A fresh recruit to Season 3, grinder Eliot Merceron joins newcomer Switzerland after previously competing with Team Switzerland in the Star Sailor League.

After growing up on a boat in the Caribbean with his parents, Merceron began sailing competitively at the age of nine in the Optimist class before graduating onto the Laser at the age of 15. Since then, he has taken part in two Olympic campaigns in the Laser class for both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 and placed within the top 15 at World Cup Events. We catch up with Merceron ahead of the T-Mobile U.S Sail Grand Prix | Chicago at Navy Pier this weekend to discover why Ben Ainslie is his all-time sailing icon and why racing on an F50 is the highlight of his career.

Season 3 // Switzerland SailGP Team // Eliot Merceron crew shot

Q: How did you first get into sailing?

A: My first sailing memory was with my parents on a sailing catamaran. We were living on the boat until I was seven years old and we had a lot of good experiences on it. Since then, I have been really passionate about sailing.

Q: What is your career highlight so far?

A: My career highlight so far has been sailing the F50. Before I was sailing the laser for almost 15 years and it was pretty intense, but nothing compares to the F50 now with the sensation, the project, the pressure and everything else that comes with it. It is really cool to be here and it’s definitely the best experience I’ve had so far!

Season 3// Bermuda Sail Grand Prix// Switzerland Sail Grand Prix// from the water

Q: Who is your sailing icon and why?

A: Ben Ainslie is my top sailing icon because he has won five Olympic medals in different categories, he has won The World Match Racing Tour, and he has won the America’s Cup. It is really impressive to see someone who has achieved almost everything in the sailing world and now compete with him on the same level in SailGP.

Q: Tell us about your scariest sailing moment?

A: My scariest sailing moment was actually not on a sail boat but when I was kite foiling in New Caledonia. In New Caledonia you see a lot of small sharks and this time I had seen a really big shark while I was up on the foils. I think it was more scared than me because it swam away really fast, but the size of it was pretty magnificent.

Q: What is your favourite SailGP race location and why?

A: I can’t wait to go to New Zealand because I’ve never been there before. It looks really beautiful so I’m really looking forward to see this place in person.

Season 3 // Switzerland SailGP Team // Eliot Merceron in action

Q: What is your top ambition for Season 3?

A: We have only had one event racing again the fleet so far but I think if we can push really hard and continue to learn the boat the way we have been, hopefully in the middle of the season we will be really competitive and show the hard work we have put in. We will see! There are no mathematic results to achieve – only to do the best we can and push harder to be the best as possible on the water.

Q: Best SailGP moment so far?

A: Aside from the event in Bermuda! My best SailGP moment so far is when I was watching the Season 2 event in Aarhus on TV. It was the day that it was super windy with lots of shifts and gusts. I could see that it was really difficult to manage the boats in these conditions so it was really impressive to see the best sailors in the world handle the challenge put up in such a powerful boat.

Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a professional sailor?
A: When I had started my sailing career, I had achieved a Masters degree in engineering. I think if I was not passionate about sailing, I would be an engineer.

Season 3// Switzerland SailGP Team// Back the Bid

Q: What is your favourite thing about SailGP?

A: My favourite thing about SailGP is the sensation you have on the reaching start when all the boats are lined up moving at 45knots. It is really amazing how fast and how close the boats were to each other. You can only experience this sensation on the F50.