ThunderCat racing has exploded into the global sports scene in a way no one could have anticipated. In five short years the sport grew from a small following in South Africa, to a global presence across Europe, the UK, South America, New Zealand and more. For the uninitiated, ThunderCats, also known as Zapcats are inflatable catamarans, capable of reaching 100 km/h, the combination of light weight and high speed allows them to jump up to 6 metres in the air. A pilot controls the speed whilst a co-pilot uses shifting body weight to steer. The light weight also makes ThunderCats perfect for surf racing, allowing the spectators a view of the action from a scant few metres away.
Gibraltar has proven to be a microcosm for the growing popularity of ThunderCats, after the first ever, highly successful ThunderCat National Championship hosted in Eastern beach, the UIM and ThunderCats association have been very keen to revisit the Rock for the European Championships in October 2014 and besides hosting the event, Gibraltar will also be providing its own home-grown team.
Dubbed ‘Team 55’ the duo consists of pilot Leslie Figueras, and Co-pilot Albert Perez; the lifelong friends have come together thanks to a love of challenge and extreme sports. Leslie has practised extreme water-sports from a young age, in particular using jet-ski but developed a fondness for RHIBs during his time in the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. Albert, in his own words, “Is into anything with an engine”, a born thrill seeker, he was spurred into the sport from his friend Leslie’s encouragement, to which he replied “Bring it on”. Albert not only brings a great understanding of the pilot, but of the sport, particularly knowing how the pace and power of these incredibly fast machines can turn the tables and increase the adrenaline in a heartbeat.
Leslie participated in a match at the 2013 National Championships, with a boat generously donated by ThunderCat Racing U.K. This year, Leslie and Albert are officially registered participants, manning their own rig with backing from the Ministry of Sport and Culture.
The team will be managed by Global Events Management, a company run by Wayne Warwick and Steve Croft; G.E.M. have been managing land and water based events for fourteen years. G.E.M. are excited to take on the new challenge of managing a team, stating “it keeps us on our toes and up to date with current market trends, we strive to succeed”.
Success certainly seems to be on the cards, the fast-growing sport has already attracted global attention, the calendar of events for the ThunderCat National Championship has expanded to encompass events across the entire south of UK and they have already made it clear that they look forward to the European Championships in Gibraltar, stating “we wish we could race there every weekend”. So, wish the newly minted Team 55 luck by joining them in Eastern Beach on October 1st – 5th to see what is being called “The World’s toughest water-sport”
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