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The ROCAT is a rowing catamaran primarily designed for open water. It is fast and absolutely stable and easy to transport – these (normally incompatible) features suddenly make fast rowing accessible, safe and fun.

This website describes the boat, its new (patented) sliding rigger and swingarm rowing mechanism, and the advanced composites technology used in its construction. The archives also document the 6-year 'idea to market' development of the ROCAT.

The galleries have pictures of the boat in action, and there are some clips in the video section, including one of proto 2 undergoing trials in a very rough sea – and here is a bumpy sea wallpaper – if you like it, please pass it on.

ROCAT at sea wallpaper

latest news – do email us with your comments and/or questions

4 April 2007

We have done well! With resources that have been absolutely miniscule by industry standards, we have converted an idea into a bloody good product – the next generation of rowing boat which provides an unparalleled combination of speed, stability and transportability. Furthermore, along the way, we have developed ground-breaking advanced composites technology, which was runner-up to a multi-billion Euro company for a major international composites innovation award.

ROCAT proto 2 at sea

But we have not done well enough! Small-scale production has proved unviable at the current pricing levels, and I have been unable to raise the finance needed to move forward into proper production – I have therefore decided to put the ROCAT project
'on hold' while I take stock, seek appropriate funding, and work on a strategy to realise the ROCAT's huge potential.

England is very good at breeding innovators, but notoriously bad at backing them.

ROCAT proto 4 on Penzance slipway

The project has a surprisingly large number of dedicated followers – the site averaged 90,000 hits a month at the end of last year – thanks to everyone who has given his or her support and encouragement.

Any individual, group or company looking for a tremendous, if challenging, investment opportunity, do drop me a line. Open-water/coastal rowing is the key to a massive expansion in the sport of rowing, and the market is wide open ... CL

4 February 2007

I've been thinking about the ROCAT's relationship to conventional sliding-seat monohull rowing, and I can see an interesting parallel in the world of bicycles. In the late 1970s, some guys in northern California began modifying their bikes to be able to ride up in the hills. When Specialized produced the first mass-produced mountain bike in 1981, the racing road bike fraternity looked askance at this strange contraption, but mountain bikes now outsell road bikes many times over. 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.

I believe that open-water rowing is the key to a massive expansion in interest in the sport of rowing. A boat that is fast and fun to use; that is safe and completely unfazed by variable conditions, and that is easy to transport and store will open up the sport to tens of thousands of people around the world who would not otherwise have considered rowing. The recent rapid growth of other new watersports shows how hungry people are for new waterborne activities ... CL

27 January 2007

from our Vancouver correspondent:

"When I went out yesterday I met two buddies coming in. One was rowing an Echo, the other a Maas Aero. They commented, with emphasis in their voice, "It's really rough out there!" They started to describe the big waves they encountered, and then they stopped and said: "But you won't have any trouble in the ROCAT!

A few minutes later I stopped rowing and leisurely took out my camera and took this picture (sorry about the tilted horizon but there was a lot of motion out there):"

I wish Richard, and his buddies, could experience the ROCAT in a proper big sea (like in the 'wallpaper' picture above) – once you get used to the fact that it can ride the rollers with consumate ease, the ROCAT is enormous fun in those conditions. But don't expect to see any other rowing boats out there to keep you company!
... CL

... 1) a rough sea in English Bay with the Vancouver skyline in the background - photo by Richard Copley

a rough sea in English Bay, Vancouver

15 January 2007

Mousehole lightsStrangely, considering our tiny firm was up against companies of all sizes, from all over the world, we are finalists in the 'Sports and Leisure' category of the JEC Innovation Awards!

JEC is the World's foremost annual exhibition dedicated to composites.
It takes place in Paris, and every year they give out awards for innovation in the use of composites in eight categories. This has been described as the 'Oscars' of the composites world and, with little hope of placing, I entered the ROCAT – specifically the one-piece hull construction. It is very gratifying to have reached the final three, and to get the recognition of an international panel of composites experts.

Update 21 January – the winners have been published in NetComposites, and the results in the Sports and Leisure category are as follows:

Winner A2000, a mass-produced bicycle wheel that is 100% carbon by
Salomon SA (Mavic Division) (France)
Other Finalists:
- Composite hull for a rowing catamaran by Rocat Ltd (UK)
- Carbon ski pole by Nanoledge (France)

Obviously disappointed not to have won, but to be runner up to a company the size and stature of Mavic is not too bad!

11 January 2007

Clearly, the term 'back injury' covers a multitude of back-related ailments. On the rigger page, I boldly claim that the ROCAT rigger "practically eliminates the risk of back injury (to which rowers are prone)". Unsure of my ground, I stopped short of saying that you could actually row the ROCAT with an injured back.

Well, on Monday, replacing the heavy slate cover of our sceptic tank, I 'did my back'. I have always had a tendency to back pain, but it's usually in the 3 to 4 out of 10 on the back pain Richter scale. This was plainly more serious – more like 7 out of 10. It is concentrated at the base of the spine and, while I can sit and lie OK, walking is decidedly difficult.

