The warm sunshine that greeted the Class 1 boats on arrival in Cernobbio over the past two days was sorely missed as the crews made their final preparations for todays scheduled first official practice under heavy cloud and the threat of rain.
With space in the dry and wet pits being at a premium, the boats were craned into the water with very little room for error and as the wet pit is on a narrow canal which has to be traversed before the boats gain access to the race course it appears that boat crews will be suffering some nerve wracking moments before the weekend is over, with some boats already overshooting the narrow entrance back into the wet pit, necessitating another round of the course before they can have a second try at returning to the jetty . After a slight delay whilst other water traffic was cleared from the race course, official practice got underway with most boats taking the first couple of laps at a steady pace as the drivers got a feel for the conditions and worked out their racing lines. The first boat to set a competitive time was Spirit of Qatar 95 with Matteo Nicolini using home water advantage to set a time of 2 minutes 56 seconds on his second timed lap, but traffic on the course prevented him and partner Ali al Neama from improving this time immediately. Arif al Zafeen and Nadir bin Hendi started at a steady pace and lap by lap started to decrease their times until they were setting the pace with a time of 2 minutes 52 seconds. New Abu Dhabi pairing Ahmed al Hamli and Majed al Mansoori appeared to be struggling with the setup of their boat, but after returning to the pits for a gear ratio change they finished the afternoons session in third place with a time of 2 minutes 56.
Matteo Nicolini and Ali al Neama eventually found the clear water they needed to set the second best time of the day at 2 minutes 53.81 seconds, once again ahead of team mates Sheikh Hassan al Thani and Steve Curtis who could only post a best time of 2.57 as their best of the day. A propeller change for Victory Team 3 saw them back out on the course with just 5 minutes remaining before the course was closed, but this was enough for Arif and Nadir to set the standard for the day with a final timed lap of 2 minutes 50.93, 3 seconds clear of the next best boat.
With only a short 30 minutes of practice available to the teams before Saturday’s all important Pole position, the remaining teams who were struggling to break the 3 minute lap will be hoping any final adjustments done tonight will find them the extra pace necessary to secure a good position on tomorrow afternoons start line.