In pursuit of the wind...

http://dimonds.net.au/

In pursuit of the wind... http://dimonds.net.au/

Guest Article: On VMG

by / / 33 posts

In pursuit of the wind… Photo: dimonds.net.au

I hate to distract from Marko’s defense of his POC helmet and shades photo but @snowgeek is weaving cycling and sailing together here. It may never have been done before so please read carefully. The two activities have almost nothing in common except the wind and being wet and miserable. @snowgeek is not dwelling on the wet and miserable part. 

Yours in Cycling, Gianni

There is a concept in the sport of sailing called apparent wind.  It is the wind that you and your boat and your sails experience – the sum of the true wind speed and direction and the boat speed and direction (vector sum, for the geeks in the crowd). This is vaguely relevant here, as cycling is commonly employed in explanation of apparent wind to those not familiar with the concept, usually in some form akin to, “When riding your bicycle on a calm day, the apparent wind is from directly ahead and equal to your speed.”

I introduce apparent wind primarily as a subtle diversion, to make a preliminary connection between the sport of sailing and the sport that is the focus (locus?) of Velominati, to soften the blow, as it were. What I really want to discuss is this, there is a term in sailing called VMG. It stands for Velocity Made Good, and refers to the portion of a vessel’s speed (and direction) that gets it and its passengers closer to their destination, (I suppose the remaining speed and direction is velocity made bad?)

(Even the least astute in this crowd will at this point have already done the mental substitution, and inserted into VMG the concept of The V in place of Velocity.)

To continue, sailing vessels use the aerodynamics of sail shape and the hydrodynamics of hull shape to progress forward through the water, the basic details of which often preclude sailing directly toward one’s destination, either because it is directly upwind, or because one could get there more quickly using a faster point of sail (direction relative to the wind).

By example, if one’s destination is directly downwind, but your boat sails faster 120 degrees to the wind instead of directly 180 degrees downwind, it may be faster to get where you are going by not sailing directly there (sailing, like cycling, is an endeavor virtually overflowing with metaphor) – total elapsed time is reduced by sailing a longer, but faster course, whereby VMG is maximized.

By concentrating on maximizing VMG (there are GPS-based computers that calculate this for you in real-time), one is accounting for all the vagaries of wind speed/direction, boat speed/heading, currents, and boat performance on different points of sail.

Enough explanation. Most of you are already well ahead of me here, so let me put it to you bluntly:

When you are laying down The V, how much of it is VMG? Are you at Mach V?

I, for one, being perennially two months from being not too fat to climb, tend to express proficiency in inefficiency even when I am shopping at the Five and Dime. My VMG in most cases is a fraction of what it could be, in stark contrast to the truest displays of mettle which are lore around these parts.

Yet, could we not define all effort expended in pursuit of The V as VMG? I propose that Made Good, in cycling (as opposed to sailing), be defined less in terms of a physical destination as in terms of pursuit of the state of being that is epitomized in LVV – and therefore every effort to make a deposit in the V-Bank is VMG.

Discuss…

// Guest Article

  1. Sailing and cycling are linked for me not only because of wind but because in the summer I turned 13 I bought my first proper road bike, and my own 12′ sailboat.

    Another thing both have in common is going fast, quietly.

    VMG is well and good but it assumes you are trying to get somewhere in particular.  Sometimes the best rides, and best boat outings, are measured by the fun had dinking about.  Ratty was wrong when he said “there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” but only because messing about on a bicycle is equally worth doing.

  2. @Nate   I fear the Ratty analogy breaks down when we introduce Toad and the Road – though Toads obsessiveness may be appropriate.

    Though I agree there are similarities in sailing – particularly going downhill on the edge of control with far too much sail up.   I remember once after a particularly hairy downwind leg (offshore racing) when a local cruiser was taking photos of the fleet going by.  In the bar we were talking to the skipper of the cruiser and he said – “I love getting close to you racing guys in a blow and feel perfectly safe as you all know what you are doing”.   We just looked at each other, we didn’t really know how to broach to him (pun unintended) how much danger he was in.   Cue the thread on current cycling “fans” behaviour.

