I stepped into my first race buggy on my birthday weekend in august 2012, I was invited over to Les Hemmes France by some of the members from SEKA, “South East Kiting Association” some of which turned out to be masters & open pilots who raced in the PKA National series. I had no intention of racing as I was enjoying being a beach cruiser and just plodding around learning how to kite buggy and tame the wind, if that’s possible…. But wanted to get to know more people as this new kite buggy sport is so much fun.
I arrived in France a little apprehensive as I had never met any of the people in person that I had arranged too over the kite forums and facebook. Myself and my Partner Sally were met and Greeted by a group of people who I now consider to be close friends, Alan & Sarah, Cheryl & Richard. After a few hours on the beach Alan Vidow asked me to follow him over to an area that had cones set out making what looked like a course, there were a large number of pilots flying round the course and I have to be honest it was a little intimidating, I had only been buggying less than a month and didn’t want to get in peoples way. Alan shouts over just follow me, remember, anybody that is coming from your right you must give way too! Enjoy yourself.
The first lap passed and my heart was pumping, the adrenalin was flowing, I couldn’t turn like most of these people and my god they were fast, I had only seen maybe 5 buggies at once and now I find myself in the middles of 20+ crazy pilots, the rush was amazing and the feeling no!, NEED to go faster and overtake just one pilot got greater and greater and greater, then it happened, I passed a pilot and then it hit me, I was hooked this up and down the beach game was boring in comparison to flying round a course fighting for position, it wasn’t a race but it was in my head and only assume every other pilot felt the same. I quickly found myself in my first tangle with a Dutch rider who was very nice & apologetic as it turned out it wasn’t my fault but I didn’t care this was amazing. After the tangle I head back to the pit area and Alan says to me, James; you should come racing next year I think you will enjoy it and do well to which I replied maybe, I’m not sure it’s for me but inside deep down knew I wanted more of this crazy course racing.
October 2012 Westward Ho Cup, 3 months into buggying and I arrive in Devon very late on a Friday night, it was about 22:45 and we walked into a pub where we were greeted by about 40 strangers, 2 of these people we knew, Alan & Sarah quickly grabbed us and the introductions started, we were greeted and made to feel like we had known this crazy bunch for years and after an hour felt like we had know them for longer than the last two hours, it was a strange feeling but somehow knew this would not be a five minute fling, these people were fantastic, kind and friendly (drunk) haha!
I woke up about 5am Race day!, my first race to say I was nervous just doesn’t cut it, myself and Sally had no idea what to expect, I had my Tornado T3 and set of newly acquired century 2’s and thought it’s all I needed. We got onto the beach and quickly realised we were massively un-prepared for what was about to unfold. I didn’t have enough kite stakes, no beach tent or correct clothing, had no idea where to go or who to speak too. Did it matter? No, because Alan & Sarah were there to help us along the way and again turned this experience from a crazy mess into an enjoyable day.
Race 1, as I fly down to the start area I began to panic, there sat 40+ buggies all flying within meters of each other in a space smaller than which you could parked 4 double decker busses, my visor steamed up, my heart was pumping, I was beginning to panic! Bam the flag dropped and the fleet just flies off to the first mark, I decide to hang back and just try and get round this course, first mark arrives ok, loads of pilots in a tangle so I go round, I see the fleet approaching the next mark and turn to give chase, hang on a sec, I’m not moving, I have only ever spent time playing on what I now know as a reach, what’s this upwind downwind malarkey, this was not easy it was a challenge, I tried my best to get round but after a tangle and line break I found myself on my first walk of shame back to the pits where I was greeted by David Wilmer, one of the nicest men you could hope to meet, he gave me two kite stakes and calmed me down to get me sorting my broken lines ready for the next race, I had 15 minutes which felt like 30 seconds. Race 2 then 3 passed and I managed a 10th & 9th place. I have to be honest, I was a little disheartened as I don’t like losing and always try to give it my all, but frankly was out classed.
After a hefty night speaking to all the new people making new friends and of course a few beers & banter Sunday more arrives and it dawns on me I have to do this all over again. This time I was prepared, I got onto the beach in time, I was setup and spent 20 minutes going round the course, the wind was good I was on my 3.5m absolutely loving it, the new layout was a very reachy course this suited not just my style but it was the only way I knew how to get around. We all pile up and the flag drops, my heart is racing we are off, I’m flying, overtaking many pilots, this felt like France I was doing well, before I knew it the last race was over, I was buzzing, we packed up and head back to the car park for prize giving where I find out I had placed 1st, 1st, 1st & 2nd that day in the open class. My first race weekend I placed 2nd overall… I was congratulated by many new faces and knew from that point I was hooked and wanted the next race to be tomorrow.
