At the request of his children who have been, in his words, “boatless” for close to two years, Justin Lucas, the extremely well-liked powerboat enthusiast from Tennessee who organizes the Lake Cumberland Thunder Run in Kentucky every June with his good friend, Dan Weiss, can hardly believe he’s in Sarasota, Fla., this week to log some time in his new Statement Marine 360 catamaran and celebrate the holiday weekend with hundreds of like-minded boaters. And yes, he has his kids, Emma and Jackson—as well as his wife, Erin—to thank for motivating him to get the new 36-footer buttoned up in time to make the trip to Southwest Florida Sunday’s Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run and all of the ancillary activity surrounding the 11th annual event.
Justin Lucas and his family are enjoying their new 36-foot Statement Marine in Sarasota, Fla., this week. Photos courtesy Justin Lucas
His family has made the holiday trip before with their previous boat, a 32-foot Spectre Powerboats cat, which is why they asked him if they could all go again—in their new boat.
“My kids really wanted to use the boat and go back to Florida so that’s what they asked for their Christmas present,” Lucas said, then laughed. “And they were serious. They wanted to go boating so that put the pressure on us to finish the boat for this weekend.”
And by “us,” Lucas meant him and his friend, Denny Kirkland, who owns Custom Performance in Somerset, Ky. That is where the 36-foot Statement has been for about a year after the bare hull Lucas was able to secure from the Clearwater, Fla.-based boat builder was delivered to Custom Marine for all of its finishing touches. In March, Kirkland, who handles everything from general maintenance and re-rigs/re-powers to outdrive service and paint, fiberglass and gelcoat repair, painted the boat’s bright red and lime green graphics, which were designed by another one of Lucas’ friends, the talented artist behind Stephen Miles Design.
Confident that this was Kirkland’s first full-blown paintjob on a new boat, Lucas, who helped Kirkland every step of the way to help keep the overall cost of the boat down and because he’s always enjoyed working on boats, said that Kirkland nailed the graphics package on the boat and on the engine cowlings of the twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines.
At that point, Lucas was confident the 360 would be finished in time for the summer season. Instead, supply chain issues and other vendor slowdowns put the boat, which is dubbed Sho’ Nuff, further behind schedule; so much so that Lucas pretty much gave up on getting it in the water before the 2023 boating season. But then his kids put the pressure on to get it wrapped up so they could go boating in Florida over winter break. And now he’s spending today, tomorrow and Sunday boating with friends in weather that is sure to be significantly warmer than back home in Tennessee.
“We drove through the night Wednesday and got in early Thursday morning so we could get the boat in the water and make sure everything was working before the runs this weekend,” said Lucas, who is looking forward to testing and tuning the cat in the coming months once the weather warms up. “The boat feels a lot bigger than our 32 did. It felt awesome in the light chop we encountered (on Thursday)—it’s a bad-ass ride. Honestly, and Erin feels the same way, we still can’t believe this is our boat.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images of the Lucas family’s Statement.
Lucas admitted that he couldn’t afford a brand-new completed cat from Statement, especially because of how much boat prices have spiked in the past couple years, so he feels fortunate to have been able to get the bare hull when he did and to utilize his connections and a lot of his own time and energy—not to mention the 400Rs off of his old boat—to assemble the red-hot machine with Kirkland, whom he actually worked for many years ago when he got out of the Air Force.
“We’re thrilled with how the boat turned out—it’s not 100% done yet but it’s very close,” said Lucas, who thanked a handful of friends who went above and beyond to help in a variety ways, including Weiss, Miles, Jeff Hoefling, Chad Collier and Mark Godsey. “It seems crazy to say this, but it still doesn’t seem real. It was weird driving it here because this is the first boat I’ve owned where people walk up and take pictures of it at a gas station or come up and ask questions about it.
“I’m pretty sure Denny is super proud of the boat; he’s also super pumped to have it—and me—out of there,” Lucas said with a laugh. “It’s a Custom Performance build so I know he looks at this boat as just as much his as it is mine. At least he treated the project that way. The same can be said for Jeff Hoefling of Lively Machine. He went above and beyond machining different parts for the boat, the coolest of which was the custom steering wheel hub that remains upright even when you turn the wheel.”
In an interview from the docks of the Hyatt Regency Sarasota, the de facto host location for the popular New Year’s Day event honoring the late offshore racer, Lucas specifically asked to acknowledge his wife and kids for being so supportive being that he spent much of his off-work hours and weekends working on the boat at Custom Performance.
“We can’t wait to spend some quality boating together now that we have a boat again,” he said. “We did a lot to it to make it user friendly for the family. We added a ladder and I even compromised by adding a sun pad.”
Lucas added that one of his favorite parts of the boat, which rides on an Evolution trailer that he described as amazing, are the engine cowlings painted red to match the graphics.
The project boat has been a long time coming for Lucas and his wife, Erin. Hopefully they have a nice enjoyable weekend to help them forget all about the time it took to get to Sarasota and the 2023 Joey Gratton Memorial New Year’s Day Fun Run.
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