Advent portfolio business Cobham-Ultra sponsors Women's America's Cup sailing team Athena Pathway

Advent Insights

Inspiring the engineers of tomorrow by funding the America’s Cup

February 06, 2024

The British sailing team that will contest the first ever Women’s America’s Cup is sponsored by aerospace and maritime technology pioneer Cobham-Ultra, an Advent portfolio business.

The business is also helping to bolster the technically advanced sport of sailing with a charity partnership to encourage more young people in the UK to pursue science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

“The Athena Pathway is about inspiration, providing opportunities, supporting the next generation and bringing new people into the sport of sailing,” said Hannah Mills, the double-Olympic gold medallist who launched the initiative alongside fellow Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie.

“It’s also about inspiring the superstar engineers and technicians of the future. Modern boats like the AC40 need several engineers simply to get off the dock. We’re dedicated to getting that next generation of engineering talent to come through by encouraging STEM.”

The AC40 is a multi-use foiling monohull that the women’s and youth teams will use in the America’s Cup. The foils allow the boat to lift out of the water, decreasing drag, and reach speeds of more than 50 knots (roughly 100 kilometres per hour).

The high speeds and complex technology used in the America’s Cup have led some to dub the competition, “Formula 1 on water”.

“Speaking on behalf of the engineering sector in Britain, our secret weapon is talent,” said Shonnel Malani, Advent Managing Partner and Chair of Cobham-Ultra (pictured above with Ben Ainslie, Hannah Mills and Michelle Donelan). “Yet there is huge competition for talent, particularly from the digital sector. Our corporate social responsibility is to bolster engineering in the UK. We’ve done that with our scholarship programme with universities across the country to help underprivileged students pursue STEM subjects.”

He added: “Supporting the Athena Pathway is our latest attempt to connect the dots between schools, sports and careers in engineering. Sailing has become incredibly science and engineering-oriented. We want to show young people the link between physics lessons at school and incredible boats that can sail at 100 kilometres an hour.”

Cobham-Ultra is boosting STEM subjects through a partnership with the 1851 Trust, a charity that promotes scientific learning among young people. Launched by Ben Ainslie and the entrepreneur Sir Keith Mills, the 1851 Trust gets its name from the inaugural year of the America’s Cup, which is regarded as the oldest international competition still operating in any sport.

As well as supporting the women’s competition in the cup, which is the first of its kind, the Athena Pathway will provide a team for the youth event. Britain is the current defender of the Youth America’s Cup, which last took place during the America’s Cup series in Bermuda in 2017. Together, the two events are known as the 2024 Youth & Puig Women’s America’s Cup Regattas.

“For too long, young people have been surrounded by stereotypes that careers in engineering aren’t exciting and dynamic,” said Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, who attended the Athena Pathway launch event in London. “This programme highlights that this is untrue. STEM subjects can open up jobs in so many sectors – it’s so important for us to raise aspirations and awareness.”

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