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Leigh McMillan and Team Ineos Britannia
The America's Cup is a step nearer to coming home to the Isle of Wight — where yachting's premier event first began.
Team Ineos UK Britannia have recovered from a shaky start to record victory in the latest challenger series and put themselves into the final of the Prada Cup...effectively the event's semi-final.
If they beat the winner of the Italy v USA race-off next month, they will take on holders New Zealand in the final in March,
A series of victories over Italian boat Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and American Magic sent Island resident Sir Ben Ainslie's team through to the final, with the place being sealed on Saturday.
Also in the crew is Leigh McMillan, the Island-raised former Olympian who helmed the UK entry alongside Ainslie last time and this time is one of the flight controllers on Ainslie's Britannia.
Leigh learnt his sailing in dinghies at Gurnard and Yarmouth sailing clubs and went on to sail solo in the Athens Olympics in a Tornado in 2004, placing 13th.
He qualified again in 2008 after a series of podiums at major international regattas but finished sixth. The multihull event was then dropped from the Olympics, which forced McMillan to look in a new direction.
He took to the Extreme 40 circuit before teaming up as back up to Ainslie at the Bermuda America's Cup.
In an interview on the Team Ineos website, former Ryde School pupil Leigh spoke of messing about in dinghies in the River Yar and of playing junior football for West Wight Youth FC.
Leigh told the site: “My family inspired me to start sailing, my mum and dad met on a boat and my dad was a skipper of classic yachts in his late teens and early 20s.
When my sister and I came along they were still sailing.
"My parents settled down on the IW and we sailed for as long as I can remember just on a little family cruising boat. It’s in the blood.”
Now Leigh, Sir Ben and the rest of the team must prepare for their Prada Cup encounter with the winners of the race off and hopefully a tough series against the Kiwi boat for the trophy.
The Prada Cup final takes place between February 13 and 22.
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