Spotlight on: Foiling guru Tom Buggy

Behind the scenes of the fast-paced Extreme Sailing Series™ is a hard-working, tight-knit team of uniquely interesting individuals. One such character is Tom Buggy, a super-talented windsurfer and an expert in all things foiling.

Thursday 25th January 2018

Behind the scenes of the fast-paced Extreme Sailing Series™ is a hard-working, tight-knit team of uniquely interesting individuals. One such character is Tom Buggy, a super-talented windsurfer and an expert in all things foiling.

A self-professed ‘waterman’, Buggy has lived a life that has revolved around the ocean from day one and has numerous achievements to show for it.

Over the past 25 years I have competed on the UK and pro windsurf tour and in Formula Kite racing, raced TP52s, maxis, class 40s, MOD 70s, broken records and fleet raced Extreme 40s and GC32s, and all for work and pleasure,” said Buggy, who is Class Support & Logistics for the Stadium Racing championship.

“I’ve been sailing, windsurfing, surfing, SUPing and kiting for as long as I can remember,” he added. “My family always had boats so I grew up sailing from day zero.”

In the early 2000s, after several years of travelling the world training and competing in windsurfing, Buggy became involved with the Bear of Britain, a super-fast Farr52 race yacht owned by legendary yachtsman Kit Hobday. The Bear of Britain Academy trained young sailors, many of whom have gone on to big things in the sport.

Kit was a bit of a character and he started what was essentially the Land Rover BAR Academy of its time. A lot of great sailors came from it: Nick Hutton, Freddie Carr, Nick Cherry. Many went on to join Land Rover BAR,” Buggy explained.

“It was all army PT-style training, getting beasted,” he recalled. “Quite a lot of people dropped out because they hated it, it was only 25% sailing.”

“Kit was from London and he had a lot of big backers like J.P Morgan. A lot of the sponsors you now see with the America’s Cup teams came from this programme.”

Over the years the Farr52 claimed several prestigious titles including the America’s Cup Jubilee in 2001 and Cowes Week in 2005.

From there, Buggy moved away from professional sailing and became more involved with boat building and rigging, even landing a gig as shore crew for the race yacht belonging to Niklas Zennström, the Swedish billionaire entrepreneur who founded Skype.

Since joining the Extreme Sailing Series event team in 2010, Buggy’s talent has seen him called upon to sail numerous times.

“I originally came on to the Extreme Sailing Series as a mark layer and in between events I filled in doing event logistics. Then, in Cowes Week 2011, one of the guys on Team Extreme got injured and I said ‘look, I can sail these boats’,” explained Buggy.

“I’d sailed multihulls a bit but nothing like an Extreme 40; It was a brilliant opportunity. Then we had a few more events back to back and the guys from Team Extreme invited me back.

“I became more involved with the race management and the technical side of things in between events, which is more of my original skill set, and it kind of evolved from there. I’ve been really lucky because I’ve managed to evolve my job into something extremely niche.”

As part of the technical team, the brains and brawn behind keeping the fleet of boats in perfect working order, Buggy’s job can often involve late nights when an incident on the water results in a damage.

“The late nights are par for the course. When I’m at an event I really enjoy it, I’m quite happy to work 16 hours a day and through the night. I still enjoy it after seven years of doing it. I love travelling still although it’s slightly harder with kids now,” said the dad of two.

Ahead of the curve, Buggy developed a passion for hydro-foiling that he is now able to bring to work since the Series made the switch from the displacement Extreme 40 to the foiling GC32 catamaran.

“My focus of the last four years has been on developing foil boards for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. A few years ago I was making them for myself in the boatyard and I got really interested in it. Then the GC32s came in and it was nice that I’d learnt from scratch.

“The feeling and experimental freedom you get is amazing and it’s awesome how foil boarding and foil sailing can cross over when it comes to feel and understanding.”

Buggy is always keen to incorporate his love of foiling into the event in any way he can and has participated in numerous stunts over the years.

“I have tow-surfed, kiteboard raced and foilboard raced the Extreme 40 over the years but foiling behind the GC32 has been the most fun to date. It was actually quite easy and the sensation of a fully crewed GC32 doing 25 knots at max elevation just meters in front of me on my board, all in complete silence, was an amazing experience.”

When asked what he thought of the Extreme Sailing Series’ decision to change boat, Buggy didn’t hold back: “I think it was 110% the right thing to do or we would have been dead in the water. It was a natural progression.”

“The next step now is getting the boats foiling upwind and tacking on the foils. The technology is there to make new foils that will work in lighter winds and get us foiling quicker and upwind, there are modifications we can make to the boat to make that work. That’s what we’re looking into.”