Advancing Diversity, Inclusion, and Excellence in Offshore Sailing

A pioneering initiative designed to promote diversity, inclusion, and sustainable excellence in offshore sailing.

Our vision

At UpWind by MerConcept, we aspire to reshape the narrative of offshore racing, envisioning a sailing community that is safe, welcoming, and inclusive. Launched in February 2024 by MerConcept, with Founding Sponsor 11th Hour Racing, our new Ocean Fifty project will enable female sailors from all horizons to sail at the highest level, while benefiting from the best professional support available: whether at sea, in contact with the best, or on land, alongside highly qualified technical teams.

Meet Our Skipper

Francesca Clapcich joins the project as skipper. The Italian sailor is one of the world’s most versatile sailors, having raced at two Olympic Games, twice around the world, is part of the US America’s Cup Team, and also has ambitions to race in the 2028 Vendée Globe, solo, non-stop around the world.

“Francesca will be an exceptional skipper for the UpWind project,” commented Cécile Andrieu, Racing Director at MerConcept. “She is a true trailblazer – the first Italian to win The Ocean Race – and she will bring skill, passion, and determination to the helm of our team. She is also a champion for diversity and inclusion, and under her leadership, we will break down barriers and work together to devise a sailing community that is welcoming and open to everyone.”

Our Team

Mid April 2024, after receiving 120 applicants, MerConcept and 11th Hour Racing hosted the selection of UpWind by MerConcept in Concarneau, Britanny, 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.

Our Mission

In its first year, UpWind by MerConcept will provide women with opportunities for high-level performance offshore racing, both on the water and on the shore team. Our 2024 goal is to recruit six women to join our multihull training program, while also fostering a diverse team to support their racing program and facilitate learning within the offshore sailing ecosystem. We also have the ambition of accompanying one of them to the starting line of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe 2026.

Our Platform

Aligned with the Ocean Fifty boat and circuit, the project finds a natural ally in advancing the sport’s competitive landscape and opening doors to under-represented talent.

MerConcept’s involvement reflects a strategic commitment to diversity, enhancing the competitive landscape while ensuring accessibility to a greater number of sailors.

MerConcept’s Commitment

MerConcept, as an entreprise à mission (a legal entity in France, similar to BCorp status, where a business pursues predefined social and environmental objectives along with tailored sustainability targets), stands as a leader in the sailing industry, embedding sustainability, social responsibility, and environmental principles into its operations. The launch of this new Ocean Fifty project aligns with these core values, demonstrating a dedication to progress beyond the racecourse, catalyzing change within the sailing community for a more inclusive and sustainable future for everyone.

Working in partnership

11th Hour Racing joins UpWind by MerConcept as the Founding Sponsor. 11th Hour Racing is a global-reaching organization based in Newport, R.I., USA, that advocates for sustainability and ocean health, working to mobilize sports, maritime, and coastal communities with an innovative approach to inspire solutions for the ocean. The organization harnesses the power of sport to promote collaborative, systemic change through three primary areas of engagement: Sponsorships, Grantees, and Ambassadors.

Three Pillars, One Mission

Empowering talent

Propel talented women to the forefront of offshore racing, with the goal of a female skipper leading a competitive multihull in La Route du Rhum 2026.

Recruit, develop, and train a diverse and active squad of female sailors to race in future Jules Verne Trophy crews.

Diversity and Inclusion

Recruit a shore team from diverse backgrounds, offering professional experience to talented technicians.

Establish networks and mentorship programs to guide and support our team

Sustainability at Sea

Lead by example in waste management, materials, and carbon footprint reduction, partnering with companies committed to sustainable development.

Develop our boat as a test platform for carbon waste management and alternative materials.

Join the Movement

Apply to Join the Crew

We are seeking passionate individuals who share our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and sustainable excellence in offshore sailing. Apply now to become a part of UpWind by MerConcept.

Follow Our Journey

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#NavigatingChange #SailWithPurpose #UpWindbyMerConcept #11thhourracing

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