Xiamen, October 28th 2017. It is definitely the performance of the season, at least so far, for the reigning champions Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi, who on their new boat Al Wasl clinch the first position in race One of the UIM XCAT World Championship Xiamen Grand Prix. At the fifth race of 2017, and having conquered just one third spot as best result, the Emirati duo are finally back to winning a race: an incredible performance for them, as they started from eighth spot in the grid and had to climb their way back to the top little by little.
Behind them, the second place goes to Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen of Team Australia, who are able to maintain the position they had at the start despite losing one engine trim in the middle of the race. Not a win, but an important chance to bank good points and extend their advantage over the direct competitors in the overall ranking, Victory Team, who finished fourth.
To complete the top three, another come back for Erik Stark and Mikael Bengtsson of Swecat who get back on the podium for the first time this season.
The race has been full of twists, already from the start when Al&Al – Caccia Engineering in P1 lost the leadership to Victory right at the second buoy. Being in front, Salem al Adidi and Eisa al Ali had to make the most of the clear water until they received the bad news from race direction: they got a penalty (one extra long lap) for having taken the wrong lane at the start.
So it was the time of The Blue Roo for being under the spotlight, but after nine laps a failure from the left engine trim forced them to slow down. Meanwhile, thanks to a perfect strategy, Bin Hendi and Al Zaffein on Al Wasl were gaining precious positions, while Amato and Martignoni on Caccia Engineering could still strive for a top-three finish. But here it came another shock: the latter hit a buoy and were inflicted an extra long lap. The Italian duo decided to keep on with their race, but when they crossed the finish line in third place the race direction couldn’t help giving them a 60 second penalty which took them down to P6.
So a great performance, some mistakes by the competitors, and a perfect strategy were the ingredients of the recipe that took the 2016 XCAT World Champions back to a win.
Behind Al Wasl, The Blue Roo and Swecat, Victory is not satisfied with their fourth spot which means losing 8 points to Team Australia, while a solid race from Giovanni Carpitella and Joakim Kumlin on “Mephire Xiamen” boat means they are now fourth in the overall ranking.
The biggest disappointment of the day is for Team Abu Dhabi, sixth in qualifying and just seventh at the end of the race. Fujairah Team, New Star, Lady Spain and Raheeb complete the pack, still struggling to find the key factor to improve their performance despite the undeniable skills of their drivers.
Nadir bin Hendi explains their efforts so far: “This is a brand new team, we came from scratch. After a disappointing first part of the season we did third in the last race, and finally we won today. We were really hungry for a win”. His long-time buddy Arif al Zaffein adds: “Many things happened today, and we were in constant contact with our team manager who decided the best long-lap strategy for us. But if you want to know what we were saying each other in the cockpit, that remains a secret between me and my brother”.
Brett Luhrmann and Pål Virik Nilsen totally agree on one thing: “When we lost the trim, it was a matter of finishing the race and taking points. We didn’t mind of winning the race, it was more important to collect points and gain advantage over Victory”. Pål explains how “missing a trim is like racing a car always in third gear. You need it for balancing the boat, for having good acceleration, for keeping the nose down in the waves. Without trims you are completely lost. Luckily we still had one”. And Brett comments “We were sailing, man!”
About all the things going on during the race, Swecat’s Erik Stark says: “We were in control all the time, because wee got so much information through the radio” And Micke Bentsson explains how they “immediately realized we were third, because we knew that boat 22 didn’t take their last long lap. About their first podium of the season “we had our best propellers in the first race, but we broke them. It’s difficult to have spare parts shipped to China so we had to make the best of our material. But we are confident that we have found the right setup now”.
Tomorrow it will be race two in Xiamen, and the weather forecast say it could be windy. The green flag will be raised at 15:30 local time (9:30 CET).