British Women’s America’s Cup route planner is looking for talented sailors

Hannah Mills and Ben Ainsley today announced Athena Pathway, a high-performance route planner for talented sailors hoping to see a British crew win their first America’s Cup.

Today Hannah Mills and Ben Ainsley, the most honored female and male Olympic sailors ever, announced the Athens Track Program, a high-performance course planner for talented female and young sailors to help take their career path in events such as the America’s Cup and SailGP.

The announcement that the 37th America’s Cup would include the first-ever Women’s America’s Cup was significant – the America’s Cup is the heyday of ashore sailing competition, and has historically been overwhelmingly dominated by male sailors. Barcelona in 2024 will witness, for the first time, the Women’s America’s Cup consisting of the Challenger Series and a final race of the match, held within the main event.

There is also no shortage of exceptionally talented and skilled sailors – there is no doubt that the women’s classes in the Olympic Games and the women’s relay race are as competitive as their male counterparts. Many have gone on to successful careers in big boat racing, including during the latest edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, which enforced a female minimum on board for each team.

The problem, however, is the skill and experience gap that needs to jump in order for talented young boaters or racing sailors to move into classes like the AC75 and F50, whose crew is largely made up of male sailors with the frustration and experience of the America’s Cup.

Many female sailors have worked hard to fill this gap themselves – sailing regattas as wasps or moths, or wing thwarts on downtime to develop flight skills. Since the introduction of the rule that every SailGP F50 catamaran must race one sailor – whether in the six-man or four-man mode – there are now professional sailors racing in the frustration circuit.

However, these opportunities are very limited to a specific number of sailors, and the amount of time each F50 crew spends between SailGP events is very restricted, giving sailors little time to develop in key roles such as flight control.

The first major goal of the Athena Pathway Program is to accelerate the development of female athletes in high-performance sailing, including both the SailGP and the America’s Cup. The sailors will use a 26-foot “easy-to-fly” frustration raft, and training is based primarily on the 2012 Olympic venue in Weymouth, UK.

Speaking from the launch event at the Royal Yachting Squadron during Cowes Week today, Hannah Mills outlined her vision for the future of high performance sailing:

Hannah Mills (fourth from right) and other SailGP contestants

“Sailing has made great strides forward in the field of gender equality in recent decades, led by the Olympic side of the sport where gender equality has now been reached on the water, but the professional side, particularly in high performance sailing, lags far behind where it needs to be. Being.We as a sport are uniquely positioned to make a huge global change when it comes to gender equality.There are no significant barriers in high performance sailing to material entry, and through the Athena Path we will create a gender equality path for all, with sustainability at its core.

“I am so excited to be working as a team with Ben on this project to transform the UK professional sailing landscape. The young girls are already coming to me excited about the potential opportunities at the America’s Cup, SailGP and beyond as they get older, which is amazing to see.

“Likewise, however, the detrimental effect of this could have in terms of growth within our sport as more females see that job opportunities in the maritime industry could be huge.”

Another major goal of the Athens track is for Britain to win their first-ever America’s Cup, while the longer-term goal is for the women to eventually sail in a mixed team of the Americas Cup.

Initial recruits to the team include Hattie Rogers, SailGP Inspire x WASZP champion, Great Britain SailGP member Hannah Diamond, Olympian Benny Clark and Nikki Boniface, as well as Sophie Heritage, who is joining the team on the coastal side. Ben Ainsley, who will be advising the Athena course, explained that there is a great deal of work to be done in encouraging women to pursue marine engineering and other side roles on shore as well.

When we first launched our official charitable foundation, the 1851 Trust, in 2014, one of our main ambitions was to bring greater diversity to the maritime industry in this country. We are still doing it at a grassroots level in schools across the UK, but now, through the Athens Path, we hope to be able to offer significant experience and opportunities, at the highest level in our sport, to further this ambition.”

Seafarers wishing to apply for the program, or to learn more, should visit

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