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The University of Southampton

English Institute of Sport (UK Sport)

Team GB athletes in a string of Olympic games have good reason to be grateful to engineers at the University of Southampton. Their knowledge of fluid dynamics helped the sportsmen and women overcome the best in the world in Beijing (2008), Vancouver (2010) and London 2012. Leading motorsport and sailing teams have also benefited from new insights into their performance, thanks to the University’s specialist engineers.

Highlights of the collaborations included the innovative design of Amy Williams’ skeleton sled ‘Arthur’ which helped her to win Gold at the winter games in Vancouver and one-to-one technical support for Team GB’s top swimmers and cyclists.

“Margins of victory in Olympic sports like cycling, swimming and skeleton, in top class yachting or to secure pole position in F1 can be as little as a hundredth of a second,” explains Professor Stephen Turnock. “We have used the results of our research over many years into the complex, often unsteady, flow regime around yachts, vehicles and cyclists to help sportsmen and women and their coaches analyse and improve their performance.”

The success of the University of Southampton’s contribution to elite sport since the early 1990s resulted in the award of a 2012 Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education to the Performance Sport Engineering Laboratory (PSEL) led by Professor Turnock. PSEL is continuing its work in partnership with the Research and Innovation team at the English Institute of Sport who are funding a team of PhD students and researchers.

Researchers at PSEL continue to work with many elite sports teams and individuals and welcome inquiries from sportsmen, women and organisations keen to succeed. They can tap into the knowledge and expertise of world-leading academics with knowledge elsewhere at the University and use state-of-the-art facilities such as the R.J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel and the new 138 metre towing tank being built on the Boldrewood Innovation Campus.

In addition to their research, members teach on two MSc programmes and the undergraduate module on yacht and small craft design. They also get involved in University outreach activities using sport to enthuse young people, in the hope that they will become inspired to be the next generation of scientists and engineers.

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