Kiteboard Theory - Thread 5: Best Upwind Techniques

Postby James on Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:09 pm

Here are four critical factors for maximizing upwind performance. I've generally posted this information before, but here it is again for easy reference. Don't forget, the better you go upwind, the more time you have for freeriding:

1. Use a flat board in light wind. A Spleene Session or Door, or a homemade plywood board is even more important than a big kite.

2. Edge very deliberately to modulate your speed. Ride just fast enough to maintain an efficient plane, but no faster. Otherwise, your apparent wind direction will adversely affect your upwind ability. Take advantage of every slight gust by carving upwind as much as you can without losing speed.

3. Play the current. At Jericho, it usually flows in from west to east (part of a counterclockwise prevailing current in English Bay). In most cases, stay as close to shore as you can without leaving clear wind. Flat, shallow, inshore water generally has much slower currents, and in some cases, beneficial back eddies.

4. Play the windshifts. This is immensely important, and I think overlooked by many kiters. Almost all wind near the surface oscillates. Depending on the location and conditions, these oscillations often cycle back and forth through 5-20 degrees, or more, every couple of minutes or less.

When you are riding upwind, your kite will occasionally fall back in the window, which will cause you to alter course downwind (bearing off). There are only two possible causes for the kite to fall back in the window (unless you caused it by speeding up and altering your apparent wind direction).

Cause #1: The wind changed direction, causing you to bear off from your original course. That windshift is called a header (bad) which is the opposite of a lift (good). Solution: Transition immediately onto the other tack because the windshift that hurt your upwind progress on one tack will help you on the other.

Cause #2: The wind lulled, causing your apparent wind direction to change, and causing you to bear off to maintain speed. Solution: In most cases, tack immediately, because you may have rode out of a localized region of stronger wind, and tacking may get you back into it.

So, regardless of what causes your kite to fall back in the window, in most cases an immediate transition onto the other tack is the best course of action. As an example, if you are able to ride upwind, making upwind progress of 15 degrees in relation to the true wind, the difference between riding in a 10-degree header and a 10-degree lift is the diference between making actual upwind progress of 5 degrees versus 25 degrees, which is like the difference between a moped and a race bike.

Best regards,