Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton

Engineering excellence in performance sport

Performance Sports Engineering at Southampton supports advances in competitive sailing, motorsport, cycling, wintersports, watersports and swimming. Our expertise and facilities have supported round the world races such as the Vendée Globe, match racing at the latest America’s Cup, and Team GB athletes competing at every winter and summer Olympic games since 2008. This is through our partnership with English Institute of Sport’s Research and Innovation team and the ongoing work of the Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and industrial Aerodynamics.

Research Challenge

Race car testing in the RJ Mitchell

As a group, the Performance Sports Engineering Laboratory at the University of Southampton brings together expertise across a range of sports. In all of these, achieving a winning performance relies on excellence in engineering that can match outstanding human sporting achievement.

Our origins are over five decades of research and development in the high technology world of performance sailing and motorsport. In recent years we have developed, mainly through links through EIS(R&I), into other sports, including cycling, rowing, canoeing and skeleton.

Our expertise is in the synthesis of first principles based analysis, with the latest computational analysis and simulation tools, expertise in model scale experimentation, and tailoring system design to maximise the capability of a given athlete, sailor or driver.

We are based in the Maritime Engineering department and the Wolfson Unit at Southampton, but have many links across the University as well as worldwide partners in industry and academia. We are involved in teaching on a number of programmes and modules that help prepare individuals to work at the forefront of technology, especially in motorsport and performance sailing. Our graduates are unmatched in their reputation for excellence.

Skeleton in wind tunnel

Examples of our impact are from our continuous support since 2006 of British Skeleton and their continuing success winning Gold in 2010, 2014 and 2018.  Six PhD/EngD students have helped the team design their sleds and support training. Similarly in swimming we have used our expertise in hydrodynamics, testing and computational modelling to seek for ever better techniques and select the best equipment.

Our work has relied on our ability to develop novel and accurate testing systems complemented by modelling using computational fluid dynamics, musco-skeletal models and race simulations synthesising understanding to find the best solution appropriate for an individual athlete.  We are fortunate to have access to the UK’s largest university sector fluid dynamic testing facilities in the RJ Mitchell wind tunnel and our new 138 m x 6 m x 3.5 Towing Tank in Boldrewood .

Related projects

  • Sports Engineering - Using sound science and creative engineering, we've helped shape the world you know today
  • Performance Sports - the University of Southampton has established an international excellence in the field of performance sports engineering
  • Wolfson Unit - Consultants to the marine and industrial aerodynamics sector
Share Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings