Their boat is sponsored by Dubai Police, but it’s a comeback from two champions in XCAT: Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi have clinched the first spot on the grid in the Fujairah Grand Prix.

It may seem weird to read “Dubai Police is in pole position”. But the Dubai-based team of Arif al Zaffein and Nadir bin Hendi this year is endorsed by the local militia, hence the name of the boat and the white-and-green livery it carries. So the first race of the 2018 UIM XCAT World Championship will see the Dubai Police catamaran starting in first place, in the waters of Fujairah, UAE. Right behind, it’s the 2017 runner-up Team Australia, with Pål Virik Nilsen and Jan Trygve Braaten in the cockpit. Third best is the other team from down under, Maritimo of Tom Barry-Cotter and Ross Willaton.

The new format for the qualifying consists of one single session, 30 minutes long, with no propeller change allowed: so, provided the best setup has been found in the practice sessions, it’s just a matter of taking as many fast laps as possible and find the best performance in the water. Today in Fujariah the wind was weak and the race course almost flat, so everybody went for a high-speed setup. In the end, the well-proven duo of Dubai Police closed the session with 2:22.603, over one and a half seconds faster than Team Australia. Just 3 laps for Maritimo allowed them to take third spot with 2:24.945, followed by 222 Offshore (Giovanni Carpitella and Darren Nicholson) with 2:25.215.

The first four boats will start tomorrow in the first gate, while the second gate will be for the two Abu Dhabi boats (5 and 4 respectively), then Lady Spain and Swecat Racing. The Abu Dhabi team expected some more, especially after the first practice session in the morning when boat number 4 got the best time with an advantage of no less than 7 seconds on the second. With Lady Spain and Swecat also longing for a better spot, this gate will be an interesting pack to keep an eye on tomorrow at the start.

Third gate is for Newstar, Kuwait, HPI Racing and Ribot, and we may expect them to make some changes at their setup tomorrow during official practice before race 1.

The race will be on a 3.5 nautical miles course that the boats have to run 17 times. For 2018 the long-lap rule has been dropped, as it remains only as a penalty lap, so they will be shoulder to shoulder for the whole race. The start is scheduled for 16:00 local time, or 14:00 CET.

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