After five years competing with the Extreme Sailing Series The Wave, Muscat’s British helm Leigh McMillan has become a household name in multihull sailing. But it hasn’t always come easy to the 35-year-old and McMillian knows all too well that in the world of Extreme Sailing it is never a ‘sure thing’ until the final finish line.
On the eve of the final Act of the 2015 season, to be played out in the spectacular setting of Sydney Harbour from the 10-13 December, McMillan is poised to enter the history books as the only skipper in the Series’ nine years to win three championship titles.
“Of course it’s important, not just as the last Act of the season but also the last time we will race an Extreme 40. I wouldn’t say I feel emotional about it,” said McMillan. “But it has made me reflect on the last four years and what an exceptional journey it has been with the Oman Sail team. I guess being in Oman last week it started to hit home that this is the end of an era,” he added.
After his two-year winning streak was broken in 2014 by Alinghi, who snatched victory away from McMillan in the final Sydney Act, The Wave, Muscat were expected to come back fighting in 2015. But despite being widely tipped as season favourites, McMillan surprised everyone at Act 1, Singapore when he only just scraped onto the podium in third place.
“We had a rocky start to 2015,” McMillan reflected. “I think it was probably the result of us doing so many seasons together back-to-back.
“You just need something fresh to get excited about and with Alinghi pulling out of the 2015 season, it was a real disappointment for me. The battles we had on the water over the years were certainly the key to both of our successes. We were driving each other forward and it was frustrating not to have that.”
But the announcement that the Extreme Sailing Series is moving to the hydro-foiling GC32 catamaran for 2016, and with McMillian and his right-hand-man Pete Greenhalgh also racing together on the current GC32 Bullet Tour, they had every incentive to get back into the game.
With a fresh approach and a new style of sailing, McMillan has led his crew to an incredible five Act wins out of a possible seven so far this season.
“Everyone is refreshed and hungry to get out on the water,” McMillan explained, speaking on the sunny pontoon at the Cruising Club of Australia ahead of practice racing. “It would mean a huge amount for our team to win and finish on a high. We don’t want to scrape across the finish line or run the risk of throwing it away after working so hard for it this year.
“The focus is on taking a convincing win, whatever it takes. And once we finally get to that very clear end goal, then I think it will finally sink in what we have achieved,” he added.
Fans around the world can watch the final decider races of the 2015 season live on Fox Sports Australia and the official event website from the 11-13 December, at the following times:
11 December 1600-1730 (GMT+11)
12 December 1530-1700 (GMT+11)
13 December 1530-1700 (GMT+11)