Land Rover BAR has reinforced its sailing team with the addition of Leigh McMillan as a helmsman. McMillan has been one of the world’s top multihull sailors for the last decade. He’s the only skipper to have won two Extreme Sailing Series and has already won this season’s Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour in foiling multihulls. He learned his trade in the Olympic Tornado class, with two appearances for Team GB at the Games in 2004 and 2008.
McMillan’s reputation has really been built in the white heat of the stadium racing format of the Extreme Sailing Series (ESS). McMillan began skippering The Wave, Muscat in 2011 and quickly became the first skipper to win two titles. He is currently leading this year’s series, having won five of the seven events held so far in 2015. McMillan and his team look well on the way to completing their goal of being the first to win a treble of ESS titles.
McMillan’s dominance in this environment made him the perfect sparring partner for Ben Ainslie, Skipper and Land Rover BAR Team Principal. Jono Macbeth, Sailing Team Manager commented, “Leigh’s ability to win consistently in multihulls made him the obvious choice to join the team.”
Multihulls were introduced to the America’s Cup in 2010. “This is where the buzz for me kicked in for the America’s Cup, seeing those machines, it was inspiring and that was where all my focus went. I was in the perfect position. I wanted to be a part of the Cup,” said McMillan.
“I’m just looking forward to the next two years, that’s all I’m focused on right now,” he continued. “I’m fully pumped up for this and I want to give it everything I can to make a difference to the team. I want to push Ben as hard as I can, give the best possible input and feedback to the team, the designers… I’ve known Ben for a long time, and having watched his success I want to be a part of that over the next two years, and help bring the Cup home.”
McMillan grew up on the Isle of Wight, and began sailing with his father, who skippered classic yachts. The young McMillan progressed to dinghies at the age of eight, and quickly started achieving results. He eventually represented Britain at the Optimist Europeans and Worlds. He moved into the Laser Radial and won the Youth Nationals, before transferring to the Hobie 16 when it became an ISAF class for the Youth Worlds. McMillan competed in the Youth World Championships in South Africa in the Hobie 16, and this began his career in multihulls.
He bought an old Tornado — an Olympic class at the time — and started on the road to the Olympics. Thanks to financial support from the people of the Isle of Wight, he qualified to represent Team GB in Athens in 2004, placing 13th. McMillan qualified again in 2008 after a series of podiums at major international regattas, but finished 6th. “Both of us were very, very disappointed not to come away with a medal, we definitely had the potential,” he commented.
The multihull event was then dropped from the Olympics, which forced McMillan to look in new directions. The answer was the Extreme 40, first developed in 2004 and 2005 as a short course racing multihull. Leigh McMillan joined the debutant circuit in 2005 and 2006, when it was part of the Volvo Ocean Race, before returning to the Olympics. Once the 2008 Games were over, McMillan rejoined the circuit, racing for various teams before joining Oman Sail mid-season in 2011. He’s been there ever since, subsequently winning those two championship titles.