UpWind by MerConcept announces squad of seven female athletes © G. Gatefait | MerConcept

UpWind by MerConcept announces squad of seven female athletes © G. Gatefait | MerConcept

UpWind by MerConcept announces squad of seven female athletes


19/04/2024 - 10:59

After four days of physical and mental tests, individual interviews, and on-water racing, seven female athletes have been selected to join the very first UpWind by MerConcept racing team.

Lisa Farthofer (AUT), Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA), Elodie Mettraux (SUI), Thiphaine Ragueneau (FRA), Michaela Robinson (RSA), Sara Stone (USA), and Arianne van de Loosdrecht (NED) will join Skipper Francesca Clapcich (ITA) for the 2024 season of Ocean Fifty racing.

UpWind by MerConcept is the brand-new, all-female training hub for female sailors launched in February 2024, with 11th Hour Racing as founding sponsor. MerConcept’s ultimate vision for UpWind is to have a competitive female-led Ocean Fifty entry in the 2026 Route du Rhum, the solo, non-stop race across the Atlantic from Saint-Malo, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, and to have grown the pool of female sailors who have the knowledge and experience to join mixed-gender teams for Jules Verne Trophy attempts - for the fasted non-stop circumnavigation of the planet under sail.

Skipper Clapcich, who will lead the team on the water for the 2024 and 2025 seasons of Ocean Fifty racing said, “What an incredible week! I have been continually impressed with the caliber of female sailing talent throughout every step of this selection process. This week has been high pressure for the athletes, with multiple tests - physical, mental, technical knowledge, and performance - and they have been under continual assessment. But everyone has kept a really positive attitude and, despite it being a competition, they all worked together as a team which has made it an incredibly tough decision for the jury.

“I'm confident in the athletes we have chosen - a mix of more established sailors joined by emerging talent who will benefit from being surrounded and supported by MerConcept, one of the most experienced technical and performance teams in the sport. I'm stoked to be going racing with them all in the UpWind Ocean Fifty this year.”

UpWind by MerConcept received over 120 applications, from 30 countries, from female athletes looking to take their next steps in the offshore sailing world, and 16 candidates were shortlisted from 12 countries. 12 sailors attended the selection week in the home of offshore yacht racing - Brittany, France - for four days of tests at MerConcept’s headquarters, under the watchful eyes of an international jury and observers.

François Gabart, record-breaking sailor and winner of the Vendée Globe (racing solo, non-stop around the world) and Founder of MerConcept was part of the selection jury, joined by Francesca Clapcich, MerConcept Director of Racing Cécile Andrieu, Team Manager Louis Giard, and 11th Hour Racing Sponsorship Director, Lorraine McKenna.

Gabart commented, “This has been an exciting week, very interesting and very rewarding for the project, and I hope for all the sailors who took part. There was a good atmosphere at MerConcept this week and it created a great sense of competition.

“The 12 candidates have all shown their desire to be part of this project and put a lot of energy into the selection process. It was never going to be an easy decision to make, as we discovered a lot of skill and potential in the group, which is why we decided to select seven female sailors rather than limiting ourselves to six profiles. It's very promising for the future.

“As talent is nurtured and developed, new sailors will be coming into the highest levels of the sport. At MerConcept we are already working towards the 2030 Route du Rhum and as crews become more mixed and diverse, we need to be considering now how we design future high-performance boats to create a fair and level playing-field for everyone,” concluded Gabart.

Lorraine McKenna, Sponsorship Director, 11th Hour Racing, was part of the selection jury. She commented, "Please join us in celebrating the achievement of these seven outstanding female sailors, who have risen to the top among a field of 16 during the trials, out of a pool of over 120 applicants, to secure their places in the UpWind offshore sailing project. Their dedication, skill, and passion for the ocean highlight the strength and capability of women in the maritime industry. As they embark on this journey, breaking barriers, and exploring new horizons, we offer our congratulations and wish them success on their voyage ahead."

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