x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dash around island reawakens need for speed

Travelling at speeds of more than 100kph on choppy waters gave Arron Perry the adrenalin rush he's been missing for nearly three years.

Powerboat P1 launched its SuperStock series at Emirates Place Marina yesterday.
Powerboat P1 launched its SuperStock series at Emirates Place Marina yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Travelling at speeds of more than 100kph on choppy waters gave Arron Perry the adrenalin rush he's been missing for nearly three years.

As a marine engineer with Al Masaood Marine, Mr Perry spends his life around boats, but since he moved to the UAE he has been waiting for the ideal opportunity to race on the water again.

Yesterday he was offered that chance.

Mr Perry, 36, was one of dozens of interested pilots at the Emirates Palace Marina yesterday for a test run of the P1 SuperStock series, which will kick off its first set of races in the UAE this November.

Although he was not allowed to pilot the boat, the ride gave him a sweet taste of what is to come.

Mr Perry, who has been boat racing since he was 14, said he was glad the SuperStock series was coming to UAE waters.

"I'm definitely signing up," he said. "This morning's experience was enough to make up my mind. It would be great to go back."

Powerboat P1 launched its SuperStock series in a move to make the sport more accessible to people who have a passion for it, said Miki Critchley, the company's marketing and communications manager.

"We wanted to attract new pilots and people who never really looked at racing before," Ms Critchley said. "We maintain the quality of all boats so that they're all the same and there's no question about money.

"Equality is the core value. This makes it more affordable, so the racing comes down to the racer."

Interested pilots have two options - they can buy a boat for US$115,000 (Dh422,000), or they can have a company sponsor their boat.

Each team must consist of a pilot and co-pilot. The boats can reach a maximum speed of 110kph. Each race consists of between eight and 10 laps around a 2.4-kilometre course. The series runs in the US and the UK.

James Durbin, commercial director of Powerboat P1, said they chose the UAE as the third venue because of its rich history in boat racing and the venues it offers.

"If you look at our style, we race as close to shore as possible making it very spectator friendly," Mr Durbin said.

"We also received interest from a local investor who shares our vision. It's very important to us that the money stays localised.

This includes the facilities, services and training."

One of the venues that expressed interest in hosting the races was the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

"It's always good to have more professional water sports in Dubai," said Abdulla Al Noon, the club's operations manager. "Currently the most popular sport is football, and this is a chance to give watersports more exposure, especially among UAE nationals. Young adults love the speed and this will give them the perfect avenue."

There will be six events each season, which will run from November until January. At each event there will be up to four races which are held over two days in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Ajman, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. Winners will qualify to race in the 2015 World Championship.

Interested pilots must have a powerboat level two licence and complete a two-day training course with the SuperStock series.

At yesterday's trial, interested candidates had an opportunity to test run two boats with experienced pilots, including the world champion Martin Sanborn and professional pilot Azam Rangoonwala.

Mr Sanborn, who won the American Power Boat Association UIM world championship in 1999 and runs the US SuperStock series, said stock racing helped to bring the competition down to the ground.

Propellers on their own would cost between $5,000 and $10,000, just one example of how money can play an important role on who wins the competition, Mr Sanborn said.

"People just couldn't keep up with it," he said. "[Stock racing] puts the victory on the pilots racing the boats rather than on how much money they have."

Safety is also important, in the boats' production and the precautions pilots must take. The cockpit is encased with Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.

Pilots are always required to wear life vests, and an emergency flotation device is enclosed in every boat.

An extreme-sports lover at heart, Mr Rangoonwala said although smooth water conditions made it easier to steer the boat, it was when the water was rough that the boat moved most quickly.

"That sensation is the most amazing feeling - it's at that moment that you become addicted," he said. "Once you experience your first race, you'll never go back."

mismail@thenational.ae