Meet The Crew | Neil Hunter

Meet 26-year-old Neil Hunter, a force to be reckoned with as he enters his third America's Cup campaign.

Meet 26-year-old Neil Hunter, a force to be reckoned with as he enters his third America's Cup campaign.

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Neil Hunter is no longer the new kid on the block. At age 26, Hunter is already entering his third America’s Cup Campaign, a rarity for sailors of his age. From being the last sailor to be recruited on to the team’s AC35 campaign (through the Youth America’s Cup), Neil is now an integral member of the AC37 team, proving his strength and skill as a sailor along the way.

Hunter himself hails from a sailing background, inspired by ambitious sailing parents. It is his own determination, however, alongside physical and mental strength that enabled his career to take off. In the first edition of INEOSBritannia’s ‘Meet The Crew’ series in the team’s AC37 campaign, Hunter joins us to look back on his childhoodand talk us through how he reached the upper echelons of sailing in the America’s Cup.

“Growing up on the Isle of Arran, I have been sailing my whole life,” said Hunter, as his father was a professional yacht skipper and his mother, Sally Hunter, helped make history as part of Maiden in the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race. Fast-forward to 2022, however, and Hunter is already writing his own history, not only being one of the youngest members of INEOS Britannia’s sailing squad, but already having the notable experience of two America’s Cup campaigns under his belt.

Neil sailing as a child off the coast of the Isle of Arran.

 After beginning his sailing career in Oppie’s on the Isle of Arran, Hunter’s success showed early on, notably when he got an invite to join the British Sailing Team Podium Potential Squad in 2014. Then, in early 2016, he applied to the British Academy Program as part of the 35th America’s Cup; a development squad for talented young British sailors looking for a pathway to the America’s Cup.

Through the Academy, Hunter got the opportunity to join the senior team in Oman at their first Extreme Sailing Series (ESS) event, where they placed third. Neil continued to excel and was eventually offered a spot in the first Academy intake.

The Extreme Sailing Series 2016. Act 6. Madeira. Portugal. 22nd September 2016. Credit - Lloyd Images - Madeira - Portugal
© Mark Lloyd
Lloyd Images

The team saw how hardworking, incredibly fit and willing to learn the young sailor was and took a risk.

After four months of training with the team, Ben Ainslie asked Hunter to race onboard with the team during the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda. “It was a massive moment in my sailing career. We didn’t do as well as we would have liked in the Cup, but I felt a huge sense of personal achievement. It was a dream come true and one that all happened so quickly.” 

Two days after his life-changing race in Bermuda, Hunter re-joined the Academy team and went straight into racing on the AC45F and won the Youth America’s Cup for the British team. With the Youth America’s Cup in Auckland during AC36 being cancelled due to COVID restrictions, the British remain holders of the Cup ahead of its return for AC37.


For Hunter, meanwhile, after his experience in Bermuda there was never any doubt he wouldn’t return to race in another America’s Cup. “Immediately after we got back from Bermuda, I was talking to Ben [Ainslie] about the next edition. I really wanted to be involved.”

During the 36th America’s Cup campaign, culminating in Auckland in early 2021, Hunter “made a huge step up fitness wise, but the whole team did as well.” His goals had shifted from purely making the team to being one of the “the fittest and best grinders on the team, as well as in the America’s Cup circuit, with the ultimate goal of winning the America’s Cup.”


Whilst success did not follow in Auckland for the British team, the team did win the PRADA Cup Round Robin series, coming a step closer to qualifying for the all-important match against the Defender Team New Zealand.

The loss in the PRADA Cup Final, however, did not discourage Hunter and he was quick to indicate that he was keen to continue into the 37th America’s Cup campaign, his and the team’s third consecutive challenge. Upon signing with the team again, Hunter reflects on the journey over the past year:

“After we lost in the PRADA Cup last year, it was disappointing when it came to an end so quickly. We had such good momentum in the early days of the round robin – which instilled a good sense of hope as the racing continued.

“It ignited a sense within me to come back stronger. I feel so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to go again and hopefully do it better than we did last time.”

During this campaign, Hunter’s fitness goals will continue to be at the top of his priority – especially with possibility of cyclors returning for this America’s Cup. The possibility of having to shift the power he produces from his arms to his legs has led to a shift in training not only for Hunter, but for the entire power unit within the sailing team. It is, as he says, “a big change” and his immediate goal “is to get on top of my training to understand better what types of training I need to be doing.”

Hunter is in a unique position as he will have completed three America’s Cup campaigns before the age of 30. He is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned within the America’s Cup circuit, though is quick to raise the point that he still has a huge amount to learn, especially from the more senior sailors who have up to seven America’s Cup campaigns under their belt. As an example of the quick transition one can make from the Youth America’s Cup to the America’s Cup itself however, he is a particularly strong rolemodel for those who will be joining the British Youth team for the upcoming edition in AC37.

Indeed, with the depth of his own experience and the opportunities it has given him, Hunter strongly believes that the return of Youth America’s Cup is a huge opportunity for the next generation of high-performance foiling sailors; “As I have shown, it is the perfect pathway to step up into the senior AC team. It is an epic circuit and an amazing experience for the younger sailors to gain confidence in foiling boats and I, for one, really hope to see some of the sailors that will be racing on the AC40 in the Youth AC make the step up to the AC75.”

Whilst Hunter is quickly gaining significant experience in the America’s Cup world, there is one important goal he has yet to achieve, namely winning the America’s Cup itself. It is that ambition which drives him and will continue to do so until history is made.

“Everyone who is coming back, their burning desire is to win the Cup and for INEOS Britannia to bring it back to Britain. That is incredibly difficult to achieve and will take a lot of hard work from the entire team but I am very excited to take that challenge on. I feel so lucky to be part of this team and to hopefully be involved in British history one day would be absolutely incredible. The America’s Cup is addictive, once you get involved you can’t get enough. It really is the perfect job.”