Safety experts assemble ahead of XCAT battle

UIM 2013 X Cat World Series Heat 2 action
Raffaello Bastiani
Safety continues to be top priority in the sport of powerboating and this weekend’s third heat of the 2013 UIM XCAT World Series has seen safety experts from across the world gathering in Dubai to pool ideas and make recommendations for the sport’s future.

Leading this safety workshop, which was also attended by Dubai Police’s rescue team, is President of the UIM Safety/Medical Commission Bob Wartinger, author of the book Safe Champions – A driver’s guide to safe boat racing.

'The UAE, especially since the beginning of 2010, has taken a really strong stance regarding powerboat safety. And as part of that effort, besides modifications to boats, is hosting safety seminars,' explained Wartinger.

This week’s safety workshop has been organised by the UIM, in conjunction with the UAE Marine Sports Federation, the Dubai International Marine Club and the WPPA.

'Each of the people here has huge amounts of experience so we brought them all together. They all come from different countries, different styles – it’s all powerboat racing but they’re coming from different angles and they had never met before a couple of days ago. And we’ve covered everything from tools to equipment and procedures.'

Following the seminar, a comprehensive report will be sent to all the racing organisations and Wartinger pointed out that the gathered experts have also been giving their input on another project.

'The other thing we’ve been working on is that we are designing the cockpit of the future so we showed the group those designs yesterday and talked about what issues there may be and what rescue would be like from their point of view. They have plenty of input to give but they’re not always asked. They don’t always have a voice so this workshop has given them a voice on an international stage – which has never been done before,' he said.

As for powerboating perhaps being perceived as a particularly dangerous sport, Wartinger added:

'What sells in the media is drama – so Nascar shows spinning cars and boats are shown flipping. As a result the public impression is that it’s not a safe sport. But if it was that dangerous, nobody would do it. When racing in boats, the level of risk is actually much lower than what the perception of risk is and I’m not just making it up – I’ve got the numbers.

'Also the series is well managed. They put safety at the top. In 2010 they made a lot of changes and they continue to make changes. They react very quickly to something and fix it and are proactive in leading this. They also have a very good inspection crew and officials.

'So XCAT is relatively safe – it is obviously spectacular when they go over but our expectation is that they only get wet.'

Official Practice for the third heat of the 2013 UIM XCAT World Series will take place tomorrow morning, followed by the thrilling Speed Cat Run which will see two boats pitted against each other in the ultimate head-to-head test of speed from 3.30-4.30pm. The main race of the weekend will then take place on Saturday at 3.30pm. Entry to the event is free of charge.