The best way to deal with the start of the race if you’re used to a lot of other pilots right next to you is to do a few practise runs for the start line and time them so that you arrive at the startline with a good pace after 10 seconds, then remember the spot that you need to start from, how upwind/downwind the route is depends on what course you need to go to for the next marker, too far downwind on the run up and you might struggle to get yourself on a suitible line to get to the next marker without losing a lot of speed through sliding. Too far upwind and your speed will be slow on the way to the line.
Each course will usually have a route on it which is either Crosswind, Upwind or Downwind. Its best to deal with each leg seperatly read on…
For going across wind you need to ensure that your not too overpowered, if you have too much power you won’t be able to stop sliding once you get up a good pace. Too little power and you won’t be able to get upwind. On starting out you probably notice that theres a guy catching up on you slowly and think that you’d better work your kite and get more speed out of it. This is actually the wrong thing to do. You’re better to keep the kite stationary at the edge of the window about a kites width off the ground and if using a race kite use the brakes slightly to curve the trailing edge, on most race kites this gives a bit more power, although it does lose a slight bit of upwind capability when the brakes are slightly tighter.
A preconception of most new buggiers is that to get upwind fast and do the best you need to go as fast as you can. Although speed does help when you’ve got a good course upwind, you don’t want to go too fast up to the mark just before an upwind route because you will more than likely slide, overshoot and lose a lot of ground which you will need to make up, so slow down just before the mark drastically and start on your new angle to the wind with the kite about halfway up the window. Upwind is where your buggy weight (front to back) is important, if its too light at the front you won’t be able to keep a good course upwind. Too light at the back and the back wheels will slide out and cost you speed. The biggest kite you can fly at the time with the combined weight of you and your buggy without sliding when the kite is low at the edge of the window is what you need.
Downwind techniques can vary, some people take shallow cross wind runs to keep the kite well inflated and the speed up constantly. Others use violent slides and a much looser zig zag downwind with the kite right about their head. Depending on where the mark is your trying to get to and the sand conditions nearby its often beneficial to overshoot the upwind mark and drift downwind quite substantially then cut back at the right time to get a good fast run out, and right back to the start line. However if its clearer you might want to opt for a more direct route, gybing your buggy quickly and loop your kite around and back again to keep the pressure in the kite, however when turning like this it is very easy on race kites to lose the wind and luff out suddenly. The best course to take is up to the pilot at the time. Watch how others do it and if it works, try to imitate it (don’t forget to watch how they moved their kite)
So those are the ways in which each course should be tackled on a race circuit, one thing to remember is that when you tack and gybe, there are a lot of courses you can take, the best one is not always the most obvious.
An actual example: When coming up to a marker which is substantially downwind of the next most people would go well past it on a good tight to the wind course and then cut back once or twice depending on how long they made their runs last. However on that particular course it was actually a better idea to gybe/tack soon after the marker and cut upwind then gybe/tack again later, to get one final one at the upwind marker, the conditions of the sand made that route better because of harder packed and smoother sand. So keep an eye out for other ways to go and watch incase someone else has noticed one, see how each one compares to the other and don’t be afraid to take a few practise laps if you get the chance before the pilots breifing, as long as you make it back in plenty of time.
So good luck on the course!