  3. I always liken the guys who insist on climbing in the big ring long after they should have changed to the guy who pinches up to weather, while I’m cracked off a bit and making much better VMG, ultimately beating him to the mark.

    (On the other hand, I don’t beat many people to the mark climbing regardless of what ring I’m in…)

  4. @Jamie

    I always liken the guys who insist on climbing in the big ring long after they should have changed to the guy who pinches up to weather, while I’m cracked off a bit and making much better VMG, ultimately beating him to the mark.

    (On the other hand, I don’t beat many people to the mark climbing regardless of what ring I’m in…)

    Or the guy beating with too much sail up and has to pinch to stay upright vs the guy who reefs and net goes faster with less sail?

  5. Or when you find that you’ve tacked at the right time to catch the next shift and find yourself a few boat lengths ahead of the boat you’ve been chasing for the past couple legs.

    Who would the Merckx of sailing be?  Paul Elvstrom would get my vote.

    Sailing and cycling, my two favourite hobbies.  This site has just surpassed itself.

    Similar with the notion of the V showing up in sailing, so to does the Man with the Hammer (or is he the Man with the Anchor?).  At least, when hiking hard in a blow and the guns are screaming to give in and ease off, knowing it will cost you a place, it is He who appears on the lee rail, disrupting the balance, and whispering that to give in would bring peace, comfort and recovery.  That is when you must hike hard, hold fast and suffer until the next mark rounding when physical prowess changes to mental prowess in that pursuit of victory.

  6. @TheVid

    …Similar with the notion of The V showing up in sailing, so to does the Man with the Hammer (or is he the Man with the Anchor?). At least, when hiking hard in a blow and the guns are screaming to give in and ease off, knowing it will cost you a place, it is He who appears on the lee rail, disrupting the balance, and whispering that to give in would bring peace, comfort and recovery. That is when you must hike hard, hold fast and suffer until the next mark rounding when physical prowess changes to mental prowess in that pursuit of victory.

    As a one time serious Thistle racer, I can identify with that passage.  I’m not sure the scars have fully healed on the backs of my legs 30 + years on.

  7. @Nate

    Another thing both have in common is going fast, quietly.

    Eloquently put. Great article @snowgeek.

    If time and money weren’t the limited resource that they are, I’d be lost to sailing.

    There is so much in common between the sports, spending a night on the rail being blasted by waves that you don’t see is a match for fighting the rain and a headwind on a proper Rule #9 day and racing a yacht in a tight pack has to be experienced to be believed.

    If we’re doing the sailing/cycling are the big cats and trimarans the recumbents of the yacht world and the mentalists who race them solo the audaxers?

    Fucking up badly is also just as dramatic…

  8. Isn’t this a little complex for us here? This is some advanced shit and I never learned how to add or subtract anything not ending in V or X.

  9. @therealpeel

    Isn’t this a little complex for us here? This is some advanced shit and I never learned how to add or subtract anything not ending in V or X.

    I did think of that Far Side bit about what you say to a dog and what they hear.

    “Blah, blah, blah, go fast, blah, blah, blah, laying down the V, blah, blah, V-bank…”

  10. @Chris possibly even more. I have never seen a road racer pitch pole.

  11. It’s gone all Patrick O’Brian around here, with us simple cyclists cast as the doctor.

  12. @Nate

    Sailing and cycling are linked for me not only because of wind but because in the summer I turned 13 I bought my first proper road bike, and my own 12″² sailboat.

    Very cool. I think I was also 13 when I bought my first “10-speed” (a Manufrance Hirondelle with a Simplex derailleur and Mafac center-pull brakes and the family got a 12′ Butterfly sailboat. Those were summers of bliss, riding laps around Lake Johanna/Josephine (Frank should know the area) in the morning , sailing all afternoon and chasing girls on the beach.

