It has been an exciting two months for British Olympian Leigh McMillan. In May he was announced as part of the Oman Sail Tour de France à la Voile (TDV) team for their 2011 campaign, and earlier this month, he stepped into the position of skipper onboard their Extreme 40, The Wave, Muscat.
With the Tour de France à la Voile starting on the 24th June, and the next stop in the Extreme Sailing Series kicking off in Boston on the 30th June, Leigh talks about the busy month ahead, and how he will be juggling both projects.
'The next month is full on for me but I am really excited to be part of Oman Sail’s TDV and Extreme 40 campaigns. They are both great projects which present really different challenges for me. The dates do clash but I am only missing a week in the middle of the Tour, which involves four or five inshore races, so I will do the first three days racing in Dunkerque, then I fly straight out to Boston to get ready for the Extreme Sailing Series event there.
Then the night racing finishes in Boston I fly back to and rejoin the TDV team having only missed a week, so I will be involved with the Atlantic racing and also the Med which finishes off the Tour as well. Morgan Reeser, from the USA will step in for me and call tactics while I am with the Extreme 40s.
We are feeling pretty positive going into the TDV. We had an event just over a week ago at Normandy Sailing Week, which essentially we did very well in until we broke the boat… It was two days of inshore racing and then a 130 mile offshore, when it got pretty windy which caused some damage to the boat. The mast was badly damaged so that meant we couldn’t do the last inshore race, so that was pretty disappointing and set us back.
We were lying in second before the offshore so we were in good shape and there were a lot of the good teams competing there so it’s a pretty good indication of how we will shape up in the Tour.
Since then, we have had to change our mast so there a couple of unknowns going into the race next week, but essentially the training has gone really well the team is working really well together so we are confident we can put in a strong performance and that we are going to be battling it out with the good teams so that’s a really positive place for us to be in.
I am really thrilled to be sailing on the Extreme 40 again, it has added weight this time as I am going to be skippering so for me that is a new challenge – previously I was always the helm. I haven’t sailed with The Wave Muscat crew before so I excited about that and hopefully getting some good results.
We will start off with no real high expectations as we are new guys sailing together – the team has a lot of experience this year and I have a lot of experience from before, so we still have to piece it all together but there is a lot of potential there. I am not going into this thinking we are going to win the first regatta; we will just start from a nice conservative position.
I have been coaching both of the Oman Sail boat’s – The Wave, Muscat and Oman Air - but have never sailed with The Wave Muscat. I know I get on well them the team – I have known Nick Hutton a long time, I know Khamis from the circuit last year when I helmed Ecover, and I have got to know Kyle Langford this series, so I think it is a good starting point. If I hadn’t been involved at all it would have been harder to step into the boat but I think we can be really honest and open from the beginning and just try really hard to gel as quickly as possible on the water and start getting into the racing.
I think our experience puts us in a good position but obviously not as strong as the other teams who already have the three events together and sailing in some really tricky conditions already under their belts– they are obviously in a stronger position but we are in a good position to start putting the cat amongst the pigeons so to speak!
Being involved with Oman Sail this year has been an amazing opportunity and I have built a really good relationship with all the guys, whether it is on the Extreme 40’s or the TDV team. I have had a lot more direct contact with the sailors taking part in the TDV and I have really enjoyed working with the Omani sailors - some of them are really starting to shine and come into their own.
They have a lot of responsibility on the boat during the TDV and it is a huge responsibility in all areas – trimming, bowman, pitman - they are extremely difficult positions to be in on a boat, particularly during a long offshore but they have been training really hard and all that hard work is going to come into its own next week.
It has been great to be part of the TDV project, I think the whole team has come a long way in a pretty short period of time - it has only been a few months of training and now we are going into an epic five week race so in the grand scheme of things, its not a lot of training and we are racing against some extremely professional teams. I have been so impressed by the Omani’s, they have done a great job so far and I am sure they will continue to do so.'
Oman Sail website