Couple thoughts on tactics from a newbie kiter, longtime windsurf (both Formula and slalom) and sailboat racer. Kites are really just high performance sailing craft. Same principles should apply - and from watching the fleet at Crissy field, they do. It's very similar to Formula Windsurfing, fast catamarans, foiling Moths, or Skiffs in that boat/boardspeed and angle are the necessary condition for any sort of success (your best start tactics or most brilliant calling of windshifts or current and their impact on laylines will do nothing for you if you constantly get pinched off or rolled.
Starts area big deal. Seems like the kite fleet has a bit of a barging problem, just like the FW or skiff fleets. Not surprising, as given the speeds and the fact that just about any little collision leads to swimming (widely acknowledged to be the slowest point of sail), nobody is just going to push you up over the line as they might in slower sit down boats.
To understand how to have any sort of success in that sort of environment, there's still nothing quite as thorough as Frank Bethwaite's High Performance Sailing. His background and focus was all on skiffs at the time. As a bonus, you'll see a nice picture of a windsurfer beam reaching with a derisive caption that explains how windsurfers might be quick at beam reaches and below, but are just hopeless compared to real performance craft around a windward/leeward course and will never be real competition for skiffs. Note that in about the early and mid 2000's, FW routinely started spanking skiffs (including Australian 18s, Bethwaite's class of choice) around a course. That was right about the time that we FW racers made similar noises about kiters (sure, they got big air, but they were just hopeless at going upwind and not all that fast), and just a few years before kites started getting very good at course racing and taking the overall speed records.
Of course, now we're all confronted with the fact that sit down sailors have thrown enough money at the problem to up performance again (around a course - viz AC45 and AC72 racing; in open water - viz Hydroptere; on the speed course - viz Sailrocket). Note, however, that none of them can match the performance-per-dollar (or smiles per dollar, for that matter) ratio us boardheads get to experience.
I'm thinking the path to getting to the top of the fleet in kiteracing, then, would go something like this:
-get your board and kite handling sorted (swimming is slow)
-get your transitions dialed (even once you're consistently dry - in any fleet, slow transitions lose races)
-increase your speed and angle (best done tuning with others - read up on how from Bethwaite)
-learn about how to read laylines (again, Bethwaite...)
-learn about how to read start line advantage (again, Bethwaite)
-learn about how to find the advantaged side of the course (Bethwaite...)
-learn about tactics for mark roundings, passing, covering, etc. (yep, Bethwaite again...)
Also, look at the videos showing you racing at Crissy Field (St. Francis Yacht Club) - both FW and kites. Notice how in most conditions the fleet races for the outside (especially in an ebb) to go upwind. Notice how the inside of the lift going upwind on port is the place to be (the Friday nice FW races starting right off the club building how that very well). Notice how the difference between a fast transition and a slow one is anything from 1 to 5 seconds of full speed sailing - an eternity that gives the fast sailor a lot of distance. Notice how when you have two sailors next to each other, you can quickly spot the better one by how they don't get taken off their game by stray bits of chop, or puffs, or anything else - the 2nd tier racers are just as fast in a straight line most of the time, but the separation happens due to that extra bit of consistency. And generally, the 1st tier racers look a lot smoother - sailing fast and high/deep is a skill they've mastered so completely that having to think through tactics doesn't disrupt their stance.
It seems like windsurf course racing has taken a participation nose dive in the last few years. As much as I love slalom racing, I miss the tactical and technical challenge. That's probably what attracted me to learning how to kite in the first place. Not sure if I'll ever get to that level - but knowing that there's an active and thriving course race scene was a big part of flirting with the "dark side."