    There’s absolutely a symmetry between sailing and cycling, a real Zen when cruising along at speed, and fussing endlessly with the equipment and set-up. I graduated to 20′ C-scows on Whitebear and Minnetonka (much bigger lakes) and Mendota in college. A beautiful and versatile boat, not too hard to sail, but wicked fast.

  13. @Chris

    @Nate

    Fucking up badly is also just as dramatic…

    That’s a very bad day. I can’t imagine the check the boat owner had to write for that adventure. Or perhaps it was the insurance company.

    I still remember the time, over 35 years ago, that I flipped an 18′ Hobie Cat (not mine) once in the middle of a big wind on a big lake “up north”. It was a monster bitch to get back over.

    A fun boat in a big wind and a real babe magnet,  but not really a “sailers” boat. It went fast as hell on a run, but you had to bring it to an almost complete stop to turn it around.

  14. @Minnesota Expat

    @Chris

    @Nate

    Fucking up badly is also just as dramatic…

    That’s a very bad day. I can’t imagine the check the boat owner had to write for that adventure. Or perhaps it was the insurance company.

    I still remember the time, over 35 years ago, that I flipped an 18″² Hobie Cat (not mine) once in the middle of a big wind on a big lake “up north”. It was a monster bitch to get back over.

    A fun boat in a big wind and a real babe magnet, but not really a “sailers” boat. It went fast as hell on a run, but you had to bring it to an almost complete stop to turn it around.

    From memory there was a whole bunch of damage but they managed to fix it overnight to compete the next day. Apparently the bowman was still on the foredeck at that point.

    @Nate

    @Chris possibly even more. I have never seen a road racer pitch pole.

    That’s the rider you always see in the big bunch crash teetering way above his front wheel, for a moment you think he might just fall backwards but then over he goes still clipped in.

  15. Has no one else read Phil Gaimon’s book? He raced for a team called VMG for a while. He said he got sick of explaining it. I can’t remember for sure, but one of the owners might have been Clive Bannister (Roger’s son). That might have been a different team though.

    VMG in cycling is clearly tacking up a hill.

    I learnt to sail in a scow Moth. Moths are the HPVs of the yatching world – all hydrofoils and wing sails

  16. A windy, gusty, shifty ride in the high mountains today had me cursing the wind – a dangerous thing to do – and made me think of all the times I’ve been on a sailboat cursing the lack of wind…

    @Minnesota Expat

    There’s absolutely a symmetry between sailing and cycling, a real Zen when cruising along at speed, and fussing endlessly with the equipment and set-up.

    totally.  When “plugged in” and on top of your gear, there is a sublime connection between rider/sailor, bike/boat, and the elements – up- or down-gradient (terrain or wind), feeling the shifts in slope and wind and effort and methodically and unconsciously working to flow smoothly into your next maneuver to maintain speed…  (Heck, we even call adjusting sail trim modes upwind “shifting gears”…)

    That, and if any sport has cycling beat for obsession and fiddling with insanely expensive and high-tech equipment, it’s sailing.  Minor changes in saddle height or mast rig tension have disproportionately large impacts on performance – to the point of superstition.

    Thanks for the comments all – @frank was sure that I was full of shit with the cycling/sailing thing…

  17. @Chris good point.  Have you seen the video of the Americas Cup boat pitchpoling in SF Bay last year?

  18. @snowgeek If @frank thinks you are full of shit, sometimes that is a good thing!

  19. I like cycling, I like sailing and I like your work here. I’m sure Ive miss-understood most of the key elements but nevertheless, this is a fantastic piece of work which will occupy my brain, particularly while cycling, for some time to come.  Thankyou.  VMG indeed. 

  20. Great article snowgeek.
    There is another analogue here – one of the Magnificent Stroke which works most efficiently at a suitable cadence. You can grind up at hill at 50rpm, but you will get up more quickly if you drop a gear or two and spin up it. This is a good reason why training with Power is so useful, and fitting a cadence sensor so your Garmin can record for later analysis.
    Almost all cyclists should do this analysis, even Pros need to check their gearing is truly efficient for the course.

