Raising the Roof

How a love for boating spans generations for the LaPierre family. 

By Gregg Mansfield

To figure out how Joel LaPierre developed a passion for high-performance boating, look no further than to his father, Roger.

Joel got a master class growing up when it came to operating go-fast boats. His father owned nearly 50 performance boats over his lifetime, everything from a Cigarette Top Gun to an Eliminator Daytona. When his father brought home the latest boat, Joel was out on the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York putting it through the paces.

Running a Warlock catamaran during a poker run.
Joel, sitting in the middle, running a 33’ Eliminator.

“My Dad was always big into the performance boats and I just kind of grew up in it,” said the 53-year-old LaPierre. “Actually, I was kind of a better driver than him, so I always drove.”

Joel isn’t a serial boat owner like his father, owning a dozen boats since 1986. His boat resume includes a Formula, Skater, Fountain, Eliminator, Hustler, Donzi, Scarab, Sea Ray, and a Talon. Joel even owned and raced a 160-mph Miss DINOMYTES hydroplane in the New York area.

Joel driving the Miss DINOMYTES hydroplane in 2010.
Joel LaPierre’s MTI 340X now has Mercury Racing 500R outboards.

His current boat is a beautiful 2018 MTI 340X with Mercury Racing 500R outboards. Over the winter, the cockpit will be undergoing a restoration with a seating arrangement similar to MTI’s 39-foot catamaran.

Growing Up on Boats

If roofing was the family business, poker runs were the full-time hobby for the LaPierre family. Roger estimates he took the family to 150 poker runs over an 18-year period and Joel was by his side running the boats. Even Joel’s high school sweetheart and now wife, Bridgette, traveled with the family as they attended poker runs around the New York region in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Borderline boat was on the poster after winning the Alexandria Bay Poker Run.

The LaPierre family attended the first poker run staged by Poker Runs America’s Bill Taylor in 1987 and Roger regularly attended PRA events over the years. Taylor remembers the LaPierre family well and their love for poker runs. Joel was a high school teenager when he participated in the initial Kingston, Ontario, poker run.

“I remember Joel being very mature for his age,” Taylor said. “Joel had a natural understanding of the water and how to operate a high-performance boat.”

Whether it was operating a V-bottom or a catamaran, the pair were a good team. 

“When he was younger, he would drive and I would throttle and then it flipped where I would drive and he would throttle,” Roger said. “As time progressed, I would sit back and enjoy the ride while he was driving and throttling.”

Joel LaPierre (right) celebrates the turning of the cards with Bob Ackley (left) and announcer Dave Turnbull (middle) at PRA’s 1000 Islands Poker Run in Kingston.Joel LaPierre (right) celebrates the turning of the cards with Bob Ackley (left) and announcer Dave Turnbull (middle) at PRA’s 1000 Islands Poker Run in Kingston.
Running a 377 Hustler Talon with triple outboards during a poker run.
Roger and Joel LaPierre have carried the Borderline name through the boats they’ve owned.

Roofing Business

Joel and partner Lucas Bushaw own RSI Roofing, buying the family business after his parents, Roger and Marilyn married 54 years, retired to Florida. The Gouverneur, N.Y., contractor does large commercial roofing projects for industrial warehouses, government facilities and mansions. 

Joel worked at RSI Roofing over the summer while in high school and college, starting on the dumpster where all the roofing debris is collected. After graduating college, Joel worked on the roof for 15 years as a foreman before moving into the office and working as an administrator before buying the company and becoming president.

Father and son enjoying a cigar. Roger was named into the Poker Runs America Hall of Fame.

Roger wasn’t about to give his son a job in the office right out of college, even though he was capable and qualified. It’s something that Joel now appreciates.

“If I did that, the guys aren’t going to have the same respect for him,” Roger said. “I knew it was going to be tougher on him, but I thought he would appreciate it in the end. He started right out, back then, it was (tar) kettles, hot kettles. It was a bad, bad job.”

Living in northern New York, the boating season is limited, and the spring and summer is the busy season for the construction industry. Traveling to poker runs requires lots of coordination and great employees to keep the company running, said Joel, who runs in five poker runs a summer. Among his favorites are the Poker Runs America’s 1000 Islands Poker Run, staged in Kingston, Ontario for the past 30-plus years, then the 1000 Islands Charity Poker Run. 

Joel lives on a lake and uses a center-console boat, but when it’s time to run the 340X MTI, he tows over to the nearby St. Lawrence River.

Roger and Joel with the late Ken Warby, the fastest man on the water.

MTI Restoration

Raising three daughters with his wife, Bridgette, and little time for poker runs, Joel knew he would one day get back into the sport. With the two oldest daughters Cassidy and Corinne off at college, and a 12-year-old daughter, Frances, still at home, he looked for a year before buying a 340X MTI previously owned by Johnny O’Loughlin through TNT Custom Marine. The catamaran is agile around the docks but big enough to handle rough water.

Bridgette and Joel with their daughters Cassidy, Corinne and Frances.

“I had the itch to get back into performance boating,” Joel said. “I wanted an MTI, and I wanted it in the 30-foot range. The 340X fit what I wanted.”

After running the catamaran for a couple of seasons, Joel is updating the cockpit and the power. The interior is being rerigged to make it more wind friendly for passengers beyond the driver and co-pilot up front. The new seating configuration will include two up front, two behind and a rear bench with individual buckets.

Joel and Bridgette LaPierre at the 1000 Islands Poker Run in Gananoque, ON.

“The people in the back seats, they just get pounded with the wind, it sits so low and they can’t see very well,” Joel said. “We’re going to redo it so everybody can see better and not quite have all the wind.”

Power Swap

As part of the upgrades, Joel had Double R Performance swap out the existing Mercury Racing 400R outboards for a new set of Mercury Racing 500R outboards. Though Joel has yet to run the 340X with the new power plants, the performance reports coming out of Canada have been impressive.

With the 400-hp outboards, Joey said the MTI ran 119 mph with four people in the catamaran. Now with the 500-hp outboards, the 340X is expected to top 140 mph while cruising comfortably at 100 mph.

With their Lifeline jackets on, the crew is ready for a fantastic day on the water.

“Raymond (Roberts) ran the boat 132 but had to shut it down because of high water pressure,” Joel said. “I think we got that issue turned around now and should be close to 140 mph.”

As expected with adding an extra 200 horsepower, the catamaran has more torque and is more responsive in the midrange. 

“For me, it’s just a little hot rod,” he said. “It handles unbelievably and handles some pretty big water for its size.”

Year-Round Adventurer

Joel LaPierre’s drive for speed isn’t just limited to the water. He used to have a private pilot’s license and would fly frequently but stays closer to the ground now. He owns a 1,000-hp twin turbo Audi R8 and when the weather turns cold, Joel turns his attention to snowmobiling.

The LaPierre family is big into motorsports, off-roading in Baja, California.

For most boaters that live in cold-weather climates, having the boat winterized is a somber time. Not for Joel, who lives about 7 miles from a trailhead in the Adirondack Mountains.

“I look forward to snowmobile season,” Joel said. “Having a trailhead close to my house in the Adirondacks, I can go anywhere in New York state.”

It’s a cycle that will play out in the spring when Joel will be ready to go out on the St. Lawrence River in his MTI 340X with the new Mercury Racing 500R outboards. Joel just bought a new Myco Trailer for his 34 MTI from Double R Performance. Don’t look for him to sell the catamaran anytime soon.

“I’m going to hold this for probably the next three, four years, I like it that much,” Joel said. “It’s easy to trailer around, it’s easy to put in the water. It just works.”

Joel has the perfect boat—for now.

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