The University of Southampton
Engineering and the EnvironmentWho we are

Sports Engineering

We have established an international reputation in the field of performance sports engineering over four decades, and we are continually striving to push the boundaries in the pursuit of sporting greatness.

Using sound science and creative engineering, we've helped shape the world you know today.

Find out how we've been making history
The University's Royal Charter
The University's Royal Charter

1950s

The University of Southampton began research into competitive sail craft.

1952

The University of Southampton was granted its Royal Charter.

1967

The Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics (WUMTIA) was created.

Early research in the 15’ x 12’ section of our 7’ x 5’ wind tunnel
Early research in the 15’ x 12’ section of our 7’ x 5’ wind tunnel

1970s

The first moving ground in a UK university was installed in our 7’ x 5’ wind tunnel; revolutionising car design through research into vehicles in ‘ground effect’. Our facility was used by Formula One teams Brabham and McLaren, and for Richard Noble’s Project Thrust.

 

 

 

 

Fastnet Rock, Fastnet Race
Fastnet Rock is used as the midpoint for the famous yachting race

1979

Following the Fastnet Disaster in 1979 our researchers carried out investigations into capsize mechanisms, and conducted extensive towing tank tests to improve the understanding of yacht stability. This research is now core to current vessel stability requirements.

Adrian Newey, Red Bull, Formula One
Adrian Newey OBE

1980

Adrian Newey OBE graduated from the University with a First Class honours degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics. Currently Chief Technical Officer of the Red Bull Racing Formula One team, Adrian is the world’s most successful Formula One car designer having won more Constructors’ Championships than any other designer.

Testing race car aerodynamics in the R.J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel
Testing race car aerodynamics in the RJ Mitchell Wind Tunnel

1981

The R J Mitchell Wind Tunnel was presented to the University of Southampton by the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), Farnborough, to support Formula One and IndyCar race development work. The moving ground section, still used today, is a major influence in race car design.

1987

Penske Racing (now Team Penske) began developing their cars at the University of Southampton, including the PC-23, which took an unprecedented first three places at the Indy 500 in 1994. Penske developed their cars at the University from 1987 until 2003.

1995

Our researchers provided tank testing and performance predictions for Team New Zealand, who won the America’s Cup in 1995. Team New Zealand went on to become the first successful non-American defender in 2000.

 

Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher during the Vendee Globe race
Ellen MacArthur and Kingfisher during the Vendee Globe race

2001

Towing tank and wind tunnel tests conducted by our researchers were used to design the Kingfisher yacht, sailed by Ellen MacArthur during her stunning performance in the Vendee Globe race.

Image courtesy of Thierry Martinez

Design by Humphreys Yacht Design and Owen Clark Design

 

2003

Our engineers worked with four challengers for the 2003 America’s Cup, including defenders New Zealand and team Prada Challenge.

 

ABN AMRO I racing in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race
ABN AMRO I racing in the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race

2005-2006

During the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race when the new VO70 class of yacht was used, our engineers supplied tank testing services to the winning yacht ABN AMRO I. Our engineers also acted as technical consultants to the Race Management Group.

Image courtesy of WUMTIA

Testing in R. J. Mitchell wind tunnel
Testing in the R J Mitchell wind tunnel

2008

Our engineers worked with British Cycling, helping them win Gold at the Beijing Olympic Games. Our expertise were also utilised by the rowing, sailing and canoeing squads contributing to 15 of Britain’s 19 gold medals.

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2009

Our engineers contributed to the success of the top three finishers in the Transat Jacques Vabre yachting race.

Amy Williams testing her sled ‘Arthur’
Amy Williams testing her sled ‘Arthur’
Amy Williams with her gold medal
Amy Williams with her gold medal

2010

University of Southampton students developed Amy Williams’ sled, Arthur, helping her win Gold at the Winter Olympic Games.

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2010

Our engineers supplied towing tank services to the designer of the sloop Kokomo, which won the award for best 40m+ sailing superyacht at the 2010 International Superyacht Society awards.

 

 

 

Our R. J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel was used by British athletes
Our R J Mitchell Wind Tunnel was used by British athletes

2012

In the lead up to the Olympic Games, our engineers worked with British Cycling to find the optimal body position for improved performance, contributing to eight gold medals, two silvers and two bronze.

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Our engineers helped British athletes to improve their technique
Our engineers helped British athletes to improve their technique

2012

Our engineers provided poolside data support for British Swimming’s pre-Olympic training camp, using innovative speed and drag measurement systems, body-worn sensors, and underwater video.

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2012

The University of Southampton was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for innovation and world-leading expertise in performance engineering.

 

2014

Our researchers provided support in aerodynamics, skeleton design, runner behaviour and performance analysis to Lizzy Yarnold and her team, helping her win Gold at the Winter Olympic Games.

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Opening of Boldrewood Innovation Campus in 2015
Opening of Boldrewood Innovation Campus in 2015

2015

Whilst opening the state-of-the-art Boldrewood Innovation Campus, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited and blessed our new 138 metre-long hydrosciences tank, which is the largest university towing tank in the UK, by pouring in water from Froude’s original tank built in the 1870s.

 

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