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Home NewsEvents UpWind by MerConcept announces squad of seven female athletes for inaugural season of Ocean Fifty Racing

UpWind by MerConcept announces squad of seven female athletes for inaugural season of Ocean Fifty Racing

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(onboard): © Qaptur | MerConcept

In brief:

  • After four days of mental, physical, and sailing tests, seven female athletes have been chosen to join the inaugural squad for UpWind by MerConcept.
  • 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.
  • The UpWind team will race in the five-Act 2024 Ocean Fifty series.
  • Francois Gabart, Founder of MerConcept: “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.
(small group): © G. Gatefait | MerConcept

April 19, 2024

Concarneau, France

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.

(large group): © G. Gatefait | MerConcept

The seven selected candidates (short biogs attached):

Lisa Farthofer (AUT)

Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA)

Elodie Mettraux (SUI)

Thiphaine Ragueneau (FRA)

Michaela Robinson (RSA)

Sara Stone (USA)

Arianne van de Loosdrecht (NED)

The sixteen shortlisted candidates:

Sophie Faguet – BEL

Lisa Farthofer – AUT

Amélie Grassi – FRA

Anne Claire Le Berre – FRA

Pamela Lee – IRL

Elodie-Jane Mettraux – SUI

Laurane Mettraux – SUI

Maja Micinska – POL

Tiphaine Ragueneau – FRA

Marie Riou – FRA

Michaela Robinson – RSA

Sweta Shervegar – IND

Sara Stone – USA

Djemila Tassin – ESP / BEL

Arianne van de Loosdrecht – NED

Cecilia Zorzi – ITA

(Ocean Fifty): © Qaptur | MerConcept

The five-Act 2024 season of the Ocean Fifty series kicks off at the end of May and includes an east/west transatlantic race, three Grand Prix events, and one Mediterranean crossing: 

Act 1: Saint-Malo, May 22-26

Act 2: Pornichet, La Baule, June 20-24

Act 3: La Route des Terre-Neuvas, Saint Pierre and Miquelon to Saint Quay Portrieux, France, depart: August 27

Act 4: Med Max Occitanie, Port-Camargue, France to Saïdia Resort, Morocco, depart September 29, arrive October 3

Act 5: Saint Maxime, France, October 16-20.


About MerConcept

Since 2006, MerConcept has harnessed the power of the wind to propel its boats, navigating across the globe and supporting unifying and inspiring offshore racing projects. Evolving into a mission-driven enterprise, MerConcept, recognizing the imperative of giving purpose to progress, has established a sustainable innovation laboratory. This lab empowers research and development, fostering the creation of a maritime mobility division. Adaptable to reinvent ourselves in the face of complex technological and environmental challenges, we conceive, build, and navigate the boats of the future at our core base in Concarneau, Southern Brittany.

Mission and Expertise Integration

As a performance and innovation integrator, MerConcept channels its passion and expertise into developing and deploying solutions aligned with its purpose: realizing the dream of sustainable ocean travel. Serving as the interface between partners and stakeholders, including architects, builders, energy specialists, ocean enthusiasts, and more, we engage in the entire value chain from conception and construction to project operation. Attuned to our stakeholders and closely aligned with their needs, we operate both in overall project management and the development of specific technological solutions, drawing on our team’s skills and our partners’ experiences. www.merconcept.com

About 11th Hour Racing

11th Hour Racing works to mobilize sports, maritime and coastal communities with an innovative approach to inspire solutions for the ocean. 11th Hour Racing promotes collaborative, systemic change through three primary areas of engagement: sponsorships, grantees and ambassadors. These philanthropic activities are provided through 11th Hour Racing, Inc., 11th Hour Racing Charitable and 11th Hour Racing Action. Learn more at www.11thhourracing.org.

About the Ocean Fifty Circuit

The Ocean Fifty Class was born in 2021 from the Multi50 class, whose history is intimately linked to that of ocean racing. This class has been constantly evolving over the past 15 years. It became more professional in 2015, before opting for foils in 2017. In 2021, it innovated and created its own circuit with Upswing Prod. To mark the occasion, the class changed its name and, thanks to communication methods original to ocean racing, aimed to win over a wider audience. A five-episode Ocean Fifty docu-series is broadcast every year on Canal +. Dynamic and well thought out, the Ocean Fifty class keeps a close eye on its class rules, which guarantee an affordable budget for SMEs, and the long-term performance and value of its boats. Its calendar includes a circuit and a major ocean race each year, notably the Route du Rhum and Transat Jacques Vabre. The Ocean Fifty class is the only one to offer a guest onboard experience for Grand Prix events. www.oceanfifty.com

About Francesca Clapcich

Italian by birth but residing in Utah, USA, Francesca Clapcich is a professional sailor, Olympic athlete, outdoor enthusiast, wife, and mother.

She is one of the world’s most versatile professional sailors, and despite her young age (born 1988) is one of a handful of athletes to have competed in multiple disciplines at the highest levels of the sport. She represented Italy at both the London (finishing 19th) and Rio (finishing 5th) Olympic Games in the Laser and 49erFX classes respectively, was the first Italian woman to compete in the Solitaire du Figaro, and has raced around the world twice in The Ocean Race, becoming the first Italian to win the notoriously challenging race in the 2022-23 edition. She has also been selected to compete in the Puig Women’s America’s Cup for American Magic in October 2024. Her next big goal is to compete in the 2028 Vendée Globe, sailing solo and non-stop around the planet.

In January 2024, it was announced that Francesca is powered by 11th Hour Racing, a global-reaching organization that advocates for sustainability and ocean health with its solution-oriented initiatives for a more inclusive and sustainable future. 

In both her professional and personal life, Francesca seeks solutions to inspire change and foster a community where diversity is celebrated, and equality is the norm, both on and off the water. www.francescaclapcich.com

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