This afternoon, it stopped raining for a while, and I had the crazy idea of finding out whether it is possible to row a ROCAT with an injured back. Anthony set the demonstrator up in the field, and I hobbled out to put my theory to the test.

I can't claim that it was easy to get installed, but once my feet were strapped in, I found that I was able to simulate the whole stroke, even when some resistance was applied to the blades!

Not conclusive, I know, but very interesting
... CL

... 1) if Anthony had known that he would, one day, be my nurse maid, would he have joined the company; 2) unable to lift, or reach my feet, Anthony straps me in; 3&4) with my back supported, I am able to 'row' a full stroke ... photos by Freya Laughton

rowing with back injury 1

rowing with back injury 2

rowing with back injury 3

rowing with back injury 4

1 January 2007

The beginning of a new year is traditionally used to take stock and refresh one's plans for the future. I was warned that the transition between development and production would not be easy, and so it has proved. The first three boats took far too long to make because we had to spend so much time designing and constructing the production infrastructure. However, we are delighted that there are now two ROCATs in customers' hands, and we look forward to demonstrating the third to interested parties in the UK before long – if you are one of those, please let us know.

2007 is bound to see big changes at ROCAT. We must move from our small development shop to a unit with move space and facilities; and we must also employ the staff to make the boats – making is not the best use of my time, and Anthony, having done a fantastic job in the workshop to date, is looking forward to getting out and about with the demonstrator.

As we become better established, we intend to take part in events which will show off the ROCAT's ability to handle a wide variety of conditions with ease. The second US National Open Water Rowing Championships would be a good one to go for – this will adopt the 'Blackburn Challenge', a very tough 20+ mile race around Gloucester Mass. And it would also be interesting to have a crack at the cross-channel rowing record. Guin Batten waited for an oily flat calm day to set the current record in a Resolute racing shell (page 4) – we could afford to be more flexible weatherwise!

2007 is likely to be an exciting year for us as we move forward, I hope it is good for all who read this ... CL

25 December 2006

Mousehole lights

A picture of 'Mousehole lights' (which look better in the flesh) – happy Christmas!

17 December 2006

Yesterday, I went for a pleasant 8.9 mile row over to the pretty little fishing village of Mousehole (pronounced mowsel). On the way I passed the Anglian Princess – this is an enormous ocean-going tug which just sits in Mount's Bay awaiting a call to assist any ship in distress within range. As I rowed past the Anglian Princess, I was reminded of a another tug which offered assistance to a coaster on a particularly dark and stormy night 25 years ago on Tuesday. The ship was the Union Star and, having lost its engine 8 miles upwind of the south Cornish coast, it was in serious trouble. For reasons best known to the captain, he declined the offer of help and his ship was driven on to the the rocky cliff near Lamorna. The loss of the 8 people on board would have been sad enough, but the Penlee lifeboat launched in atrocious conditions to try to save the crew of the Union Star, and it was also lost with of all 8 hands – here is a contemporary BBC report and here is a good account of the tragedy in Wikipedia. I have never before, nor since, experienced the palpable communal grief that pervaded the area for days following the tragedy – all those quite extraordinarily brave men, who comprised the crew of the 'Soloman Browne', came from Mousehole ... CL

... 1) Mousehole; 2) Emergency Towing Vessel, Anglian Princess - 67m - 1,800t - 17kts


big tug

10 December 2006

More gales and storms were forecast today, but we just got rain, so I decided to give the demonstrator its maiden outing. We needed some pictures of the boat on the water, so my daughter volunteered to come along and take some. We generally launch out of Penzance harbour but, for a change, we went over to the neighbouring town of Newlyn, which is a very active fishing harbour ... CL

ROCAT in Newlyn harbour ROCAT in Newlyn harbour ROCAT in Newlyn harbour ROCAT in Newlyn harbour

1) the smaller boats don't go out on Sunday, so the harbour was full; 2) the flatest water I've been on for a long time; 3) this picture shows the novel ROCAT stroke quite well – the arms are straight, and your hands stationary during the power stroke, while you heave with your feet, pushing against the seat back;4) I think Newlyn has the highest fish landings in Britain, but the European Union regulations and controls on fishing give UK fishermen a very hard time – the sign in the background relates to this;

ROCAT in Newlyn harbour ROCAT in Newlyn harbour RLNI inshore lifeboat in Newlyn harbour snow in ROCAT number two!

