The America’s Cup, the competition for the oldest sporting trophy in the world, will dramatically change tack when it sails into Barcelona in 2024. Ushering in a historic new era, a Women’s and Youth America’s Cup will take place alongside the 37th contest for the coveted ‘Auld Mug’.

Britain’s bid for these progressive regattas has been named Athena Pathway and Hannah Mills OBE, the most decorated female sailor of all time, is leading the charge. Cecil Wright is partnering with Athena Pathway and is delighted to be involved in this unprecedented sporting chapter.

Hannah Mills had just won her second Olympic gold – this time in Tokyo – when the details of the 37th America’s Cup were announced: “I’ve always felt passionate about winning, but closing the gender gap in this sport and leaving a legacy for the next generation of sailors is equally as important to me” she says. Though the first Youth America’s Cup was held in Bermuda five years ago – and won by the British Land Rover BAR team – there hasn’t been a women’s event since the competition began in 1851.

Sir Ben Ainslie, the Team Principal of INEOS Britannia, devised the concept of Athena Pathway and invited Hannah to lead it. Hannah – who has spent years championing positive change in sustainability and the environment – had both the principles and sailing prowess needed for the job: “As the oldest sporting trophy, the America’s Cup is amazing,” says Hannah, “but it always seemed out of this world to me and never something I could be part of. To now help encourage diverse people to get involved is a massive step, and one that our sport really needed to take.”


Britain worked together with New Zealand to ring the changes. When Emirates Team New Zealand won the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland, it was Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron Racing (RYS) that became the Challenger of Record for the next iteration. Bertie Bicket, Chairman of the RYS, was the man responsible for thrusting the notice of challenge into the hands of the victorious Kiwis on board the yacht IMAGINE (as Chris Cecil-Wright and Ed Carrell watched from aboard MISS SILVER – now for sale through Cecil Wright).

Once signed, they began developing the parameters of the contest together. “It’s a huge privilege to be spearheading women sailors at the pinnacle of the sport, particularly as the RYS was the original instigator of the competition almost two centuries ago” Bertie says, “There is a level playing field in the Olympics and this is only now reflected in the America’s Cup. It was one of the mainstays of our collective vision with the Kiwis.”


There are other exciting developments in motion. The 37th America’s Cup will build on the success of the AC75 foiling monohulls that were inaugurated in Auckland, and Ben Ainslie will make his third successive attempt to bring the Cup home. The women’s and youth teams will be contested on a brand new AC40 class – 40 knot and futuristic – with the Women’s America’s Cup Final Match Race being held on a race day of the America’s Cup.

Hannah’s triumphs to date have been aboard the 470 class: “Though the racing principles will be with same, it’s going to be a completely different challenge seeing how fast the AC40 can go,” she says. Though she admits the learning curve will be steep, she’s applying the same motivation that propelled her through three Olympic Games: “I’m showing the next generation what’s possible.”

A long-term programme of nurturing fresh and diverse talent is at the heart of Athena Pathway. The country’s top emerging sailors will be invited to training camps from which the very best will be selected, with a 50/50 gender split in the youth team. “We are trying to win the America’s Cup, but ultimately we want to create an enduring pathway for women and youth into the sport – a springboard into the professional phase of their careers.”


Cecil Wright is Superyacht Partner to Athena Pathway and recognises the tenacity and drive it takes to compete for – let alone win – the America’s Cup. “It takes exceptional knowledge and talent, which will be exhilarating for us to witness as a partner,” Chris says. The British youth team will be defending their title, and the dream will be to do the double. Ben Ainslie believes Athena Pathway is in very good hands: “If anyone on the planet symbolises women in sport it’s Hannah Mills,” he says, “She is the most successful female sailor in the history of the sport, but is also inspirational in the work that she does off the boat.”


Hannah Mills OBE

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