19 March 2015, Dubai – One week she was a spectator and just a few weeks later, Fatima Al Zaabi is sitting behind the wheel of an XCAT boat. The 28-year-old Emirati is a bit of a water sports fanatic and after watching the opening round of the UIM XCAT World Series in Fujairah last month, was hooked.
Following some extensive training with powerboating veteran Mohammed Al Marri and the Victory Team, Al Zaabi is getting the opportunity of a lifetime – being able to race as part of a future stars training programme in the XCAT World Series. Al Marri and Al Zaabi are in the special 4Future team whose boat is sporting the newly designed XCAT Mercury 4-stroke engines and is larger than the other boats in the Series (33 feet). Their result in Saturday’s race will not count towards Series points though as this is being used as a training opportunity. “It’s a fantastic boat with these engines. I feel safer in this boat,” said Al Marri after today’s first Official Practice session. “It’s bigger than the other boats and the teams will be able to race for a full season with these engines which will bring the cost down and that’s good for the future.”
As for his new recruit, Al Marri reckoned: “Fatima is strong. It was a surprise really. But she needs time to get used to the boat and being in a competition against drivers who have been in maybe more than 1000 races. But she’s ok and every day she’s getting better and better. “We did two tests with her last week and this is her third time. It’s amazing really. Who knows – maybe she will be better than us one day in the boat. She has the talent to be a champion and we welcome this – to get ladies in the boat.” Al Zaabi has a background in jetskiing and is a qualified diver and so relishes any opportunity to get involved in another water sport. “I like to do something different. It’s a sport and connected to the beach and I like that. I had never done this before so I wanted to try it,” she said. Speaking of today’s practice, she added: “It felt very good. Every day it’s better for me and I feel more in control. I hope one day I will be competitive.” None of her family members are involved in the sport but Al Zaabi says: “they accept it and they support me. Hopefully my friends will also be here to watch the race this weekend.” Meanwhile, in today’s first Official Practice it was T-bone Station (Giovanni Carpitella and Ahmed A Hamli) who laid down the marker with the quickest time of 2:36.39. Dubai (Salem Al Adidi and Eisa Al Ali) were second fastest with a lap of 2:39.04 while the X Dubai team of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi (formally known as Fazza) were third fastest in 2:39.48. Al Zaabi and Al Marri’s fastest lap today was: 2:45.68. XCAT Action continues tomorrow with the race for Pole Position taking place at 9.30am and the Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run at 3pm.