5) the data from the tidal gauge beside the lighthouse is used as the tidal datum in the drawing of Admiralty charts – St Michael's Mount is just visible in the background; 6) the hulls blend nicely with the water – we will probably change the colour scheme to something more photogenic before we take it upcountry for demonstrations; 7) the maritime rescue service in the UK is run by the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and it is 'manned' by volunteers and entirely funded by donations – here the 'Inshore Rescue Boat' is being launched for a practice ... photos by Freya Laughton
8) snow on Centurion II – apparently the first November snow in Vancouver on record
... photo by Richard Copley

3 December 2006

Gales and storms frequent West Cornwall in the winter, and we've just had a good one. Gusts of 90mph were recorded on the Isles of Scilly, but only about 60+ here. Went over to Gurnards Head to have a look, and lost my specs to the breeze for my pains! Unfortunately, I failed to capture one wave which appeared to engulf the whole headland (I think the top stands about 65m [200ft] above MHW, by the way).

When I look at rowing boat manufacturers' websites, I find it very interesting to read some of their claims, and counter-claims, as they often seem to make no sense. I suppose, as their products are inevitably so similar to their competitors', they must grasp any differentiator that they can. One manufacturer, for example, makes a great virtue out of the fact that its boats are hand-built with passion in the USA, and that mass-produced boats from overseas are not only lower quality, but they are also less durable. But it is actually possible to manufacture a more consistant, reliable product to much higher tolerances in a mass production situation; and quality, wherever a boat is made, is simply down to good quality control. As for durability, that is purely down to choice of materials. At the moment, making the ROCAT in the volume we are is far too labour-intensive – we look forward to handing the production of the boat over to a company whose expertise is manufacturing.

Then we come to materials, and carbon fibre, or graphite as the ultra cognoscenti like to call it (although I've never heard anyone 'in the trade' call it that). Carbon, whether real or printed, is very sexy at the moment – last year it was 'turbo'; goodness knows what it will be next year. Unfortunately, as a result, it has descended into a marketing tool which is being used by people who haven't the first idea what it is good for. So I get asked "Why do you use glass for the hulls; why don't you use carbon fibre?" ... as if, by using glass, we are falling short of some expected standard.

We use a number of different materials in the ROCAT, and each is appropriate to its use.
Carbon fibre is a remarkable material which has extremely high tensile and compressive strength for its weight, but it also has very poor impact strength and it is extremly expensive. For the hulls we use a high specs biaxial non-crimp glass; this just means that the fibres are stitched together, rather than woven. If you are trying to use a material's ultimate tensile strength, you lose out if the fabric is woven – the fibres can only achieve their max strength when they are straight, which they are not in woven fabric; see the diagram on the right. When you combine this glass with Soric resin infusion medium and epoxy resin, you get a skinny shell which is light, strong and very tough. In the swanky hull strength picture, the hull is supported at the ends, and easily carries Anthony's 95kg. Before we add the built-in buoyancy, the sockets, the skegs and the rubbing strips, these hulls weigh just 7.1kg – not bad for a 5 metre glass fibre hull! One of the reasons they're so light is that they are (apparently uniquely) made in one piece – perhaps we should make more fuss about that?

We use carbon fiber in the crossbeams, the footbar and the swingarms – all these components take very high loads and any lesser material would add considerable weight to achieve the same strength.

The seatdeck is made of a clever material which is chopped strand glass with a built-in resin infusion medium – it's fairly basic, but just right for the purpose; we do, however, use some carbon to reinforce the seat back.

And I haven't even started on resins – another time.

Are you impressed, by the way, when a company says that it is 'the best in the world'? I suppose my reaction against this dates back to my upbringing, which taught me not to brag. But I do wonder if there is a rowing boat made anywhere that is as capable and safe as the ROCAT in a rough sea?!
... CL

... 1) Gurnards Head in a gale; 2) biaxial non-crimp glass fibre, with Soric resin infusion medium; 3) diagram of crimped woven yarn; 4) Anthony testing the strength of a ROCAT hull

storm tossed Gurnards Head

ROCAT glass fiber

fibre schematic

ROCAT hull section

ROCAT hull strength

29 November 2006

We have finished making the hull 'plugs'. Although they cost a lot in materials and time (delaying the production of the next batch), it made sense to produce them now with the refurbished hull mould in its best condition. Now, if anything happens to the hull mould, or we need a second one (which we will do as rate of production increases), it will be a relatively simple matter to pull another mould off these reference plugs.

Producing these plugs made me think how lucky we are that we don't make the ROCAT using the normal 'wet layup' laminating process, using a polyester based resin – the styrene fumes given off are really nasty; not only do they smell very strong, they also do your head in. Epoxy resin fumes are relatively harmless and, by using vacuum resin infusion in closed moulds, we are only exposed to them for a short time while mixing up the resin. The epoxy hardener is pretty evil, however, and it's important to wear protection while handling it.

We must now get the new demo boat ready for use and attach the roof mounting system to the car. Then it's time to prepare the workshop for the production of the next 3 boats ... CL

... 1) plugs taken off the refurbished hull mould.

ROCAT hull plugs

26 November 2006

ROCAT in Vancouver

Richard Copley took this picture of the Vancouver skyline from ROCAT number two.

posts before this are on the archive pages

© ROCAT Ltd – website designed by Kim Laughton