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16 December 2015 – While all eyes were on the thrilling action on the water at the final two rounds of the 2015 UIM XCAT World Series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last month, there was plenty going on behind the scenes with a view to next year’s Series.

Bob WartingerInternational safety expert, consultant and author of several powerboating books Bob Wartinger, representing the UIM Medical and Safety Committee, conducted a series of tests with the organisers of the XCAT World Series during the final two rounds of the 2015 season to ensure the best possible safety practices.

As a former powerboat world champion himself, the American has exceptional inside knowledge of the sport and exactly what it takes to protect the drivers in the event of an incident on the water.

Wartinger spent his time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi meeting with the UIM officials, XCAT Racing’s Sport Department and Medical and Safety crews as well as all the teams and drivers to assess the way forward.

And there was no better illustration of just how important safety measures are than when the world witnessed the Six boat of Matteo Nicolini and Tomaso Polli do a submarine dive during the Dubai GP – footage of which went viral on social media.

“It stopped within a boat’s length so that’s about 10m when they were doing 140 or 150km/hr. That is a tremendous load on the human body,” explained Wartinger.

“So we need to get the head and neck restraints on – we’ll see those for next year. We’ll see seats that hug and support the body better, and there may be some discussions about helmet improvements that will be agreed on as a standard,” he added.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 21: Mikael Bengtsson and Erik Stark of Swecat Racing race in the Dubai Grand Prix on day three during the Fifth round of the UIM XCAT World Series where 14 boats are competing. XCAT, short for extreme catamaran, is one of the most challenging and extreme forms of powerboat racing in the world. XCAT racing truly is a spectacle of speed with teams of two taking each other on in twin-engined, carbon-fibre boats that tear around the course at speeds close to 200km/hr at Dubai International Marine Club on November 21, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images for XCAT) *** Local Caption *** Mikael Bengtsson; Erik Stark“While I’ve been in Dubai I’ve been crawling through boats to have a look and I brought head and neck restraints and devices that are being used in other motorsports that could work here so the XCATs can see what they look like.

“Then we’ve been using the dunk tester practice to see that they work in the water and yes, they do. Now there’s a break and the boats won’t run until the start of next season, so there’s time to make some significant improvements for the 2016 XCAT World Championship,” added Wartinger.

“XCAT racing has a good safety record but I believe the drivers can perform better and have less fatigue with slightly better seats, seat belts and better belt placement for example.

“We have several ideas for sure – some will become mandatory and some will just be recommendations for the future, like better air systems inside the masks and full face helmets.

“Most of these changes are easy to implement – and will make a big difference to the safety aspect of this extreme sport,” explained Wartinger who added that future testing will also be done to better understand the forces on the boat during racing to be able to check the strength of the structure of the boats accordingly.

“If we get that knowledge it will help tremendously,” he said.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 21:  Competitors start racing in the Dubai Grand Prix on day three during the Fifth round of the UIM XCAT World Series where 14 boats are competing. XCAT, short for extreme catamaran, is one of the most challenging and extreme forms of powerboat racing in the world. XCAT racing truly is a spectacle of speed with teams of two taking each other on in twin-engined, carbon-fibre boats that tear around the course at speeds close to 200km/hr at Dubai International Marine Club on November 21, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images for XCAT)CEO of the WPPA Ronan Morgan was particularly pleased with the progress that was made during Wartinger’s two-week visit. “As a thrilling, high-speed sport, there are, of course, always risks involved and that is why we have the safety of our drivers as a top priority. Bob is the leading expert in this field and we will certainly take his recommendations on board moving forward.

“It’s no use being reactive in these sorts of matters, so the UIM & the promoters of XCAT racing, are being proactive in constantly striving to improve on every aspect of driver and event safety and we are very proud of our impeccable safety record.”

Meanwhile, back in Abu Dhabi, the XDubai team of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi were crowned XCAT world champions as the 2015 season came to an end. XCAT racing is now looking forward to an exciting 2016 calendar, with the introduction of the 4-stroke Mercury ROS engines from March next year.

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