – Do you both have passports?
[Ryan Janus] – Yes, we do.
[Rob Gagner] – Thank God, you’re going to Croatia!
[Ryan Janus] – So happy, so happy.
– That’s amazing.
– Thank you so much.
– Its a honeymoon!
– This was our second little mini honeymoon.
– This is the second mini honeymoon, we’re going on the third mini honeymoon, in Croatia. On a yacht, competing for the United States.
– I’m so happy.
– I am so happy, thank you so much.
[Rachel Patro (Janus)] – Thank you so much!
Want to Learn How to Slow Smoke a Cigar?
Get your herf together or practice slow smoking solo. CSWC is scheduling virtual slow cigar-smoking training sessions. Ready to employ the tips and strategies of the contenders? To apply, simply send a CSWC Zoom Training Request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org (And tell them Boveda sent you.)
His lighting strategy is very unique. If you were to look at the full cigar, he only lights like a corner of it.-Rob Gagner, Box Press Host
How Did the U.S. CSWC Champ Do at the World Finals?
In 2021, 13 qualifying rounds were held at smoke clubs and lounges across the U.S. There were qualifying events in more than 30 countries. The winner from each country attended the grand finale in Split, Croatia, in September 2021.
Check out the Top 20 Best Times from the 2021 CSWC finals, plus the world ranking of the best smokers of all time based on 11 years of competition.