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A Sordid Tale of Addiction

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 the worlds.

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

A strange 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.

 

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