Hollywood could not have scripted a better race when the first round of the Union Internationale Motonautique XCAT World Series finally got underway in Fujairah on Saturday. Postponed a day because of high winds and rough seas, there was already an element of drama when the outboard-powered catamarans took to the water at the Fujairah International Marine Club in United Arab Emirates.
Rough conditions in Fujairah made for amazing shots like this one of Team Abu Dhabi. Photo courtesy XCAT World Series
The proceeding 15 laps certainly did not disappoint. At the start it seemed the Fujairah crowd would witness the predictable outcome of defending champions leading from beginning to end. Starting in pole position, Fazza‘s Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi took an early lead and opened a considerable gap on second-place starters Giovanni Carpitella and Ahmed Al Hameli in T-bone Station.
Meanhwhile, the Team Abu Dhabi crew of Rashed Al Tayer and Faleh Al Mansoori got off to a blistering start, moving from fifth to third in the first lap. Fazza maintained its lead until the seventh lap before disaster struck when one of its engines caught fire.
“We don’t know what happened—in the seventh lap we heard an explosion and we were out of the race and obviously very disappointed and sad but we’re looking forward to the next race,” Bin Hendi said in the XCAT press release. “We’ll have to go back and analyze and see what the problem was. You never know what’s going to happen. Something silly might happen to stop your race but that’s racing.”
With Fazza out, that left T-bone Station in the lead and set for a certain first-ever XCAT victory before the challenging Fujairah conditions claimed another victim when the team lost its transmission on the penultimate lap.
Having pushed them all the way, Team Abu Dhabi took advantage and quickly passed T-bone Station to take the checkered flag in its first XCAT season.
The slideshow above features even more images from the first race of the 2015 XCAT season.
“The plan was to get a good start and that went very well for us,” said Al Tayer. “I saved my engines because it was a very long race and then I pushed a little bit. I saw Fazza pushed too much and broke an engine or something, and also Giovanni (Carpitella)—I pushed him and eventually they broke too and we continued. We are very happy to get first place. Hopefully we can do it in the next round.”
The Hoorsenbuhs team of Tomaso Polli and Matteo Nicolini, who had started the race in ninth place, came through to take second while Marine Investimenti Sud (Serafino Barlesi and Alessandro Barone) claimed third. American throttleman Gary Ballough finished sixth after he and teammate Joakim Kumlin broke out after eight laps in Mouawad.
In the race that was described as “a war of attrition” due to the tough conditions, only six of the 13 boats that started actually completed the race.
“In these conditions you over-rev so many times, you need to control the throttle really well to reduce the number of revs,” said second-place finisher Nicolini of Italy. “Also the structure of the boat, electrical, battery can have something happen to them at any moment and then you have to stop for stupid things so everything has to stay together on the boat. To finish the race with the boat like you started it is already a big result with conditions like this.”
The second race of the season takes place in Dubai (March 19-21).