Star powerboat teams set for XCAT World Series in Dubai

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14 of the world's best powerboat teams will compete in the UAE this weekend.

14 of the world’s best powerboat teams will compete in the UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai this weekend.

With official practice scheduled for Thursday, final preparations for round five of the event are being done on the boats at Dubai International Marine Club ahead of what promises to be a mouth-watering showdown.

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The three teams at the top of the overall Series standings are within striking distance of one another with two races to go this season, although it would take something special to catch the exceptional XDubai team who remain out in front after three race wins.

“We are expecting some good racing for the coming weekend,” said XDubai team manager Ragesh Elayadeth.

“Pilots are trained for all conditions, but definitely home ground will give some sort of extra boost to the pilots, so they should be more competent in Dubai,” he added.

The general public can watch this weekend's events free of charge.

As for what makes the XDubai pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi (at the top of the table with 131 points) such a seemingly unbeatable combination, Elayadeth explained: “They have been racing with each other for so long. They both are eager to win the races and they know each other. In other words they are two bodies with one soul in a racing boat.”

Asked whether the presence of the second-place Abu Dhabi Team (108 points) and thirdplace Six (103 points) not too far behind them on the standings adds more pressure going in to round 5, Bin Hendi maintained: “Challenges like this make you more competent, so we like challenges. It won’t add any pressure. Rather it will make us more focused.”

Al Zaffain added: “We are confident to defend our championship even though we expect tough competition from the other boats.”

Elayadeth is equally optimistic about the team’s chances at this weekend’s race – which the general public can attend free of charge.

“By looking at the weather forecast, it won’t be flat conditions. It will be little more choppy than normal so the crowd can expect an exciting race. All the boats are capable of winning a race on their day but yes, we are very confident about retaining the championship. We are cautiously confident.”

XDubai pair of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi have topped the table this season.

Also likely to be in the mix is the Gold Coast duo of Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton, who powered to second spot in their home GP in Australia in August. And also desperate for a bit of good luck will be the speedy T-Bone Station team of Giovanni Carpitella and Luca Fendi, looking to recover from a wretched season beset by mechanical problems.

The first official practice will get underway on Thursday, 19 November at 3pm while the race for Pole Position will take place on Friday at 9.30am.

The thrilling head-to-head Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run will then kick off at 3.30pm that same day. The Speed Cat Run follows a drag race format in a 1km long all out spectacle of speed.

The main race, the Dubai GP will take place on Sunday, 21 November at 2pm.

For more information on the Series, log on to www.xcatracing.com.

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Italian powerboat duo chase podium place at UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai

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Spectators can watch the event at the Dubai International Marine Club for free.

Italian powerboat duo Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli are taking nothing for granted heading into the fifth round of the UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai this weekend.

Perhaps that’s because the only race in which they failed to reach the podium in 2015 was in Dubai earlier this year.

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Apart from that slight blip, the pair in boat Six, claimed second spot in the season opener in Fujairah and finished third in both Cascais, Portugal in June and the Gold Coast, Australia in August. 

But with their success largely achieved in rough conditions this year, it’s Dubai’s usually flat water that could prove tricky. So Nicolini has taken steps to counteract the expected conditions at the Dubai International Marine Club – where entry for the general public to witness the spectacle of speed is free of charge this weekend. 

“It’s not too bad that we got on the podium three times when the sea conditions were rough but we missed the podium in the Dubai race that was almost flat,” said Nicolini.

“That meant that we needed to work on the boat to improve our speed performance and so that is what I am trying to do now for the last two races. “I am working on some hull modifications that [boat builders] Victory are doing now. I also have a new set of props done for these two races and two new gear cases with different water intake. 

“All of those upgrades should give us better performance to compete for a podium as well in this last two races,” he added.

Italian duo Nicolini and Polli are hoping to improve on last season's fifth place finish.

Nicolini and Polli are currently third in the overall Series standings, giving them a great opportunity for a significant step up from the fifth place in which they finished the 2014 season.

There are just five points separating Six from Team Abu Dhabi (Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori) who are second on 108 points, while XDubai (Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi) are well out in front with 131 points. 

Meanwhile, the event which takes place on 19-21 November will see the introduction of the new Mercury Racing four-stroke engines which were officially launched in the USA last week.

The UAE’s only female XCAT driver Fatima Al Zaabi and Italy’s Gianpaolo Montavoci will be testing the environmentally friendly engines in the #NewBoss boat to give the Dubai crowd a sneak peak of what’s to come when the XCAT Series make the switch to the new engines next year.

