Winning ways

Wendy Schmidt is the first woman and first American to win the Barcolana 54, making a US$100,000 donation to commemorate her win.

Photography by Camilla Bach

29 November 2022


In honour of her victory as the first woman and first American to win the world’s largest sailing race, the Barcolana 54, philanthropist Wendy Schmidt will support the educational outreach and conservation activities of the Marine Biodiversity Center, in Trieste, Italy’s Miramare Marine Protected Area held by WWF Italy with a US$100,000 donation.

Schmidt is the co-founder of several philanthropic organisations focused on ocean health, including 11th Hour Racing, based in Newport, Rhode Island, US, which works specifically with the sailing and maritime industry and coastal communities to advance solutions and sustainable practices.


“I don’t race sailboats only to win a trophy,” said Schmidt, who also received the Generali ‘Women in Sailing’ trophy. “I race to win so we can take our moment in the spotlight to encourage everyone who loves sailing to join us in working for ocean health.

“The ocean has been under attack throughout my lifetime, with overfishing, industrial pollution, plastic and waste. We can do better,” said Schmidt, who is also president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation with her husband Eric.

“We hope everyone will join our work at 11th Hour Racing and be part of the change we need to sustain the world’s most essential resource.”

Given Schmidt’s  philanthropy focused on ocean health, the Schmidt Family Foundation will award a grant to support the activities of the Marine Biodiversity Centre (BioMa), an environmental study center that provides visitors with an immersive experience about the Gulf of Trieste and the 30-hectare (74-acre) Miramare Marine Protected Area. The grant will support BioMa’s work in educating the public about the importance of protecting the region’s marine biodiversity.

“Your beautiful city of Trieste was a place of inspiration for us when we were here for the Barcolana,” Schmidt said. “Our grant will support BioMa’s work to connect people to the marine world so they can understand it, love it and protect it.”

“This donation that crosses the ocean and from the United States arrives at Italy’s smallest marine reserve is a tangible sign that sea conservation has no borders,” said Maurizio Spoto, director of BioMa.

“From today our commitment to educating and raising awareness among the new generations will be even stronger and more incisive.”

In October, Schmidt led her team aboard Deep Blue to win the Barcolana 54 against 1,614 boats in Trieste. Schmidt also won the Women in Sailing Trophy. Deep Blue finished the 13 nautical-mile course in 57 minutes 47 seconds – just under a minute ahead of the next boat.

“On behalf of the entire Barcolana community—organisers, sailors, the public—I thank you for this wonderful gift,” said Mitja Gialuz, president of the Società Velica di Barcola e Grignano, the yacht club that organises the event.

“We are proud and happy that this initiative was born from participation in our regatta, perfectly in line with the values of inclusiveness and sustainability that Barcolana promotes, along with our passion and love for sailing.”

About Wendy Schmidt

Wendy Schmidt is a philanthropist and investor who has spent nearly two decades creating innovative non‐profit organisations to work with communities around the world for clean, renewable energy, resilient food systems, healthy oceans and the protection of human rights.

The critical interconnections between human activity, the land we live on and the ocean we depend upon are the central drivers of Wendy’s philanthropic work. Wendy serves as president of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which she founded with her husband Eric. The couple also founded Schmidt Ocean Institute and Schmidt Futures.

About 11th Hour Racing

11th Hour Racing works to mobilise sailing, maritime and coastal communities with an innovative approach to inspire solutions for the ocean. Since 2010, the organization has been harnessing the power of sport to promote collaborative, systemic change through three primary areas of engagement: sponsorships, grantees and ambassadors. Learn more at

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