Valheim has a number of mechanics which are not explained to you by design, how to effectively sail your ship / boat against oncoming wind is one of these and in this guide i’ll quickly explain what tacking is and how to do it.
So, What is Tacking and How Do I Do It?
Tacking is a maneuver used by sailboats to navigate against oncoming wind by turning it’s bow at a 45° angle relative to the direction of the wind, this is because of the no-sail zone which covers approximately 90° directly in front of the ship, where wind will hamper or stall movement.
This is a mechanic in Valheim, your boat has a no-sail zone of 90° in front marked by a greyed out section of the wind direction ring, it has been highlighted in a red arc here.
Turning your ship at the closest degree outside the no-sail zone will allow you to move in the desired direction at an acceptable speed, this is infinitely more preferable than navigating in a straight line against wind by using your rudder to slowly row the ship or waiting for favorable wind.
Also it’s more fun and engaging than either option.
By turning to 45 degrees towards either side when directly facing the wind and then repeatedly turning at an opposite 90 degree angle, we can zig-zag against the wind by using it to our advantage and easily reach our destination.
However, your destination will not always coincide with the exact direction of oncoming wind while still flowing against you, for tacking to be effective you must identify and take the most favorable tacking angle of the two and compensate for deviation so you don’t overshoot or come too short of your destination.
Here’s a picture which i stole off wikipedia exemplifying multiple tacking intervals which travel the exact same amount of distance (even if one looks longer or smaller, they aren’t), although in-game they are situational, the 3rd maneuver which requires a single turn/tack is only possible in open ocean and wind may change halfway through, while the first interval maneuver is viable on channels and tedious to perform on open ocean, they might also take different amounts of time depending on conditions and user error/deviation.
- Deploy your sail.
- Face the wind.
- Turn left or right to the downwind angle of your convenience but as close to the edge of the no-sail zone which is nearest to your destination course (Aka: just turn towards a side until you finally get good wind).
- Zig-zag to victory.