The three-day penultimate round of the championship commences today in Abu Dhabi, where a five-way battle for the title will heat up.
The Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club, poses a do-or-die situation for Carella and Al Qamzi who need nothing short of a victory to stay in contention for the championship crown.
Carella lies fourth in the points standings after races in Dubai, Evian, Porto, Harbin and Liuzhou and he trails championship leader and double world champion Philippe Chiappe (CTIC F1 Shenzen China Team) by 25 points.
The winner of this week’s grand prix receives 20 points while second place gets 15 and third gets 12.
”I have been in Abu Dhabi for several weeks getting everything ready and I’m leaving nothing to chance,” said a focused Carella.
“We have been testing, working on the boats and spending time together to create that team spirit that we will need this weekend. I was able to join Faleh (Al-Mansoori) in an XCAT as well and we won the Abu Dhabi Cup two weeks ago.
“That was different to F1 in many ways, but it kept me in tune with what is required in a race boat and the balance of the boat was similar to what I can expect this week. Victory is a must. I just have to win this race.”
Victory team’s Shaun Torrente is Chiappe’s nearest rival as he currently holds the runner-up spot, 13 points behind the Frenchman, while Mad-Croc Baba Racing’s Sami Selio and Team Sweden’s Jonas Andersson are also in contention.
The championship will conclude with its sixth and final leg in Sharjah next week (December 14-16).
Rashed Al Qamzi leads the 2016 UIM F4-S Championship by a commanding 36 points from Dutchman Ferdinand Zandbergen and two podium finishes in the pair of F4-S races on Thursday and Friday afternoon could be sufficient for the Emirati to clinch the world title with two races to spare.
Back in the late 1990s I attended a sports conference in Europe and was given a ‘Victory Team’ cap by a powerboating fanatic.
It was my first personal interaction with the sport and also – more significantly – the Emirate of Dubai.
There were other sports events already taking place in Dubai in 1999. The annual tennis and golf events were already running – but the all-conquering Victory team was Dubai’s most successful sporting export and Class One Powerboating was riding high. It was a striking symbol of an exciting city by the sea.
The Victory Team has continued to bring trophies to Dubai but the sport has never really found a way to successfully capture a large audience when it is staged in the home of the perennial champions. This year there won’t even be a race in Dubai, although with a new promoter waiting in the wings there is optimism for the future.
It’s not just Class One that has struggled to attract crowds and investment in recent years. The XCat World Series was introduced to be a more spectator-friendly format. When it travelled to Australia’s Gold Coast in 2015 over 20,000 people turned out to follow proceedings and the event generated over US$ 5 million for the local economy.
In five years of events Dubai, though, the spectator numbers have never come close to reaching this level.
Dubai has also attracted lots of sailing events in the past decade. The pinnacle was the Louis Vuitton Trophy in 2010. Before and since there have been lots of world championship events and community competitions.
The event calendars of the Dubai International Marine Club and the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club continue to boast vibrant weekly racing, embracing everything from sailing and rowing in traditional boats to jet-ski and windsurfing races.
But, over the course of the past decade, it is a struggle to recall any event that has brought the wider community to the water’s edge or enticed them into a flotilla of spectator vessels.
Dubai has many kilometres of beachfront, fantastic weather and hundreds of boats available for rental. The sea is one of the Emirate’s greatest assets yet from a sporting point of view it remains under-exploited. Wouldn’t it be great to have a water sports event that could grow to rival the sporting and social success of the Rugby Sevens and Dubai World Cup?
Perhaps it could be a dhow sailing event. Despite all of the modern alternatives, these events remain very popular among the Emirati community. While the bulk of the action takes place away from the shoreline, the spectacle of 100 wooden dhows is extremely impressive and would be a strong base around which to build a family festival.
The recent Red Bull Cliff Diving provided another potential vision of the future. A dramatic Marina location and high production values helped bring thousands of young spectators to the shoreline.
Alternatively, the Dubai Water Canal could become a perfect location for a rowing race or regatta along the lines of the Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race in London or the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston.
It feels like there’s an opportunity to give the water a greater role in the lives of Dubai’s event-loving public and – as we’ve seen from the success stories on dry land – a well-executed annual event or festival will also boost tourism.
It could be any of these concepts, or something completely different. It just needs to have a fixed slot in the calendar and be accessible to young adults and families across a range of nationalities.
It’s not an easy task by any means – otherwise it would already exist – but with the Dubai Water Canal now running through the heart of the city, there really does seem to be an opportunity to find a winning watersports event in this spectacular waterfront city.
Jon Long is Managing Director – Middle East for Nielsen Sports
Dubai 33’s Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali led from pole position to win an exciting fourth and final round and seal second spot in the overall standings of the 2016 UIM XCAT World Series at the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club breakwater on Friday.
In a contest that was red-flagged after defending world champions Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi flipped on the second lap, Dubai 33 fought grimly to hold off the home team duo of Rashed Al Tayer and Salem Al Mansoori in Abu Dhabi 5 and secure the runner-up spot behind Victory Team in the overall standings for the season.
“I guess we must be happy with second position, but the win was the aim from the start,” said Al Tayer of Team Abu Dhabi, who were also in the running for second spot in the standings.
“We thought we had the strategy mapped out perfectly. We took a long lap before them twice and thought we could nip inside and snatch the lead on both occasions. But, I guess, they were able to carry the speed and momentum down the straight and managed to stay in front.”
Despite running with a two-stroke engine, the T-Bone Station duo of Giovanni Carpitella and Ahmed Al Hameli came in a pleasing third place, just one second clear of Sweden’s Joakim Kumlin and former F1 champion Jay Price from the USA in Lady Spain.
The French-Italian pairing of Francois Pinelli and Saul Bubacco in Yacht followed in fifth, while sixth spot went to the Blue Roo duo of Brett Luhrmann of Australia and Pal-Virik Nilsen of Norway.
Swecat Racing, one of the four boats who had a chance to finish as runners-up for the season had to stay content with seventh.