Captain's Log | ETF26 Lake Garda

An all-female team from Athena Pathway, including Nikki Boniface, Eilidh McIntyre, Kate Macgregor and CEO Hannah Mills made their way to Lake Garda for the 3rd event of the ETF26 season, which kicked off on the 28th June as part of Foiling Week. With 15 races scheduled, shifting wind and breathtaking scenery, the fleet had all the necessary ingredients to battle it out on the biggest lake of Italy, and the racing didn't disappoint...


Hear from Hannah as she gives a rundown of Athena's time in Garda, and her experience of helming an ETF for the first time! 

What a week in Lake Garda!

I’ve finally managed to get a go on the ETF26 and it didn’t disappoint! I headed out to Lake Garda last week for the 3rd ETF26 event of the series with an all-female team, including Nikki Boniface, Eilidh McIntyre and Kate Macgregor.

The boat is incredible; I wasn’t sure what to expect having done very little time on a catamaran let alone helming one or racing one. My only experience is the F50, which is a little different. The ETF class was incredibly welcoming too and it was great to meet everyone at last rather than just conversing via email!

If you’ve not been to Lake Garda before, I would put it on the bucket list. If you get the chance to go there sailing, then even better! It’s the most beautiful place with so much to do on shore and on the water. The 2 training days we had before the event were perfect – 14kts and sunshine with the wind straight down the lake. The only challenge – the number of kiters, wing foilers and windsurfers blasting back and forth across the lake. It felt at times like we were trying to cross the M25 going downwind through them all!

Day 1

I felt pretty nervous as I hadn’t helmed a race since the Tokyo Olympics - having baby Sienna has put a bit of a holt on that! Race day 1 was all about trying to get around the course and building on our communication and teamwork as we’d never sailed together as a team and none of us had done much time in the boat. The class do reaching starts and then down and upwind a few times before reaching to the finish – much like Sail GP but very different to the 470 and Olympics!

Of course, by race 2 I got a little over-confident and having gone around the reach mark in the mix, foiling downwind on starboard, I was lining up to get the gybe in first, got a little carried away and went into it full speed, spun us through and lost grip on the tiller extension which meant we carried on firing through all the way into a capsize. Luckily everyone was ok and so was the boat. After that I’d say we were a lot more cautious…!

Day 2

The second day of racing began with the long-distance component of the racing schedule.  Unfortunately the breeze had dropped and it was quite a bit lighter - so it really was a long one! It was our first time racing upwind with the code zero up, which at least gave us a chance to get used to that and figure out how to use it. Downwind to the finish and another challenge – it was marginal foiling which we hadn’t experienced before either. This was a weak area for us - knowing what mode to put the boat in and when but also getting up on the foils seemed to be a bit more challenging for us compared to some of the other teams. Lots to learn there!  

3 more races followed and included some ups and downs, lots of learnings and things to move forward with, but still feeling like we were just getting around the racecourse rather than racing most of the time, despite a few more glimmers of success including leading rounding mark 1 in one of the races.

Day 3

By day 3, we finally felt like we were starting to race and make decisions based on racing! It was a great feeling, but we were still struggling with the changeable conditions in the wind making the downwind hard for us – where our lack of experience in the boat was showing the most and where we would lose the most on the others. Upwind was going nicely and we seemed to have some great pace. Nikki, Eilidh and Kate were doing an awesome job in setting the boat up and getting her ripping!

Day 4

Day 4 was the final day of racing. As those that have tried a new class before and got to this point will know, it was great but also a little frustrating! We felt like we were able to sail the boat well enough to be racing and getting off the line well in the mix on the first reach and run, but then letting mistakes creep mid-fleet, like miss judged lay lines or boat-on-boat issues. It felt a bit like we’d yoyo around between mid-fleet and getting spat out the back - unfortunately ending up near the back even though it felt like we’d made a lot of improvements.

I absolutely loved getting back helming again and learning a new boat with an awesome team. Out of my comfort zone but that is often where you learn the most and test yourself.


It’s very easy to not do things in life because you think it’s too hard, you aren’t ready yet or you feel you’ll be too far outside your comfort zone. If you have the right people around you and can believe in yourself enough to grab those opportunities in life that come along, I am confident you won’t regret them ever. You will only learn!

ETF26 Foiling Week Ranking

  1. Entreprises du Morbihan - 21 points
  2. Team PRO - 34 points
  3. Blueshift Sailing Team - 41 points 
  4. Live Ocean Racing - 43 points 
  5. Toroa Racing - 54 points 
  6. Lady Team PRO - 76 points
  7. Athena Pathway - 76 points