New Program for Female Sailors

UpWind by MerConcept will focus on racing opportunities for female sailors in a multihull high-performance program.
Ocean Fifty boat and circuit
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. Courtesy UpWind by MerConcept

MerConcept, a French high-performance hub for offshore sailing and sustainable technologies, has launched a racing program to give female sailors experience in offshore multihull racing. 

Applications are now open, with a deadline of March 24 to apply.

UpWind by MerConcept will recruit, train and support a squad of six female sailors as they compete in the Ocean Fifty offshore sailing circuit, with the ambition to have a female skipper on the starting line in a multihull for the 2026 Route du Rhum. 

The all-new team will also be entered into the 2024 Ocean Fifty multihull circuit, led by the only Italian to win The Ocean Race, Francesca Clapcich.

Backed by founding sponsor 11th Hour Racing, UpWind by MerConcept’s overarching goal is to be a driving force in the transformation of offshore sailing. UpWind’s vision is for a more inclusive and diverse racing community, with equal opportunities for everyone. 

Also part of the vision is creating a larger pool of female talent available for selection to join mixed multihull crews for record-setting challenges like the Jules Verne Trophy.

MerConcept was founded by François Gabart, the fastest person to sail around the world. In a press release, Gabart stated, “Our mission at UpWind is to support and empower female sailors to excel in high-performance, multihull offshore racing, breaking down barriers, and creating a welcoming and safe space for everyone.

“Teams perform at their best when they comprise diverse talent,” Gabart added. “A first step to achieving this is to support the growth in the critical mass of talented female sailors with offshore multihull experience so that all teams taking on challenges like the Jules Verne Trophy will have mixed crews in the future.”

Francesca Clapcich
Francesca Clapcich joined 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. Courtesy UpWind by MerConcept

Female sailors from anywhere in the world can apply. Cécile Andrieu, MerConcept’s director of racing, says the project is open to a wide range of profiles and backgrounds. 

“Ideally, our applicants will have some good racing experience, whether it is offshore, inshore, match-racing, or Olympics, and have a genuine desire to get involved and bring this new racing team to life,” Andrieu stated in the press release. “At the end of selection week, we hope to have recruited two groups: a performance-focused squad to take part in the Grand Prix and trans-Atlantic races, and a second, which will support in the training and on deliveries, with a view to gaining valuable sailing experience and miles for their CV.”

What is the race schedule for the 2024 Ocean Fifty circuit? It’s yet to be officially announced, but is expected to include four events between June and October, including a trans-Atlantic race from west to east.

Where to apply: go to