Francesca Clapcich has been named the inaugural skipper of UpWind by MerConcept, and she will serve as a spokesperson and mentor for the participating sailors. Photo credit: Guillaume Gatefait

11th Hour Racing Becomes Founding Sponsor of UpWind by MerConcept

Supporting a more inclusive and diverse offshore sailing community

11th Hour Racing announced today the new sponsorship of UpWind by MerConcept, to recruit, train, and support a team of six female sailors as they compete in the Ocean Fifty offshore sailing circuit.

Backed by 11th Hour Racing as the Founding Sponsor, UpWind by MerConcept aims to create a more inclusive and diverse sailing community, providing a platform for individuals from all backgrounds to access quality offshore sailing training and professional development.

Founded by 11th Hour Racing ambassador François Gabart, MerConcept is a renowned high-performance hub for offshore sailing and sustainable technologies based in Brittany, France. The UpWind by MerConcept initiative creates competitive opportunities that will enable the next generation of sailors to explore, learn, and excel on the open sea through a global racing schedule on an Ocean Fifty high-performance trimaran. MerConcept’s goal is to support a female skipper on the startline in a multihull for the 2026 Route du Rhum – a single-handed transatlantic yacht race from Saint-Malo, Brittany, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.

“Sponsoring MerConcept signifies our commitment to increasing diversity in high-performance sailing and aims to set a precedent for other sports organizations,” said Michelle Carnevale, president of 11th Hour Racing. “For more than a decade, our sponsorships have centered around sports, strategic innovation, and sustainable technologies. UpWind by MerConcept marks a substantial progression for women in sailing, and we look forward to witnessing its positive influence on the future of ocean racing.”

UpWind by MerConcept is accepting applications through March 24, 2024, and encourages passionate individuals who share its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and sustainable excellence in offshore sailing to apply.

Cécile Andrieu, director of racing at MerConcept, expressed her delight for the support of 11th Hour Racing as the Founding Sponsor for this exciting adventure. “We are thrilled to welcome 11th Hour Racing to this transformative journey. Their commitment to sustainability, diversity, and innovation aligns seamlessly with our vision for a more inclusive and environmentally conscious future in offshore sailing,” Andrieu said.

“Together, we look forward to breaking new ground and charting a course towards excellence, unity, and positive change in the sailing world. At MerConcept, we are also focused on performance and aim to create a hub of excellence with three offshore sailing projects hosted by MerConcept. Our long-term ambition is to contribute to the emergence of high-performing mixed crews for major races and world records.”

Earlier this month, 11th Hour Racing announced its support of professional offshore sailor Francesca Clapcich to further advance her efforts in cultivating a safe, diverse, and equitable environment within the realm of sailing. Clapcich has been named the inaugural skipper of UpWind by MerConcept, and she will serve as a spokesperson and mentor for the participating sailors. Her role extends into 2025, during which she will identify and nurture the next skipper for the Ocean Fifty, passing on the reins by the year’s end.

At the end of 2023, MerConcept acquired the Ocean Fifty trimaran previously owned by Armel Tripon, which is currently undergoing a complete refit. The boat is scheduled to be launched at the end of March.

MerConcept will seamlessly integrate sustainable practices into all aspects of the project’s planning and operations, including the Ocean Fifty refit, and influence the team supply chain and stakeholders to adopt more sustainable practices by developing a carbon fiber recycling strategy, sourcing alternative materials, and installing scientific equipment on the Ocean Fifty to measure ocean health data points.

The race schedule for the 2024 Ocean Fifty circuit is still to be officially announced and is anticipated to include four events between June and October, including a transatlantic race from west to east.

Click here to learn more about the initiatives supported by 11th Hour Racing as the Founding Sponsor of UpWind by MerConcept.

Header image credit: Guillaume Gatefait