If Round 1 was all about outlasting the challenging conditions in Fujairah, round two of the UIM XCAT World Series, which took place in Dubai on Saturday, was all to do with strategy and speed.
After one of the most exciting XCAT races to date that even had the race commentator losing his voice, it was last year’s Series champions XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi) who prevailed to take top honours.
And once again it was the T-bone Station team of Giovanni Carpitella and Ahmed Al Hamli who left disappointed, after leading the race for much of the afternoon.
The T-bone boat had a blistering start to power ahead of XDubai, who started on poll, only to be called back for a restart after Air Team were adjudged to have jumped the gun.
Carpitella and Al Hamli managed to do it a second time though, getting the edge on XDubai to take the lead on the first lap.
XDubai then took the strategic decision to complete their obligatory long lap immediately and steadily worked their way back up through the field closing the gap on T-Bone Station and Fujairah winners Abu Dhabi (Rashid Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) who were then in first and second spot and yet to take their long laps.
They left it a bit long perhaps, and only took the compulsory detour on the third last lap.
TBone still managed to come out in front of the chasing XDubai but only just, with Abu Dhabi relegated to third.
And the defending Series champions proved too strong, manoeuvring their way into the lead on the penultimate lap, much to the cheering crowd’s delight.
By that stage T-Bone had pushed as hard as they could and a problem with the fuel feed to one of their engines saw them dropping out of contention completely, eventually spluttering across the line in ninth place.
Abu Dhabi took second spot to ensure they maintain their lead at the top of the Series standings with the Dubai team of Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali completing the all-UAE podium.
With Abu Dhabi still at the top of the overall rankings, Dubai have jumped up to equal second after this weekend’s performance with 49 points – a position they currently share with Victory Team teammates XDubai.
XCAT racing now moves to Europe for the third and fourth rounds, with the next race taking place in May. For all the more details, results and photos, log on to www.xcatracing.com.
Tom Daley will be hoping to bring some “fireworks” to the pool at the Hamdan Sports Complex today when he lines up for the 10m platform event in the Diving World Series second leg in Dubai.
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The British Olympic bronze medallist debuted a new dive in the opening leg of the series last week in Beijing, a forward 3.5 somersault with one twist in pike position, dubbed ‘the firework’, replacing the ‘demon’ routine – backwards 2.5 somersault with 2.5 twists in pike position – which he performed at the London Games in 2012.
Daley, who admitted he struggled psychologically with the ‘demon’ after taking bronze in London, will be performing his new dive in international competition for just the second time in Dubai today and is looking to fare better than the lowly 54.00 he scored last week in Beijing, where he failed to qualify for the 10m platform final.
— Tom Daley (@TomDaley1994) March 20, 2015
“It’s nice to get a little bit of bad diving out of your system early on in the season. It’s better to do it then than to do it in the next few competitions and at the World Championships,” Daley told Sport360°, adding that he prefers to call his new dive the ‘twister’ rather than the ‘firework’.
“It’s always scary doing a new dive in international competition for the first time. And that was the first time. I just didn’t have a good time in Beijing. I felt good, I had no injuries and everything was really good, but sometimes you just have a bad day.
“And that’s the frustrating thing about sport; sometimes you’re in it and sometimes you’re not. This has given me a bit of a kick and motivational drive to want to do really well here (in Dubai) and show that I can really do these dives well.”
Daley, 20, is looking to build competition endurance and perfect his new routines ahead of this summer’s World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, where he can seal a qualification spot for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
“You have to drill down your routine and you have to make sure everything’s really good because you have to qualify for a spot (for the Olympics) at the World Championships.
“Because if you don’t then you have to do it next year, and it’s going to add pressure. So it’s always nice to know you’ve got your Olympics spot before you go into offseason training,” the former world champion explained.
The Dubai leg of the world series concludes with its third day of action today at the HSC. Reigning Olympic champion David Boudia and three-time world champion Qiu Bo will feature in the first 10m platform semi-final while Daley will be joined by China’s new threat, Yang Jian, in semi-final B.
Yesterday, Great Britain’s Jack Laugher ensured there would be no Chinese gold medal sweep in Dubai as he clinched gold in the 3m springboard ahead of He Chong and Cao Yuan. The Chinese team have won six of the seven events staged so far this weekend.
One week she was a spectator and just a few weeks later, Fatima Al Zaabi is sitting behind the wheel of an XCAT boat.
The 28-year-old Emirati is a bit of a water sports fanatic and after watching the opening round of the UIM XCAT World Series in Fujairah last month, was hooked.
Following some extensive training with powerboating veteran Mohammed Al Marri and the Victory Team, Al Zaabi is getting the opportunity of a lifetime – being able to race as part of a future stars training programme in the XCAT World Series.
Al Marri an Al Zaabi are in the special 4Future team whose boat is sporting the newly designed XCAT Mercury 4-stroke engines and is larger than the other boats in the Series (33 feet).
Their result in Saturday’s race will not count towards Series points though as this is being used as a training opportunity.
“It’s a fantastic boat with these engines. I feel safer in this boat,” said Al Marri after today’s first Official Practice session.
“It’s bigger than the other boats and the teams will be able to race for a full season with these engines which will bring the cost down and that’s good for the future.”
As for his new recruit, Al Marri reckoned: “Fatima is strong. It was a surprise really. But she needs time to get used to the boat and being in a competition against drivers who have been in maybe more than 1000 races. But she’s ok and every day she’s getting better and better.
“We did two tests with her last week and this is her third time. It’s amazing really. Who knows – maybe she will be better than us one day in the boat. She has the talent to be a champion and we welcome this – to get ladies in the boat.”
Al Zaabi has a background in jetskiing and is a qualified diver and so relishes any opportunity to get involved in another water sport.
“I like to do something different. It’s a sport and connected to the beach and I like that. I had never done this before so I wanted to try it,” she said.
Speaking of today’s practice, she added: “It felt very good. Every day it’s better for me and I feel more in control. I hope one day I will be competitive.”
None of her family members are involved in the sport but Al Zaabi says: “they accept it and they support me. Hopefully my friends will also be here to watch the race this weekend.”
Meanwhile, in today’s first Official Practice it was T-bone Station (Giovanni Carpitella and Ahmed A Hamli) who laid down the marker with the quickest time of 2:36.39.
Dubai (Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali) were second fastest with a lap of 2:39.04 while the X Dubai team of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi (formally known as Fazza) were third fastest in 2:39.48.
Al Zaabi and Al Marri’s fastest lap today was: 2:45.68. XCAT Action continues tomorrow with the race for Pole Position taking place at 9.30am and the Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run at 3pm.
For more information on the Series and to watch live streaming of the event, log on to www.xcatracing.com.