UpWind by MerConcept Ocean Fifty © Gauthier Le Bec | UpWind by MerConcept

UpWind by MerConcept Ocean Fifty © Gauthier Le Bec | UpWind by MerConcept

First Ocean Fifty Series Act completed for UpWind by MerConcept


05/06/2024 - 12:00

One week after the finish of Act 1 of the 2024 Ocean Fifty Series and skipper Francesca Clapcich (ITA) has been reflecting on what was a difficult, but important inaugural event for the all-female UpWind by MerConcept team. The crew comprising Clapcich, Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA) as tactician/navigator, Elodie Mettraux (SUI) foresail trimmer, Tiphaine Ragueneau (FRA) in the pit, and Sara Stone (USA) on the bow, finished in ninth place in the nine-boat fleet.

“That was a tough four days of racing but a hugely valuable learning experience for everyone,” commented Clapcich. “We knew that it would be hard going as the quality of racing is really high. Not only are we new to the Class, but these Ocean Fifty trimarans are tough to sail and very physical. We came into this regatta with only three days of proper sailing on the boat and we knew we would have a lot to learn and it is clear we do, but everyone is determined to come into the next act stronger.

“Aside from the racing, we also need to remember what we are looking to achieve here - we want to make real change in our industry. It’s super cool to have a crew of five women walking down the dock, jumping on a boat, going racing, and being in the pack. We definitely made a few mistakes and I am happy to take responsibility for them, but also we did some really good things as a team and were well-prepared by our shore team; it’s important to show everyone that we have massive potential. It’s a steep learning curve and we will do more training in Concarneau and come back stronger and better for the next event,” Clapcich concluded.

Immediately after the end of the Act 1 Grand Prix event, the Swiss/French duo of Mettraux and Le Berre completed a qualifying sail of five hundred miles sailing a circuitous route from Saint-Malo back to Concarneau, in preparation for the longer offshore races in Acts 3 and 4.

Commenting on their arrival back at MerConcept’s headquarters in the home of offshore sailing in Brittany, France, Mettraux said, “This qualifier was a really good opportunity to find out more about the boat and its settings, and to get the autopilot working,” she explained. “My multihull experience coupled with Anne-Claire’s navigation and onboard electronics knowledge makes it clear that we have two very complementary profiles when sailing together.”

The UpWind by MerConcept squad will come together again from June 10-14 for five days of training and preparation before Act 2 in mid-June.

UpWind by MerConcept squad announced for next three Acts

Act 2: Pornichet-La Baule crew

The second Grand Prix Act of the Ocean Fifty series will be held in Pornichet-La Baule, in the Loire-Atlantique region of France, from June 19-23. There will be four days of racing: two inshore with five sailors onboard and a 24-hour offshore race with three crew onboard. The squad will be led by Francesca Clapcich (ITA), with Anne-Claire Le Berre (FRA), Arianne van de Loosdrecht (NED), Elodie Mettraux (SUI), and Tiphaine Ragueneau (FRA).

Act 3: La Route des Terre-Neuvas crew

After the two Grand Prix races in mainland France, the UpWind by MerConcept squad will head in convoy with the other Ocean Fifty teams across the Atlantic to race in Act 3: La Route des Terre-Neuvas. The 2,180 nautical mile [2,508 mile/4,037 kilometer] course will see the fleet depart on August 17 from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the French archipelago south of the Canadian island of Newfoundland, back to France and the Brittany port of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, arriving around August 23. Francesca Clapcich will be joined onboard by Anne-Claire Le Berre and Elodie Mettraux.

Act 4: La Med Max Occitanie crew

The penultimate Act of the 2024 season will start in Port-Camargue, France, with the fleet racing non-stop through the Mediterranean Sea via Sicily and Ibiza, finishing in Saïdia, Morocco. Francesca Clapcich will hand over the tiller to Anne-Claire Le Berre and Elodie Mettraux, as she will be racing in the Puig Women’s America’s Cup in Barcelona for the American Magic team.

Mettraux commented, “Francesca is going to live a totally unique experience with the America’s Cup in September and so she’s given Anne-Claire and me the responsibility of taking on the Med Max Mediterranean race. It’s a nice nod to the fact that the skipper doesn’t necessarily have to be onboard, and it’s also a real mark of confidence that she has in us.”

Louis Giard, Team Manager for UpWind by MerConcept explained the criteria for crew selection. “Rotating our squad through the five Acts has always been the plan and we look forward to Arianne van de Loosdrecht being onboard for Act 2 - her solid offshore experience will be a plus for the weekend. From the start of selection, it was clear that Anne-Claire and Elodie had good experience in ocean sailing so they were obvious choices for the two offshore races. The Route des Terre-Neuvas is a west-to-east race across the North Atlantic and the Med Max is a week-long double-handed race without meteorological assistance. Both races will need good offshore experience and so Anne-Claire and Elodie were the natural choices.”

Reflecting on her first experience of racing in the Ocean Fifty Class, Clapcich concluded, “It has been great to kick off the first season of racing as UpWind by MerConcept, and to see the other women in the Ocean Fifty fleet, with most teams in Saint-Malo having one female sailor onboard. Thanks to the support of 11th Hour Racing, I can see a real shift developing in the industry, to be more inclusive, more diverse, and provide more opportunities to people who might not have previously had the chance to go racing. There’s a lot to do, but together we can make a real impact.”

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