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20 June 2014, Stresa, Italy – Being flipped upside down underwater while strapped into a mock cockpit isn’t the most pleasant part of the job, but it’s a must for any XCAT pilot.

Alessandro Barone about to be flipped over

Seven pilots taking part in the fourth round of the UIM Skydive Dubai XCAT World Series in Stresa, Italy this weekend had to undergo the mandatory dunk test, which forms part of standard safety procedures. Safety is, of course, a top priority for the WPPA – organisers and promoters of the Series, and pilots are required to undertake the test (which proves their ability to escape from a submerged cockpit in an emergency) every 14 months. The pilots are strapped in the simulated cockpit under the supervision of the XCAT Series rescue team, – the Bergamo Scuba Angels – then flipped upside down and have to free themselves as quickly as possible. “The safety of our pilots is really a major priority for us and it’s important that they are kept on their toes in terms of rescue procedures,” explained Secretary General of the WPPA, Sid Bensalah. “The Bergamo Scuba Angels, under the leadership of Fabrizio Boffi, do a phenomenal job of maintaining the impeccable safety standards at all of our races, and conducting the dunk test is just one step in this process,” added Bensalah.

Rescue divers keeping a watchful eye

The Bergamo Scuba Angels group, which is the official rescue team for not only the XCAT Series but also for the Italian Powerboat Federation, was founded in 2003 and their staff now consists of 24 helicopter rescue swimmers, 15 doctors, five helicopter pilots and 10 boat drivers. “If there is an incident, our time of intervention is very short – in case the crew are locked inside the cockpit. We have to respond in less than a minute. At the race in Arona when we had two boats flipping during the start procedure, we had a rescue boat on the scene within about 25 seconds,” explained Boffi.

Bergamo Scuba Angels in action last year in Arona

Of course the aim is always to have an incident-free race however, as was the case in Stresa last year. The first official practice for the 2014 Stresa GP will take place on Friday at 3.45pm (local time) while the race for Emaar Pole Position will be contested at 2.30pm on Saturday. This will be followed by the thrilling, head-to-head Dubai Duty Free Speed Cat Run at 5.30pm on Saturday. The main event, the Stresa GP will take place at 3.30pm on Sunday.

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