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A day with: Stephanie Proud – Former Olympian gives swimming masterclass in Dubai

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Former Olympian: Stephanie Proud.

I met Stephanie at the start of another very busy day in her role as a Speedo Ambassador for a masterclass at Talise Fitness, Mina A’Salam in Dubai, followed by the most amazing healthy breakfast I’ve ever had at Talise Café, coordinated by Chef Gabi. 

The former Olympic swimmer was here for the final leg of the 2015 Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup 2015 last weekend where Speedo sponsored Olympic gold medalist swimmers such as Missy Franklin and Nathan Adrian who were not only competing for an attractive prize purse, but also gunning to make qualifying times for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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Stephanie began swimming at a local club in Durham at the age of 5.  Her father had been a competitive swimmer in his youth. Her first major competition was for the Great Britain junior team when she was 12 and she went on to win 9 medals at the European Junior championships.  As a senior, Stephanie was a finalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a semi-finalist at the 2011 World Championships. Stephanie also competed in the 2009 World University Games in Belgrade where she won the gold medal.  At 18, Stephanie moved to the United States where she trained at the University of Florida for the 2012 London Olympics at which she proudly achieved 9th place (by a fraction of a second) in front of a home crowd.

 Stephanie continued her life in Florida and obtained her master’s degree from the University of Florida. While studying she coached at Gator Swim Club working primarily with junior competitive swimmers between the ages of 14-18.  Stephanie was also the assistant team manager for the Florida Gators swimming and diving teams.

Stephanie began working at Speedo International in January 2015.  An athlete’s career at the top is a short one, particularly so for swimmers – Stephanie retired from competitive swimming at the age of 24 – so I was interested to hear about her new role with Speedo.

Q. As a competitive swimmer your day would have been dominated by some 5 hours in the pool.  Did you do any other complementary fitness training? 

Swimming is a very demanding sport training-wise.  It takes a lot out of you physically, emotionally and mentally.  You have to commit 100% to what you are doing which means making sacrifices in your social life.  I also did 3 hours per week of strength work and 3 hours per week general fitness work which could consist of abs and running.

Q. How did you make the transition into retirement?

I knew London would be my last race, I had decided that months beforehand and felt “at peace” with it.  I completely stopped swimming for a long period of time before deciding to go back to swimming 3 times a week.  That was something I needed to do because I wanted to not because I had to.  What I do now is light fitness and nowhere near the intensity of training. 

Swimming star Stephanie Proud.

Q. An athlete’s career at the top is short.  What made you decide that this was the job for you and how were you chosen?

In order to have a NCAA* scholarship you have to be considered an amateur swimmer so cannot be supported by a sponsor.  Having said this my university was a Speedo sponsored team.  I became interested in the business side of sport in the lead up to the London Olympic Games.  After the Olympics I decided to pursue a Masters in Business Management and I did some volunteering in the athletic marketing department at my university. Sports marketing ended up being such a great fit for me as the “on deck” aspect allowed me to use the experience and knowledge I had gained as a swimmer.

Q. What sort of things are you involved in throughout the year in your role as a Speedo ambassador?

I like to see myself as a link between the athletes and the brand, I support from an “on deck” point which means being physically present at many major meets.  When I travel I try and see at least one cool thing in each city: that way you remember more than just the swimming.  I’m lucky enough to have met people from all over the world during my travels to I enjoy catching up with friends all over the world.  Other roles include speaking:  for example, the Masters Conference is at the end of this month and I’m going to talk about my experience as a swimmer and hopefully how to stay in the sport once you have transitioned to professional life.

Q. What would a typical day as an ambassador be like?

Every day is different.  When I’m in the office we are planning ahead for the upcoming meets and making sure our sponsored teams and swimmers are getting what they need.  There’s lots of travel involved also.  During the busy racing season it’s like a new country every week, networking with potential markets and swimmers and seeding products and receiving feedback.  As I mentioned before I have lots of friends all over the world so I try as best as I can to catch up with them in my free time.

Q. What do you do to relax?

I like to be outdoors.  I like hiking and walks more than being in a gym.  To make up from all the travelling I sleep A LOT when I’m home.

Q. Do you have any advice for parents of talented swimmers?  Is there a route they should be following to get the best chance for their child? 

Let the kids be kids, they’re supposed to really enjoy what they’re doing.  Supporting unconditionally is the best thing they can do, just saying “I love to watch you swim” can go such a long way.  Finding a great coach is paramount: I’m so lucky to have worked with a string of excellent coaches that I am still close to.

* The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit association which regulates athletes of 1,281 institutions; conferences; organizations; and individuals. It also organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and helps more than 450,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports.

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