1. Your Name, nickname, (race number if applicable)and country
Tom Arlott, flydad, SCO19, Scotland
2. How did your involvement in this sport begin?
In the summer of 2001, I went looking for a new stick kite, as was my normal holiday treat to myself. I visited a shop, no longer with us, at the Bluewater complex by Dartford. My sister in law was with us at the time and as I had shown interest in a 2.2 C Quad (it had ‘sticks’ in it), she was on the phone to her partner (unbeknown to me at the time, checking out for some advice on what I was buying) Her partner turned out to be one of the English teams top ten buggyers of those years. He helped to set it up initially that evening, from then on I was hooked. A little anecdote, the following day I was out in a stubble park next to the campsite we were pitched on, followed all the advice I’d been given for setting up etc. what I hadn’t been aware of at that time, was the difference in the wind speed from the previous evening to that day. Looking back I reckon it was like 6-8mph the previous evening and probably 20+ the following day. You may have already guessed, that I launched the kite and promptly went into a Superman pose for all of a second before getting dragged across the stubble park, and with the tee shirt by then up around my neck, the resulting scratches to my torso remained for the rest of the holiday and beyond!
3. Where is your local buggy location, and where is your favourite location and why?
My local location has to be at Stevenston, Ardeer beach park, although I was a regular there every second weekend for a good number of years, nowadays, I’m lucky to see it once a year! Favourite location is a tough one to answer, there is probably half a dozen locations I really enjoy but if I’m forced to choose I reckon it has to be St. Andrews in Fife. One of the few beach locations which is buggy-able in absolutely any wind direction and had a nice variety of surfaces to play on at high or low tides.
4. How many buggies have you had and what types?
Four different buggies (well three really, two were basically the same just different metals). Type wise they were all SHC’s (Scrap Heap Challenges ) However the buggy I first sat my ample butt in, was a PL Big Foot belonging to an old friend, no longer of this world unfortunately. It just felt so right, I sat in it, used the 2.2 CQ to sail off along the beach at St. Andrews, gybed round, and came back to where I started. It all felt just so natural, I went home and started sketching my first buggy to build. (It’s still in the garage too and does occasionally see the light of day)
5. What are your favourite moments in this sport and why?
Seeing my younger son develop the skills he has for flying kites, buggying, landboarding and even venturing onto the water, where after dabbling for a few minutes, getting on the board, he just sailed away.
6. What are your greatest achievements in this sport, tell us the stories behind them?
I’m not a big achiever, I don’t go very fast, I’m not a highly skilled pilot, if anything, my greatest achievement is the fact that after 11 years, I still enjoy the sport with as much enthusiasm as I did when I started out. I’ve always said the only reason I managed to keep reasonable places over the years was due to being able to keep the kite in the sky 99% of the time, if the kites on the deck, you’re not going anywhere! The only other achievement I might lay claim to, was in convincing enough of my fellow competitors to get a Scottish buggy series up and running within the SPKA, its gone from strength to strength ever since.
7. What is your favourite and least favourite manoeuvre and why?
Favourite manoeuvre; reading the field in front of me and always being able to see a way through or around a pack of downed kites. Least favourite; tacking, I much prefer a quick gybe to what generally tends to end up as a slow tack when I do commit to doing them, probably just need more practice!
8. If you could give any advice to an average buggier to take them to the top level, what would the advice be, and why?
Learn to read the wind, be aware of it ALL the time, then practice and more practice, I don’t think there is anything that will improve people other than time in the buggy. They need to keep pushing themselves trying out different approaches to any turn, blasting along the beach is fun but very few races are won on speed alone. Noticing a slight wind shift during a race can make a lot of difference to gaining ground over your fellow competitors. Most will quickly follow those who find the wind shift, and lead the way, but being the one to notice it initially will always be an advantage.
