Female offshore sailors are encouraged to apply to the new offshore training scheme, UpWind by MerConcept, for the opportunity to race on an women's Ocean 50 campaign

Organisers would like to hear from any women sailors who are still considering applying for the new offshore training scheme, UpWind by MerConcept, which is being supported by 11th Hour Racing with Francois Gabart’s MerConcept stable, and skippered by Francesca Clapcich.

The scheme is particularly keen to attract women sailors from a diverse range of nationalities and skillsets, so international applications are strongly encouraged.

The scheme has received over 30 submissions from female sailors based in 13 different countries. With experience from the offshore, inshore, and Olympic worlds, the sailors have applied from countries as far afield as New Zealand, Mexico, India, and Lithuania.

“This is exactly what we hoped for when we launched UpWind,” said Team Manager Louis Giard. “Not only do we have 30 strong applications so far, we have also had calls and messages from some very talented sailors indicating their intention to apply, so we anticipate this number will increase significantly over the final week.”

UpWind by MerConcept is developed to create a pool of female sailing talent based for the next two years around the Ocean Fifty tour, the international multihull racing circuit. The ambition is to see a female Ocean Fifty skipper on the startline of the 2026 solo Route du Rhum race from St Malo, France to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe. 

The program will provide a training platform to upskill female offshore sailors in multihull racing, with the aim of creating opportunities to join mixed-gender crews for high-profile teams such as Jules Verne Trophy attempts.

Applications for UpWind by MerConcept close on March 24, 2024 and the application form for UpWind by MerConcept can be found here.

After a first round of video interviews, a shortlist of 12 candidates will be invited to MerConcept’s Concarneau base in the home of offshore sailing, in Brittany, France. The 12 candidates will be put through their paces over five days of assessments from April 15-19, from technical and physical, performance and teamwork. The successful sailors will then be assigned to either the racing or the training and development squads.

UpWind by MerConcept will enter a team for the 2024 and 2025 Ocean Fifty tour, which this year includes four European Acts (events) and a west-to-east transatlantic race from St Pierre and Miquelon, the French archipelago south of Newfoundland,  to Saint-Brieuc, France. 

Francesca Clapcich, the appointed skipper for UpWind by MerConcept, said, “We have put a lot of effort and thought into creating an accessible, fair, and just application system.

“I’ve had a number of calls with athletes who are lacking confidence, or feel they don’t have enough experience, or believe they know of someone better than them, who deservers it more.

“I’ve said to each and every one of them Apply! Don’t get discouraged if you think “Ohh I might not be good enough,” or “I’m not sure if I can commit enough time,” or the tons of other questions that inevitably come up in our minds when we want to apply for something. The process is part of the journey.

“At the end, only a small pool will be selected but the process of going through the application will make all of us grow and learn. I can promise you that we will do our best homework, with a diverse board of selectors, with a lot of input, to make it fair for all.”