Leigh McMillan (GBR)

Back-up helmsman


Leigh McMillan

Birth Place

Newport, Isle of Wight




Lewes, Brighton


Who inspired you to start sailing?
My family inspired me, my Mum and Dad met on a boat, and my Dad was the skipper of classic yachts in his late teens and early twenties, skippering boats all around the world. We have sailed for as long as I can remember.

First boat?
A wooden home-built Optimist called Bubbles.

First sailing club?
Gurnard and Yarmouth Sailing Clubs

Childhood hero?
Lawrie Smith. When I was young watching the Whitbread Race going out of the Solent was very inspirational.

What do you love most about sailing?
The variability of the sport, no two days are the same, you are always learning, there is always something that you can improve on.

What has sailing taught you?
I’m only happy when I’m winning, and you are not always winning, so you have to learn to deal with the setbacks and the troubles that the sport throws your way. It teaches you perseverance and a resistance to the disappointments, amongst a lot of other things. It also teaches you how to have good relationships with team mates and teamwork. Those are the important things.

Favourite ever sailing race?
We used to have a lot of fun in the River Yar in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, as a youngster — blasting around two up in a Topper when it was blowing dogs off chains, running aground in the mud. It doesn’t get more fun than that.

How do you know when you have good form?
It’s the relationship and feedback from the team. When everything is going well, there is a certain sense of harmony on the boat.

How do you keep going when you're on the limit?
It’s the desire to to better and to keep improving and to win. It burns pretty deep with me, and that’s what keeps me driving harder and harder to better myself.

Career highlight?
This year has been an absolutely fantastic year, but it’s not over yet! Looking back... to 2012 when we won the Extreme Sailing Series for the first time, that was a milestone.

If you weren't a sailor, what would you be?
I started a product design and innovation degree here in Portsmouth in 2001, and then deferred after the first year to pursue an Olympic campaign and never went back — but as a kid I wanted to design boats.

Funniest team-mate?
Freddie Carr prides himself on being the centre of attention, so we’ll give him that mantle!

Best advice?
My Dad told me that you don’t need to go to school, you can buy your qualifications on the internet — but my Mum definitely didn’t agree!

What other sports did you play as a child?
I played a lot of football with West Wight Football Club from eight or nine to 16. At school I played the usual rugby, cricket and hockey.

What other sports do you play now?
I very much enjoy skiing and kite-surfing.

How do you spend your time when you are not sailing (if it’s not other sports)?
For the last four years I have been project managing the Extremes Sailing Series for Oman Sail, and that hasn’t left much spare time! So it’s mostly getting to the gym, sorting out the house, doing the paperwork — and whenever possible, catching up with family and friends.

Do you have any pets?
My parents bought me a Labrador in 2004, but I never actually took ownership, and so she lives with my parents.

Do you support any particular charities?
I support Great Ormond Street.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?
On the back of winning the America’s Cup and still being involved in the sport.

Favourite quote?
I’ll have to think about that one!



Land Rover Backseat Chat: Hannah White interviews Wave Muscat Skipper Leigh McMillan

Leigh McMillan grew up on the Isle of Wight, and began sailing with his father, who skippered classic yachts. He progressed to dinghies at the age of eight, representing 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 qualified to represent Team GBR in Athens in 2004, placing 13th. McMillan qualified again in 2008 after a series of podiums at major international regattas, but finished 6th. The multihull event was then dropped from the Olympics, which forced McMillan to look in a new direction.

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 two championship titles, along with the Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour in 2015.


  • Team GBR Olympic representative in multihull in 2004 and 2008
  • Winner Extreme Sailing Series 2012 and 2013
  • Winner Bullitt GC32 Racing Tour 2015