American pro sailor Sara Stone makes the Sweet 16!

Tuesday, April 2, 2024, Concarneau, France

© D. Lupion | MerConcept

UpWind by MerConcept, the brand-new, all-female training hub for female sailors launched in February, has announced the shortlist of 16 sailors invited to Concarneau for a week-long selection process. The sailors were whittled down from over 120 applications received from 30 countries including Mexico, Uruguay, France, USA, UK, Poland, and India.

The UpWind program, supported by 11th Hour Racing as Founding Sponsor, has been created to develop the skills of female sailors through racing, training, and mentorship from some of the world’s very best sailors, technical shore teams, and performance directors.

We have been blown away not only by the quantity but also the quality of the applications received,” commented Louis Giard, the Team Manager for Upwind. “It is clear that female sailors from around the world are excited by the opportunity to grow their expertise and put performance miles on their sailing CVs. We are delighted with the response.

“I wish we could take everyone, but in this first year of UpWind by MerConcept we have to temper our ambitions, but we are already making plans for 2025 and beyond,” said Giard.

The shortlisted candidates will travel to MerConcept’s headquarters in the heart of offshore racing – Concarneau, Brittany, France – for five days of testing from April 15-19. The sailors will be put through their paces with both physical and technical tests, as well as individual interviews and crewed sailing sessions.

The sixteen international candidates invited to attend are:

*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

* These athletes are unable to join the selection process, but will still be in consideration for UpWind by MerConcept

Giard outlined the success criteria for the shortlisted candidates. “We will use the week in Concarneau to identify the medium-term sporting objectives of each of the sailors and particular attention will be paid to the way they develop in a group setting along with their willingness to learn and pass on their knowledge.

UpWind will train and mentor the six successful applicants for the 2024 Ocean Fifty series, supported by a smaller squad, for training and deliveries. Italian offshore sailor and Olympian Francesca Clapcich will skipper the on-water team.

Francesca Clapcich  © D. Lupion | MerConcept

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 – a non-stop circumnavigation of the planet.

The interest we have received in just three short weeks is huge,” said Clapcich. “It just goes to show that plenty of female sailors out there are keen to get more experience racing at the very top of our sport. I’m very proud to be part of this process and that we have the support of a visionary organization like 11th Hour Racing which understands the importance of supporting the development of diverse teams, as they will deliver the best performance both on and off the water.”

While the application process has been underway, the UpWind Ocean Fifty trimaran has undergone a complete refit at MerConcept, stripped down to the bare bones, all the systems have been serviced, and the hull has been sanded and repainted. In its freshly painted royal blue and coral color scheme, the trimaran rolled out of the shed early morning of Tuesday, March 26, and was lifted into the water early in the morning of Tuesday, April 2.

© D. Lupion | MerConcept


Boat Captain Fin Clark gave a short update, “It’s been two months of hard work here in the shed at MerConcept. The boat is one of the older generation Ocean Fifty trimarans and we are giving her a big upgrade.

“We have a week of technical systems testing and tuning the rig before we head into tuning the systems and boat, and then of course, we start the training. The first Ocean Fifty event is in June – so it’s a quick turnaround!

© D. Lupion | MerConcept

The five-Act 2024 season of the Ocean Fifty series includes an east/west transatlantic race, three Grand Prix events, and one Mediterranean crossing.

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 IntegrationAs 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.

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

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.

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.