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Since October 2006, research engineers from the University of Southampton have been working with UK Sport to help athletes prepare for major competitions.

Rachel Blackburn and James Roche, both engineering doctorate students funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) at the University of Southampton, co-designed the all-important sled - affectionately known as ‘Arthur’– which helped Amy Williams win gold in Vancouver in 2010.

Competition within the sport is fierce, and the margin of victory can be as little as 0.01 seconds. Amy Williams explains: “It gives you such confidence, knowing that your equipment is world class and your preparation methods are at the cutting edge of your sport. All you need to worry about is delivering on the day.”

Performance Sports Engineering Laboratory

The Performance Sports Engineering Laboratory in Engineering Sciences at the University of Southampton has over five decades of research and development in performance sailing and motorsport, and, recently, through UK Sport, has expanded into cycling, rowing, canoeing and bob skeleton.

The laboratory’s expertise is in the synthesis of first principles-based analysis, the latest computational analysis and simulation tools, and expertise in model-scale experimentation to maximise the capability of the athlete.

The Wolfson Unit

Wind tunnel testing was also carried out by our world-renowned Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics (WUMTIA) to accelerate the development of British cycling’s track bikes and riders ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

The large, low-speed wind tunnels have been used by most of the current Formula One teams, and, most recently, for the development of the Ferrari A1GP race car.

Marine projects include work on the Luna Rossa and Team New Zealand America’s Cup yacht race contenders, while student projects have included the Bonneville 400 world F1 land speed record car and the Quicksilver world water speed record contender.

As long as the fans keep turning up, the University of Southampton will continue to supply the world with performance engineers of the highest calibre.