All-or-nothing attempt works: Solar Boat Twente takes bronze in Monaco

| Stan Waning

Solar Boat Twente finished third in the final ranking of the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge on Saturday. The Twente team recovered handsomely from a difficult opening and picked up a medal for the first time since 2017.

Tension is building in the final.

To fulfil the podium wish, the team decided to take a risk on Saturday morning. After the damage boat Ceto experienced on Thursday, foiling was no longer an option due to the damage sustained. To still be able to complete the slalom - the first part of the race on Saturday - in a manoeuvrable way, the team decided to reattach a strut - a vertical part between boat and water - to the front left side of the boat. On the right side, this was not possible. Team member Jan Hein Swillens: 'It is a risk, but we really want to make the podium. The strut has to help with that.'

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Erling Haaland

As the team members prepared for the race, there was again plenty to see along the dockside on Saturday. On the Quay Louis II in front of the gleaming Yacht Club de Monaco, it was another big parade of wealth, just like the previous days. The Monaco BMW store pushed out another shiny or just matte black sports car every hour, and one famous appearance after another appeared in front of the organisers' camera. Earlier this week, Manchester City striker Erling Haaland and F1 driver Nico Hülkenberg already dropped by.

On the other side of the narrow road, less than ten metres away from all that grandeur, Solar Boat Twente was working hard on their boat. Although work was not all that was being done. On Saturday morning, some team members caught up on another hour of sleep, while the rest had breakfast on site. And that did not happen according to Monegasque custom. One by one, members tore off a piece of baguette, only to twist it through a bowl of cheap herb cheese. After all, you can't work on an empty stomach.

Priority for yachts

After starting up, the team began the slalom at the end of the morning, which went very differently than expected. First of all, the event did not take place on the open sea, where strong winds created huge waves. Therefore, the organisers moved the slalom to the harbour. The advantage: the race was much easier to follow for spectators. The disadvantage: the race was severely delayed multiple times, because Monegasque laws were strict: a departing or arriving yacht always gets priority. Solar Boat Twente got two slalom attempts despite that delay. The first went reasonably well, the second much faster, resulting in third place. The difference with number 1 Sunflare Solarteam from Friesland was only a few seconds.

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With third place in the slalom, Solar Boat Twente knew what it had to do in the final event, the match race: finish third. After all, a third place in the final event would be good for a medal in the overall ranking. That suddenly created tension and pressure for the Twente team, which was actually not expecting to win a medal. Pilot Wu Kaijen remained calm, even a few minutes before the moment suprême. 'We are going to see it. I just want to blow across the water full throttle.'

Due to a good qualification on Thursday, Solar Boat Twente did not enter until the semi-finals. Initially, the final competition did not go well. The rivals won all the qualifying rounds, leaving Solar Boat Twente to show it for itself. Moreover, the semi-final was lost, but pilot Kaijen recovered in the third place playoff, which triggered loud Twente cheers along the side. A medal in Monaco for the first time since 2017. As expected, the final victory went to Sunflare from Friesland.

TEAMMANAGER KUPERUS: 'I didn't believe in it anymore'

After the final race, team manager Maartje Kuperus could hardly believe that Solar Boat Twente got to pick up a bronze medal. 'After the damage we sustained on Thursday, I didn't really believe in it anymore. After we came through the Endurance race well on Friday I regained a little hope, but to take bronze today is unbelievable'.

Kuperus says the team played all or nothing on Saturday. 'We never sailed with one strut before, but we wanted to go for that podium. A fourth place is just not. It's great that it works out.' The Twente team will conclude the adventure in Monaco with the award ceremony and a chic dinner. And after that? 'Into the casino. After such a performance, I expect good luck with this team.'


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