9. Tell us about the scariest situation you have ever been in when buggying?
I guess my scariest moments are when I subconsciously realise that I’m going faster than I feel safe traveling at. I’ve always said I wished I’d been 20 years younger in finding this sport, being at the latter end of the age scale I’m always aware of the extended healing times associated with age. There was once an ‘oh sugar’ moment in 2006 at Gravelines in France for the WC’s, I was running up to the mark by the power station when I was suddenly aware that my left hand wheel was sitting level with my head with about 50 yards till the tack, I bottled it and ran through beyond the mark till the wheel settled down again!
10. Over the years, you have used many different types of kites, which kites do you rate as your favourite makes, and why?
Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. An easy start though, is I’m a fixed bridal flyer. My son used to get me to try his de-powers that he had over the years, I was happy holding them on full power but to heck with trying to work out what was powering up and what wasn’t. At least with fixed bridal you get instant feedback through the handles as to what’s happening. Make/Brand wise, Peter Lynn C Quads, I just love them, they are nadgery beggars to master but once you do, the power from them is awesome, their only drawback is when they get past the point of no return, their gone, till they hit the ground, especially in a buggy, free flying, if you’re nimble on your feet you can get them back again before they wipe out. My first foil was a Qaudrifoil XL 4.9, in there day they were a fairly good race kite, I’d probably have built up to a set of them had the French company that made them not stopped production.
My make of choice though is PKD and the first Century’s. It took me about 3-4 years before I/we had bought each size. I say that as they probably did twice as much work over a number of years because my son and I both raced with them at the same time. It worked in well as, when he was younger and lighter, he was always on the size below me. However as he grew, so did his ambition for bigger kites. It got to the point where he had optimum choice for each race and I was left either under or over powered. I love the Century’s, they are such a forgiving kite, easy to fly and generate a good range of power when you want them too. A couple of years back I bought a second hand set of Combats, they are a different kite entirely from the Century but again, once you master them, they do the job well. I’m back on my original Century’s again though, the Combats seem to have migrated back to the South coast from where they originated, amazing what happens when son’s grow up, wed, and make their own life at the other end of the country .
Size wise, mid-range, 4.5, 5.5, 6.5 have got to be my preferred choices, The smaller sizes get progressively twitchier the smaller you go in the higher winds whereas the bigger sizes just seem to take all day long just to move around the sky in the lighter winds.
11. What is left in the sport that you want to achieve?
Longevity, I hope I’ve a lot of years left in me to buggy around. We had a buggier in Scotland that started racing when he was in his Seventies, the only reason he had to give it up after two years, was because his knees gave out on him. I’ve given up being an obstacle to the fleet at international events now but it would also be good to get involved in running an international round of buggy racing in Scotland at some time in the future. However that may be more a pipe dream than reality considering the costs involved in doing so.
12. Who do you believe are the top three pilots in your chosen sport?
Whichever realm of the sport you look at, the top echelons in the sport tend to be sponsored pilots. I’m sure there will be many more just as able if they had the opportunity or indeed the inclination to give it a serious try. It’s indisputable at present within buggy racing, that PL Vapor pilots have a distinct advantage. If you can afford a set of Vapors or are lucky enough to be offered their favourable terms then you are likely to improve your standings no end. I’m not saying that the top pilots depend on the kite alone, but in the case of Vapor flyers it certainly makes their job easier. Freestyle buggyers generally tend to follow the depower route but odd ones still get the biggest boost from fixed bridal. As for the top 3, you tell me, they are always changing; the annual international competitions are there just to prove who they are each year and generally they stay around the top ten in the world for a few years. It’s not really an age related sport either, although the ones pushing the boundaries always tend to be the younger element, there are still a lot of shall we say ‘middle aged’ pilots enjoying the sport and they were the ones who led the way!
13. Anything else you would like to add
One thing I’ve found over the years, kite flying, you either love it or hate it. I know it’s a buggy pilot questionnaire but without the engine buggies are nothing more than 3 wheels and a bit o’ tin.
From that well known musical…
Let’s……. Go…….. Fly a kite! J
(Why I was invited to do this questionnaire I’ll never know, but if Carl has any space left, it’s been a good chance to bore you all!)
Because you are one of the nicest characters in this sport, and it was great to read your story….thank you Carl