Athena Pathway Get to Grips with their AC40 in Palma

In late April, three members of Athena Pathway visited British America’s Cup team INEOS Britannia at their Winter training base, with the purpose of learning more about their AC40 ‘Athena’, a one-design foiling monohull which will be raced at the Women’s and Youth America’s Cup Regattas in Barcelona in 2024.

Team CEO Hannah Mills, Boat Captain Sophie Heritage and WASZP superstar Hattie Rogers spent four days in Palma, building on their foiling knowledge, trialling the on-site VR Simulator and learning the AC40 ropes from the INEOS Britannia sailors and shore team.

Hear from Hannah as she reflects on the visit:

We’ve been here in Palma with the British America’s Cup team, and we’re basically just doing a recce to really get to grips and understand what it takes to get an AC40 out on the water. All the infrastructure that’s required, all the people that are required, all the skills that are required, so we can build a really good picture for Athena Pathway going forward as to what it is we need to do.

The chance to sit on the AC40 with Bleddyn, who’s part of the America’s Cup team here, who’s sailed on the boat, was invaluable for us at this stage. I think it’s really hard when you’re building a programme and you’ve not even seen the boat or sailed anything like it to imagine what it is we’re trying to do. It’s really closed that gap as to what it is we’re trying to achieve.

© Cameron Gregory

We were really lucky this week to get to go on the Simulator they have here, which includes VR headsets, which was the coolest experience. Obviously quite different to the AC40, but we (Athena Pathway) have an AC40 simulator coming online in a couple of months, which will be vital to getting the experience and skills needed for all the sailors before we actually get out on the water.

The AC40 is quite different to normal sailing – there’s lots of buttons – and the foiling in itself is a whole new world for a lot of the sailors. The simulator allows you to learn and make mistakes in a safe environment before getting out on the water and doing it for real.

© Cameron Gregory

It was amazing going on the Test boat. I got to sit behind Ben, Giles was on the other side, and then we had two guys at the front and it was just great. Like that communication loop between the four of them, just sort of constant feedback and working as a team and understanding who does what in the manoeuvres. Obviously it’ll be different with the AC40, but to get a grips of how the best people in the world at this do their jobs – it was invaluable.

© Cameron Gregory

We’re just under 18 months away until the Youth and Women’s America’s Cup, so it feels like there’s a lot to be done. A lot of logistics, operations and plans to put together and finances to raise – all those things that come with putting together a campaign like this.

In terms of what’s next…we’re lucky in the UK, we’ve got some amazing sailing talent. And so for us, over the next few months, it’s about embracing who we’ve got out there, who’s really keen to get involved, and getting them through the WASZPs, the ETF, and potentially out to Barcelona at the right time to get them on the AC40. A busy few months coming up!”

© Cameron Gregory