It was a close run thing but local sailing star Leigh McMillan took the top spot in one of the tightest ever editions of the worldwide Extreme Sailing Series.
After no fewer than 33 races held over the August Bank Holiday weekend in Cardiff Bay, the Isle of Wight sailor won the regatta by a narrow five-point margin, aboard high-speed catamaran The Wave, Muscat.
McMillan, racing alongside his regular Warsash mainsheet trimmer Peter Greenhalgh, took two victories on the eight-race final day, to win his home UK event ahead of the always competitive Alinghi team, and Sir Ben Ainslie’s fast-improving JP Morgan BAR.
‘We’re on track this season, there’s nothing more we can do that’s for sure,’ said McMillan, who is now just two points off the top of the overall leaderboard following earlier regattas in Singapore. Muscat, Qingdao and St Petersburg.
‘The competition is very tight and Alinghi have been really slick this year and have brought in some unbelievable performances.
‘To get one over on them here kind of brings it back down by a point and if we are going to keep pushing them hard, and they do the same to us, it’s going to go down to the crunch.’
Competition was hot in the 11-boat fleet, with the final and deciding race seeing a three-boat collision between the podium contenders, with Alinghi coming off worst.
‘We were waiting for Leigh (McMillan) to tack and he drove us right into the boats rounding the mark and boats started coming at us head first,’ said Alinghi’s Olympic champion tactician Anna Tunnicliffe of the decisive mark rounding in the final race.
‘We ended up above the mark so we couldn’t bear away and at the same time, Ben (Ainslie) was coming round into the side of us and it all turned into a mess. All three boats were tangled on each other.
‘It’s very frustrating but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes, we’re still on top which is good – the damage could have been worse.
‘We need to move on to Istanbul and refocus for that event.’
Ainslie’s JP Morgan BAR was on fire and threatening all day, posting a steady stream of consistent results and slowly chipping away at the leading pack to put itself in the running.
Despite just missing out on second place, Ainslie said he was satisfied with the final position of his team.
‘It has been a great improvement to see us on the podium and great to challenge with the top teams.
‘It’s a big step forwards and hopefully we can continue this for the rest of the Series.
‘We are looking forward to sailing with Paul Goodison in Istanbul and as we develop further in the event.’