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Sixteen candidates shortlisted for UpWind by MerConcept; refitted Ocean Fifty touches down

by MerConcept 3 Apr 09:01 PDT
UpWind by MerConcept © 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.

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 under way, 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.

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!"

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

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