  21. @Minnesota Expat My buddy and I got pretty good at flipping his Hobie Cat upright just pointing the mast in to the wind. My best adventure was when a shroud snapped while I was riding out on trapeze and yee hah, I was flung in a perfect arc thru the sky as the mast came down with the wind. That’s one of those slow motion moments in your mind as ya wonder how is gonna end. Then there was the time we’re out on the Chesapeake and the transom’s failed and rudder assembly pulled free with big hunks of fiberglass. Ruh roh… Hobie Cats are a blast. Interesting: there’s a big damn difference between just sailing and racing sailboats not unlike riding a bike and riding in a bike race.

  22. @ChrisO

    It’s gone all Patrick O’Brian around here, with us simple cyclists cast as the doctor.

    Indeed, these sailors are coming it a bit high. A glass of wine with you, sir.

  23. I read the article  a couple of times and it the whole thing is a mystery to me , I mean I understand most things but this beat me…………anybody else in the same boat as it were?

  24. 7

    @Ccos

    @therealpeel

    Isn’t this a little complex for us here? This is some advanced shit and I never learned how to add or subtract anything not ending in V or X.

    I did think of that Far Side bit about what you say to a dog and what they hear.

    “Blah, blah, blah, go fast, blah, blah, blah, laying down The V, blah, blah, V-bank…”

    On point.

  25. @Ccos

    @therealpeel

    Isn’t this a little complex for us here? This is some advanced shit and I never learned how to add or subtract anything not ending in V or X.

    I did think of that Far Side bit about what you say to a dog and what they hear.

    “Blah, blah, blah, go fast, blah, blah, blah, laying down The V, blah, blah, V-bank…”

     

  26. Avid Windsurfer here.

    Interestingly as an aside, had alot of Neil Pryde sails and carbon masts.  My surf /slalom board attached to the Neil Pryde V8 Slalom sail was a joy to ride.  Wait, shit sorry, V8 slalom sail sounds alot like Allez and Roubaix. Sorry Mike, wont happen again.

    The feeling of speed can be transposed from sailing to cycling, also pitting yourself and machine against the elements.

    VMD, onward and upward.

  27. @Barracuda

    Avid Windsurfer here.

    Interestingly as an aside, had alot of Neil Pryde sails and carbon masts. My surf /slalom board attached to the Neil Pryde V8 Slalom sail was a joy to ride. Wait, shit sorry, V8 slalom sail sounds alot like Allez and Roubaix. Sorry Mike, wont happen again.

    The feeling of speed can be transposed from sailing to cycling, also pitting yourself and machine against the elements.

    VMD, onward and upward.

    “VMG”  Damn iphone

  28. WTF?  I just want to ride my bike.

  29. @JRGdeCT

    WTF? I just want to ride my bike.

    Then why are you typing on the intwerpnet?

  30. For those who do not understand the linkage and wish to do some “guns-on” research into the matter…………

  31. @Teocalli I believe the best caption for that photo is…

    `Just because you can, doesn`t mean you should`

  32. @wilburrox

    there’s a big damn difference between just sailing and racing sailboats not unlike riding a bike and riding in a bike race.

    +1.  My other thought was along the lines of ‘we are sailors, everybody else just holds the tiller’.

  33. Further pondering on the idea of V made good, I was thinking about that nifty power meter from Pioneer that measures power output (a crude attempt and quantifying The V) at different points of one’s magnificent stroke, and then reports how much of the V being placed is actually ‘made good’.

    If one is not lifting the opposite foot on the up stroke, there is power loss from the other leg driving the downstroke, reducing the amount of V put to tarmac.  Intriguing way to improve the magnificence of one’s stroke, by using such a device to increase VMG.  It’s too bad the head unit is a Rule #74 violation, plus the cost of such data is beyond the reach of a Velominatus Budgetatus such as myself.

    I could of course sell the Laser for a power meter, but that’s just crazy talk.

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar