So, what does the future hold for the ROCAT?
When Specialized produced the first mass-produced mountain bike in 1981, the racing road bike fraternity looked askance at this strange contraption, but very soon mountain bikes began outselling road bikes. Specialized’s first advertisement for their new ‘Stumpjumper’ said,
“It’s not just a new bicycle, it’s a whole new sport.”
That is exactly the way I feel about rowing and the ROCAT – this could be the mountain bike of the rowing world.
It is enabling. You fancy a row – the boat’s on the car and, unless it’s blowing a hooly, the weather or water state doesn’t really matter. Suddenly it makes the ancient, somewhat elitist sport of rowing truly accessible. It’s safe, great fun and can be an excellent workout.
Were the project to be revived, preferably by acquisition, I would propose the following changes based on lessons learned.
There should be three models to target three quite different markets …
With its extensive use of carbon fibre and custom paintwork, the current boat is too sophisticated for the mass market, and should move up to the luxury market. This would become ‘the ROCAT fine boat’, and probably come later.
‘The ROCAT’ would become the core product and, drawing more on the mountain bike analogy mentioned above, it would be tougher and more rugged than the ‘fine boat’. Although racing would not be its sole function, as with the highly successful Laser dinghy, an international racing programme would be set up and heavily exploited to reinforce the brand and drive sales. A range of functional and attractive apparel and accessory merchandise would also be developed to increase brand awareness and revenue.
The boat would share the same hulls as the ‘fine boat’, but would have a limited range of plain colours. Aluminium tube would replace the carbon fibre in the production of the crossbeams and the rigger components – the seatdeck would probably also incorporate some aluminium tubing.
The race class would be a strict ‘one-design’ (like the Laser), but accessories would be developed for alternative uses like touring. Then, maybe, like the Laser, the ROCAT would also become an Olympic sport.
The ‘poly ROCAT’ would be a cheap-and-cheerful boat aimed at the family recreational market. Its robustness and high level of safety would also be attractive to holiday resorts, training camps, schools, boat hire, surf life-saving and activities for the disabled.
The hulls would be roto-moulded polyethylene (like most kayaks), and the boat would have an aluminium structure and rig with a fabric seatdeck. Although nominally still a single-seater, its hulls would be more buoyant than the racing boat’s so that it could support the weight of more than one person – for example in a surf life-saving role. The ‘poly ROCAT’ could be retailed through sports stores at an attractive price point similar to a good kayak.
I have had many emails from people all over the world, telling me that the ROCAT would be ideal for where they are. Like the Laser (which has sold some 207,000 boats worldwide), this could be a truly global craft.