McMillan makes a statement of intent

Leigh McMillan

Leigh McMillan

First published in Sport Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by

HAMPSHIRE racer Leigh McMillan has made clear his plans to win a third consecutive world title in the Extreme Sailing Series – by hiring double Olympic gold medallist Sarah Ayton.

McMillan bolstered his already formidable crew by tempting the Yngling class ace back into action after a three-year sabbatical.

Ayton, 33, will call tactics for the Southampton sailor, who has led his The Wave, Muscat crew to back-to-back tour victories in 2012 and 2013.

She shot to fame after winning gold in the Yngling class in Athens in 2004 before scooping a second at Beijing in 2008 alongside Lymington’s Pippa Wilson.

Her last competitive outing was in 2010 but after three years away from sailing she is now training with The Wave, Muscat ahead of the eight-stage tour’s curtain raiser in Singapore on February 20.

McMillan has also drafted in Hampshire stalwart Pete Greenhalgh in the face of the toughest competition to date.

Rivals on the eight-date tour will include four-times Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, America’s Cup sailor Dean Barker and French yachting legend Franck Cammas.

“It will be the most high-performing sailing I have ever done,” Ayton said.

“Olympic sailing is one thing but racing alongside and against America’s Cup teams with a crew who are going all out to defend their title is a really big deal.

“But I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

“I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to come along and sailing on The Wave, Muscat is that opportunity.

“It’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to racing a fast boat and really looking forward to getting back on the racetrack.”

McMillan, who represented Team GB at the 2008 Games in the Tornado class, added: “Sarah was our first choice to join us and she was really keen.

“She will be involved in the boat handling and will have input into the communication and tactics – she has a really good tactical brain.”

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