Meet Sophie Heritage, the newest shore team member for the Great Britain SailGP Team, and boat captain for Athena Pathway, a new Pathway programme fast-tracking development of female and youth athletes into both SailGP and the America’s Cup. Originally from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Sophie is now going global with the British SailGP Team.
Sophie initially joined the team through a trial internship in Bermuda at the beginning of Season 3, and has quickly developed into a core, full-time, member of the shore team.
"While in Bermuda, I got completely stuck into the work and asked as many questions as I could. Everyone has been very supportive in my learning and has helped me learn more about how the F50 flies.”
Sophie’s role on the GBR SailGP team involves constructing and deconstructing the F50 boat at each event, ensuring the sailors have everything they need to go sailing and assisting with on-water support. She holds a similar role with the Athena Pathway, as boat captain for the ETF26, where she has the responsibility to ensure the boat is race ready for the sailors whenever they go out sailing.
Sophie's initial pathway into the GBR SailGP Team came through SailGP’s Women's Pathway Programme, a platform to support more females to come into the sailing industry, both on and off the water. This opportunity also provided Sophie the opportunity become the ETF26 boat captain for Athena Pathway; a new Pathway programme for British female and youth sailors which will also field teams to compete in the Women's and Youth America's Cup in Barcelona in 2024. Through Sophie’s work at SailGP events, Hannah Mills, who leads the Athena Pathway, saw the great work Sophie was doing and asked her to be the boat captain for the Pathway. “I'm so happy to be involved in such a cool project and being able to watch it grow from ground zero is really exciting”, Sophie added.
Recently, the Athena Pathway team were down in Weymouth for a week where they sailed the boat for the first time, understanding how it sails, the dynamics and the sail systems. As boat captain, Sophie has been supporting the team is trying to get as much sailing time as possible, making the boat their own and making changes that will ensure everything runs smoothly.
Sophie’s job on the shore team is ‘dream come true’ for her. In her role, she now also frequently runs into friends who have been employed by the SailGP Inspire programme, which aims to provide equal, life-changing opportunities and new career pathways for all. Sophie added: “There are definitely more routes for girls in this kind of industry, especially on the technical side. Seeing more girls within the field is exciting, this is the future of sailing.”
If Sophie had to give one piece of advice, it would be “Keep asking questions, show masses of interest and initiative plus work super hard and you'll be hard to not be noticed. If you want to learn and you do a great job, then there's nothing to stop you.”