Dutch Buggy Championships - Les HemmesLes Hemmes beach in Northern France near Calais is kitebuggy paradise.

It is probably the largest and widest beach in Europe and ridable with all wind directions.

It is simply the best beach I know and a potential candidate for the 2019 European championship.

So when the local sailclub organizes a kitebuggy race, you know it will be an epic event. The race was well attended with many French riders but also riders from Belgium and Holland. To make the race even more attractive, David van Boven, the current European champion, was racing as well: He was the man to beat! The atmosphere was relaxed as we had a steady sideshore wind, the beach was dry and the sun was out.

The first buggy race I decided to take out the Aero 20m on 21 mtr lines whilst all other riders ride a 14-15 m2 kite so I knew I was going to ride too big anyway. Why did I still do it? Because I can. I just wanted to see how the 20m would compare against the other smaller kites. As expected: downwind I was much faster, but this speed was countered by the turns which were way too slow.  Upwind I could keep up with the smaller kites.

I ended up in 6th place. It was a good exercise but not to be repeated again as the wind was picking up slightly for the next race. I downsized to the Aero 14. In the meantime, the race master had added an extra buoy to the race course, exactly what I like: technical racing!

The second race started and I had a good position, riding wheel to wheel with David van Boven and Julien Dietens. This is what close racing is all about.  The upwind section poses a challenge: it was possible to tack straight to the next buoy, but that required riding through soft sand.

French PL rider Freddy Krysztofiak was just behind us but decided to turn around and tack towards the hard packed sand; a very wise decision as he made it to the next buoy much faster than us and wins the race ! Excellent tactical riding ! I finished this heat 3rd just 1 millisecond behind Julien. So close!

The third race I decided to downsize again to the Aero 11. Another buoy had been added to the race course and I felt that a smaller kite would make my turns go faster which in the end should help me. It worked out well, this heat I finished 2nd.

The last race of the day was the icing on the cake. It would be the 4th race thus allowing me to “scrap” the bad results of the first race, provided I would do well this race. Another buoy had been added close to the floodline but it was not visible from a distance since the beach is so wide. During the first lap, the racemaster rode in front of us with his car as to show us where to go. A bit of sea mist made it even more challenging to find the buoy. With each next lap, I couldn’t locate that buoy easily, so I just followed the tracks on the sand and hoped I was heading in the right way.

Luckily, it all worked out quite well as I finished this heat in first place!

In the overall results I became 2nd. David van Boven 1st and PL rider Julien Dietens 3rd. The top 5 contained 4 PL Aero riders!

I would like to thank the French Buggyclub Les Islandais and the local sandyacht club for organizing this event and hope to come back soon for more racing and free riding on Europe’s nr. 1 beach.

Eric Leegwater