x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Wooden powerboat roars to victory

In 'perfect' weather conditions 18 boats began the race - and then began again, due to a false start. But there was nothing false about Extreme Marine's victory.

Participants during the Dubai Wooden Powerboat Race round 2 near the Dubai International Marine club in Dubai.
Participants during the Dubai Wooden Powerboat Race round 2 near the Dubai International Marine club in Dubai.

DUBAI // After three weeks of weather-related delays, the UAE Wooden Powerboat Championships finally roared off on their second round yesterday - with a false start.

But after the sea spray settled on the restart, Extreme Marine had emerged victorious, beating its closest competitor by 25 seconds. This time the weather was sunny and warm and the seas were calm.

Drivers Salim Fadhel al Hamli and Ahmed Hassan al Suwaidi blasted across the finish line after 36 minutes and 55 seconds at the Dubai International Marine Club. They led the race the entire way with an average speed of 88kph over the 34.61nautical-mile course.

"Conditions were perfect today for the race," al Suwaidi said. "I felt confident at the start of the race and it went really well. I'm very happy with this win."

Boat number 15, Raheeb 3, was excluded from the race after one of its drivers overslept and failed to show up on time. Boat 55, Seenar Marine, dropped out shortly after the start because of a malfunction, as did Delma Marine.

The false start was declared after three boats - numbers 2, 8, and 30 - jumped the starting signal, each incurring a 30-second penalty, said Mohammad Hareb, the race officer.

The boats - 19 were registered - had been scheduled to enter the water by 9.30am, but did not make it into the calm seas until about 10.45. Even after that, the competitors had to run two start laps - about 10 nautical miles - after the false start.

"Some of the boats were pushing in front," Mr Hareb said. "The fleet was spread out, which is good for safety, but some boats would have had an unfair advantage as they were so far in front, so I took them around for a restart. On the second start I had to penalise three boats for jump-starting, but I let it continue. And they paid the price with penalties."

As early as 7am, four hours before the race was to start, nearly 100 people were spread around Mina Seyahi, buzzing about the boats and making final checks on their vessels. One racer hammered at a fixture on his craft; another tinkered with the engine, trying to tune it to maximum efficiency.

These boats, known to Emiratis as "Al Shawaheen", are small and open, like dhows, and have a long, low profile suited for high-speed racing. They have been used in races here since the 1980s.

For eight laps of the race, Delma Marine was close behind Extreme Marine, but an engine problem hit in the final lap, sending them back to 14th place. Drivers Saeed Obeid Khalifa al Muhairi and Mohammed Hamad al Gashaish in Toll Global ended up finishing second, with a time of 37min 19sec.

In third place, finishing about a minute later, was Raheeb 1 followed by Raheeb 2 in fourth place.

Three rescue vehicles loaded with emergency personnel patrolled the course, ready to spring into action if an accident occurred. Two rescue boats and a helicopter were also stationed nearby.

The rescue boats carried divers, as did the helicopter, which followed over the boats during the race. The divers have been trained to assist in case any participants became trapped under water after a crash.

The first round of the races was in Abu Dhabi last month and the third round will be at Mina Seyahi tomorrow. Abu Dhabi will host the fourth round on April 1, followed by the final in Dubai on April 23.

salamir@thenational.ae