EXTREME SAILING - Can The Wave, Muscat helmsman Leigh McMillan become the first skipper to become Extreme Sailing Series™ champion twice? Editor James Boyd says the odds are in the British catamaran ace’s favour this year after winning 2012 by more than 10 points – the largest margin in the circuit’s recent history.
Heralding from the Isle of Wight, McMillan, who turns 33 this year, is one of just a handful of sailors left on the Extreme Sailing Series who has been there from the outset. When the circuit started, McMillan sailed on Conrad Humphreys’ Motorola. He took two years out but returned for the Extreme Sailing Series Asia over 2009/10 with the winning Oman Sail Masirah, before joining Mike Golding’s Ecover for 2010. Half way through 2011, he took over the reins of The Wave, Muscat and has not looked back since.
McMillan has been a catamaran sailor both man and boy. In his teens, he represented Britain at the ISAF Youth Worlds in the Hobie 16 and acquitted himself well enough to become part of the British Olympic Tornado squad for Sydney 2000, going to the Olympic Games in 2004 and 2008.
So what does it take to win the Extreme Sailing Series? McMillan: “I guess you need to be able to think very quickly on your feet. Getting used to the high speed is extremely important. Things happen very quickly and you need to be able to react so that it doesn’t cause damage to your performance or to the boat.”
With narrow start lines and ultra-short courses, success aboard an Extreme 40 also takes courage and experience, particularly in windy conditions when boats can be flying into marks with a closing speed of 30 knots. “Pushing a big powerful boat hard when the conditions get tough and the bows are burying into waves without being fearful of pitchpoling…” McMillan summaries the challenge.
Team work is also vital to winning and a key to The Wave, Muscat’s success is in having all the regular manoeuvres around the course work like clockwork. This requires succinct communications on board, which McMillan says has been a strength of his team.
Of his crew McMillan says that Pete Greenhalgh “brings a huge amount of experience and a very professional approach. We agree on most things which is quite refreshing. Ed Smyth fits in well too – he brings a different dynamic to the crew.” They are joined by two Omani’s Hashim Al Rashdi and new boy for 2013 Musab Al Hadi.
The starting grid for the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series has seen plenty of new faces line up against the old guard. But this bodes well for The Wave, Muscat: “We are a consistent team and if that continues then it could work well for us.”
Also new news is the Brazilian city of Florianópolis is now all set to host the 2013 Extreme Sailing Series™ finale between the 14th-17th November, where the conclusive races of the Series will be played out for the overall 2013 Series championship title. The final Act, presented by Series Main Partner Land Rover, will be the culmination of nine months of global touring for the Extreme 40 teams after starting their annual Stadium Racing tour in Muscat, Oman back in March. Before the final showdown in Florianópolis, last year’s Brazilian Host Venue Rio de Janeiro, will be the setting for two days of hospitality sailing for some of the Extreme 40 teams who will be taking VIP guests sailing in this iconic city.