September 2012 to February 2013, I had spent all winter flying as much as I could learning that the way round a course is not just on a reach, I attended the Icicles and last gasp events also held by the PKA, these are fun events specifically aimed to attract new people into the sport, again at every meeting be it racing or social we were welcomed and made more and more friends. These little 3 wheeled toys, and weekends away in the UK & France had changed our life, we had a new group of friends and a new sport which has taken over all our spare time.
March 2013, Ainsdale Cup, with winter pushing later into the year than expected it was touch and go whether this race was going ahead or not, at the last minute I get the call, it’s on. So we set out on the trip to Ainsdale. It was cold & with the offshore wind you knew only the hardcore would be on the beach. The race weekend came and went so fast it was unreal, I had secured my first, 1st place, it was worth the drive and as always the PKA group were friendly as ever.
April 2013, Pembrey Cup, we wake to a clear crispy morning with a nice offshore breeze, since I had been practicing hard I had wanted to play on the Peter Lynn Vapor. Up until this point I had seen the top pilots with this amazing kite and had it agreed that I would be using the Demo set for this weekend, wow what a kite, I ran them back to back with my current kite and at the end of the weekend had placed my heart and money on a set of vapor’s. Not just any set but those of Adrian Lavelle’s, he is the UK No1 pilot and his custom coloured vapor’s looked amazing. The prize giving came and I had won the Pembrey cup open class again, I was sitting in first place in the championship with one round left to go. I had a set of vapor’s to learn with a two month gap before the last round in Holyoke.
June 2013, Hoylake Cup, The last two months I had spent hours under my new kites, attending event’s and practicing hard, the pressure was on, I had a new to me buggy and a new set of vapors, expectations were high and I was feeling the pressure, I was hoping for high wind as this is when I am at my best, I just love high wind racing. I woke up early with that strange feeling in my stomach much like the feeling I had at my first race, we made it onto the beach where we setup and scoped out the course, it was windy and the course was a hard one. Sally gave me a kiss and said just relax and fly like you do when it’s a fun day at the beach, remember what Adrian had said over and over, fly your own race and enjoy yourself.
Race 1, nerves had got to me and although all the other Peter Lynn Vapor pilots had chosen the 4.5 I decided to go with the 3.8, I was underpowered but able to work the kite to still finish in 1st in the open class. 15 minutes until the next race, OK I get the 4.5 out and go for a test run, it was lit up, it felt good and I managed to relax, so much so I didn’t see the yellow flag and was about 400m away from the start line! I bomb towards the line as I hear the countdown I realise I’m going to cross the line before the start and stick the buggy into a slide, 3! As I cross the line sideways, then I hear the race master shout “BACK OF THE PACK” crap@#@#! I had jumped the start and quickly joined the back of the pack, everyone shoots off as I’m turning to come back through the start gate, sorry I shout while giggling as I shoot off down the beach, yep I’m under a fully powered 4.5, I managed to get from the back of the pack to the front of the open class, what a race! What a rush! Race 2, 3 & 4 pass securing 1st in all races, today was a great day, the racing was awesome as was the venue and wind, I didn’t want to leave the beach but the tide had other ideas and well, that’s a fight I am never going to win.
As we walk of the beach Sally gives me a big hug and congratulates me, right at that second it dawned on me, I had won the open class @ the PKA 2013 national series, I had gone from never buggied before beach cruising reach runner to winning the open in less than a year. To say I was buzzing well is an understatement. Later that evening at the prize giving Adrian congratulated with the normal banter as I realise next year I will be in the master’s gulp! Adrian then says have you seen the results for today, not only had I won the open class, I had finished 4th within the master’s that day, It finally sunk in that all those days practicing was paying off and the wait for the 2014 series was going to feel like a lifetime!
Within my first year, I have met the friendliest bunch of people you could wish to meet, made to feel welcome and gained sponsorship from Peter Lynn & GT Race, 2014 is looking to be a great season, and I cannot wait.
For those people who think racing isn’t for them, PLEASE come to the Last Gasp event @ Hoylake, August the 3rd, this will be a great introduction to the series and most of all the people. The series would be nothing without the people.