My name is
Lincoln Rowley, and I am an A-cat addict. There I said it. The first step to
recovery is to admit there is a problem – and I have a problem.
It all started
out so simply. One day I was sitting on the rail with 12 or 15 of my crewmates
footing off toward a 3 degree header at about 6.7453 knots and feeling really
good about how my extra hard hiking was eeking out almost a hundredth of a knot
above target. I was looking back for an update on the continued screaming in the
back of the boat, when I saw something flash by out of the corner of my eye. I
had no idea what it was. I thought for a second that some kind of plane was
crashing, but when I looked closer there was a guy standing on the side of it.
He was suspended there, and it took a little while to see that there was some
kind of fishing line or something tied to his … oh my god! How is that
possible! It sailed past, higher and much faster, and then bore away across our
bow. The guy jumped in off the wire, to the low side, with a hull in the air,
and doubled his speed as he disappeared behind our genoa. The last thing I saw
was the sun reflecting off his … teeth.
That winter I
had reconstructive surgery on my shoulder, and one night while I was not
sleeping because of the pain, I saw a picture in the back of Sailing World. That
mysterious vision, that THING was called an A-cat, and the world championship
was going to be sailed out in California; not Australia, or Europe, but the good
old USA. Right then and there my mind was made up. I was going to do this. I had
to do this. Every second of therapy, every minute of pain, every hour in the gym
had a reason. I was going to buy the most radical boat I had ever seen and go to
Next thing I
knew, I was in Ben Hall’s basement handing him a check for an assortment of
carbon parts and aramid strings that somehow fit together to become an A-cat.
They say that drug dealers give away the first dose, and you pay them for the
rest of your life. Ben said, "Think of it this way, it’s cheap
therapy." Spoken like a real pusher. I don’t hold any ill will for Ben
though, later on I found out that he is an addict, just like me – heck, he’s
on his 5th boat! I kept the boat at Lake Hopatcong, where the
original addicts can be found. Guys like Cal Fuller, who spent winters building
these creatures in the crawlspace beneath his house. He would slide the hulls
out the window in the spring and emerge, covered in gelcoat dust and epoxy, the
sun reflecting off his … teeth.
The next few
months were a blur, but I remember certain pieces. The first time I passed a
motorboat – and they couldn’t keep up with me. People gathering around
gawking and commenting on how fast the blue hulls looked – the covers where
blue, they never saw the white hulls. Four hobie sailors coming over to help me
pick the boat up onto the trailer – and almost tossing the 165 pound boat into
the air because they were expecting it to weigh as much as their boats. Cracking
the 10 knot barrier – upwind, in 12 knots of breeze. And of course, my
patented body drag till you tip over backwards because you weigh 50 pounds more
than the boat and accidentally blew off the traveler cleat move.
Pretty soon it
was ramp up for the worlds time. The big feeder on the east coast was the
Toshiba unlimited regatta. And the wind was building over 20 knots. The gun went
off and we ripped away at mach 9. I made the mistake of looking up at the top of
the 18 pound carbon rig as it did its magical lambada dance in reaction to every
wave and puff. Mistake it was – I was quickly hypnotized by the sight and 5
boats got by. I recovered by the last upwind leg and started picking people off
by attrition. One flipped during a tack, one had a near death experience with a
mesmerized fisherman in a motorboat and two others had their heads explode from
all the excitement. That left Ben, who went down like the six million dollar man
during a gybe. I swallowed my fear and gybed 20 yards short of certain death on
a breakwater and crossed the line in first place. Then the real symptoms of
addiction set in: A wild need to be covered in gelcoat and carbon
propensity to sand or drill holes in everything to remove one millionth of a
gram of weight. I was all … teeth.
The story did
not end up any prettier. I got to California and hit the starting line with 50
of the best sailors in the world. The first start was looking promising, set up
perfectly on the front row with 20 seconds to go and a lane to bear away into.
Traveler centered, sheet in, on the wire and WHOOSH, boats went by me like I was
standing still. DAMN these guys are fast. I was left in the lurch without enough
oxygen to even breathe. Friends, let me tell ya, there is nothing as sad and
sordid as an A-cat addict who gets smoked on the racecourse. I tried everything
in my power and pushed and pushed – until my shoulder blew up in a sickening
crunch. And here I sit. The boat sold, a depressed workaholic, who still dreams
of flying a hull at the speed of light with his hair on fire. But maybe, they
can repair the shoulder - with carbon /kevlar pre-preg weave and some spectra.
All I really need is some cheap therapy to regain the wild look in the eyes and
ear to ear grin of an A-cat addict.