Ahead of the 37th America’s Cup later this autumn, the Challenger of Record INEOS Britannia has unveiled its teams for the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup
The British team is seeking to win the first ever Women’s America’s Cup. It will also be aiming to defend its title as Youth America’s Cup winners, having won with the Land Rover BAR Academy at the previous Youth event in Bermuda in 2017 (no Youth America’s Cup event was held in New Zealand in 2020).
The Athena Pathway is headed up by Hannah Mills, the most successful female Olympic sailing medallist in sailing history. Mills has been an active part of the Emirates Great Britain SailGP Team in the strategist role on the F50 whilst also leading the British Youth and America’s Cup campaign.
Olympic talent for British Women’s America’s Cup team
While Mills will take one wheel of the AC40, the other named female helms are Freya Black, aged just 22, who’ll be representing GBR at the Paris 2024 Olympics in the 49er FX class in the months before the Cup, and Ellie Aldridge, who’s also competing in the Olympics in the Women’s Formula Kite class, having previously competed at a high level in the 49er FX.
For the Women’s America’s Cup Mills will be reunited with Saskia Clark, with whom she won Olympic Gold in Rio 2016 in the 470. Clark will be on the AC40 as a trimmer.
Clark commented: “Very excited is an understatement. Hannah and I had a great Olympic career together and I’m looking forward to reuniting, taking all the learnings from our Olympic experiences and applying them into a broader team environment in a new class of boat”.
They are joined by Saskia Tidey, who’ll be competing at Paris in the 49er FX with Black, and Tokyo Olympic Silver medallist Anna Burnet, who is also set to represent Britain at Paris 2024 in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull class.
Hannah Diamond, who races with Mills on the Emirates GBR SailGP F50 and is also an experienced offshore sailor, also joins the Women’s America’s Cup Squad.
British Youth America’s Cup sailors
The Youth America’s Squad must be between 18 and 25 years of age. Nick Robins is an under-25 helm for the Youth team, having campaigned a 49er and also worked with INEOS Britannia as a data analyst, along with James Grummett, who’s also been campaigning for Olympic selection in the 49er.
Hattie Rogers, the current Waszp National, European female World Champion and International Moth female World Champion, joins the squad as a trimmer. Fellow Waszp sailor and former European champion Mat Beck and former 470/49er sailor Alex Hughes are also named as trimmers for the Youth AC40.
INEOS Britannia Skipper and CEO Ben Ainslie commented: “We couldn’t be prouder of what Athena Pathway stands for – giving youth and female sailors more opportunity in our sport. We have selected a high calibre squad and to have someone like Hannah leading them on and off the water is incredibly inspiring. We will certainly be setting our expectation high as we look ahead to the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup.”
The British squad a deep pool of talent to draw on – between the 12-strong squad they have won 6 Olympic medals and 22 World Championship medals. The Athena Pathway received over 300 applications for the squad, with selections held over an intensive 18-month trials period, including both on-water and simulator-based analysis.
The selection process was led by Olympian Penny Clark, who has worked extensively with the British Sailing Team as a coach from youth to international level, and Olympic 49er bronze medallist Chris Draper, an America’s Cup veteran who’s worked with many new teams in both the America’s Cup and SailGP arenas to accelerate foiling skills. The Athena Pathway trialled crew in a 26-foot ‘Easy to Fly’ foiling catamaran and the programme also has a fleet of Waszp dinghies.
Along with today’s team announcement, the Athena Pathway also announced a sponsorship partnership with UK/US engineering firm Cobham-Ultra, which operates in defence, aerospace and electronics sectors.
Women’s and Youth America’s Cup racing in 2024
The Women’s and Youth America’s Cup events will both be held in one-design AC40s, with the teams competing in Barcelona concurrently with the main Cup racing.
The British America’s Cup team took delivery of its second AC40 at the end of 2023, with the boats sharing duties as a test-platform for the AC75 as well as being the one-design class for the Youth and America’s Cup racing.
The Youth America’s Cup begins with practice racing from 19 September and official racing from 26 September until the final on 2 October. The AC40s then get immediately handed over to the women’s squads, with the Puig Women’s America’s Cup practice racing beginning on October 4 28, and racing running from 10 October until the grand final on 16 October (also the third day of the Louis Vuitton Match Race Final).
There are 12 teams entered in the Women’s and Youth America’s Cups. Besides the America’s Cup entrants – Emirates Team New Zealand, Alinghi Red Bull Racing (SUI), Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli (ITA), American Magic (USA), the French Orient Express Racing and British Athena Pathway – six further teams have entered from Spain, Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Australia.
For both events the fleet will be split into two groups of six boats for an eight race opening series. The top six teams will then advance to a four-race series of fleet races to decide the top two boats, with the winner decided by a single winner-takes-all match race.
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