Velocity made good

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Velocity made good, or "VMG", in sailing and specifically yacht racing, is the speed of a sailboat in the direction of its destination. This is less than the speed over ground(SOG) unless the boat is sailing directly towards it's destination.[1] The concept is useful because a sailboat often cannot, or should not, sail directly to a mark to reach it as quickly as possible. Sailboats cannot sail directly upwind. It is usually less than optimal and can be dangerous to sail directly downwind. Instead of sailing toward the mark, the helmsman chooses a point of sail that optimizes Velocity Made Good (either towards the destination - or towards better winds).[2][3]


Boats cannot sail directly into the wind, requiring the sailor to alternate between headings, which are commonly called "tacks". On a tack, the sailor will generally point the sailboat as close to the wind as possible while still keeping the winds blowing through the sails in a manner that provides aerodynamic lift to propel the boat. Then the sailor turns slightly away from the wind to create more forward wind pressure on the sails and better balance the boat, which allows it to move with greater speed, but less directly toward the mark.

Determining the velocity made good usually requires computation and instrumentation.

For example, if a boat wants to go north in a northerly (wind coming from the north) and on a heading of 60 degrees (NE) the speed of the boat is 5.0 knots. Falling off to 65 degrees NE accelerates the boat to 5.2 knots. Turning up into the wind to a heading of 55 degrees NE causes the boat speed to drop to 4.0 knots. These data indicate the trade-off between speed and progress toward the upwind mark (to the north in this case). Finding the heading that moves the boat most quickly towards the mark requires basic trigonometry. The northward component of the boat's velocity vector is found by multiplying the boat speed by the cosine of the angle between the true wind direction (north) and the sailboat's heading.

 cos(55) * 4.0 = 2.3 knots made north (VMG)
 cos(60) * 5.0 = 2.5 knots made north (VMG)
 cos(65) * 5.2 = 2.2 knots made north (VMG)

In this case, the optimal VMG is obtained on a heading of 60 degrees off of the true wind (60 degrees NE or 300 degrees NW). Turning up into the wind (more towards the mark) makes less progress towards the mark because the boat slows down too much. Turning downwind speeds up the boat, but yields a course that leads too far away from the mark for the increased speed to be a benefit.

Most GPS units will indicate the VMG towards a mark without any sailor math.

True VMG[edit]

The general concept of a boat's VMG as stated above is:

Obviously this is a quick way to determine your VMG while sailing. The truth is though that the overview of the physics is much more complicated than that. Some instances to take into consideration are that a sailboat's Speed Over Ground increases or decreases relative to the wind direction. In theory, a sailboat's speed increases while sailing from upwind to a downwind direction, not before slowing down (while officially going downwind) before sailing parallel to wind direction ( downwind). Some other factors to include are the sail boat specifics that exists for each manufacturer. This would include things such as 'Velocity Increase Constant', which is normally given by the manufacturer as a 'The sail boat increases speed by 10% for every X degrees from the wind'. Keeping these factors in mind, a True VMG can be calculated with the equation:

The above equation is for finding the True VMG for a sail boat going UPWIND ONLY.

The above equation is for finding the True VMG for a sail boat going DOWNWIND ONLY.


= Velocity of the Wind

= Angle between the direction of travel and the direction of the wind

= Angle between the direction of travel and the direction of destination

= Velocity increase constant ( given by the manufacturer as a whole number ( ex: 10% per x degrees; = 10 ))

= No Go Zone Limit ( given by manufacturer )

= Degree Interval ( given by manufacturer; ex: (x% per  ; = 5 ))

Even though the above equations isn't the most ideal method to use while you are on the water, but it gives knowledge of a more precise theoretical number to true VMG. To find the True VMG, all one would need to do is measure three variables: wind velocity, angle between the direction of travel and direction of the wind, and angle between direction of travel and direction of destination. , , and .

VMG Rate of Change[edit]

Taking the two equations for True VMG given the section above, calculating the rate of change in respect to the angle towards your destination is achieved by differential calculus. Simply taking the derivative of each equation will allow you to calculate the rate of VMG per angle away from your destination. This is another tool to help prove the concept of VMG.

The equation to calculate True VMG in the upwind direction:

To find the rate of change for VMG in respect to your angle towards destination:


= 10 knots

= 60

= 40

= 10

= 40

= 5

= 14.6 knots towards destination.

= -12.3 knots per degree away from destination.

Degrees From Destination True VMG (kts) Rate of VMG per Degree away from Destination (VMG (kts) / degree)
40 14.64 -12.28
45 13.51 -13.51
50 12.28 -14.64
55 10.96 -15.65
60 9.56 -16.55
65 8.08 -17.32
70 6.54 -17.96
75 4.95 -18.46
80 3.32 -18.82
85 1.67 -19.04
90 0 -19.11

*** Table uses same values as above example.


  1. ^ "Essential Guide to Sailing Instruments" (PDF). B&G. Retrieved 2016-11-13. 
  2. ^ The New Glénans Sailing Manual, David & Charles.
  3. ^ "Ocean Sail Articles: Velocity Made Good Trading off course against speed". Retrieved 2013-11-03. 

External links[edit]