As you may have already heard, our division works with Bromley Technologies – the team of engineering experts behind Olympic athletes Shelley Rudman and Kristan Bromley. They have together won the most medals for Great Britain this past season. Last year when I first saw footage of Kristan racing, I was in awe. The speed, the motion, the action … it all requires nerves of steel. If you’d like to watch/listen to a first-hand account of Kristan’s adventures, then please watch this free on demand presentation: When .001/second is the difference - Using Concurrent CFD to design for Olympic Speed.
Up until recently, the thought of experiencing first-hand what he does for a living was but a dream for me. But on the way to La Plagne in France I was told of something pretty cool. For a tidy sum of 29 Euros per person we could do our own 1 minute bobsled or bobskeleton ride down an Olympic piste! In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about then watch this video (I love how in the beginning of the clip there are lots of hoots and hollers but as the ride gets faster and scarier the sound of wind rushing by is all you hear). Anyway, driving by the piste kicked off a rather animated conversation on our bus. One of the guys on the bus talked about the physics behind why it’s all safe/sound and how they’d never let Joe Average have a go otherwise. Another member of the group talked about the pros and cons of each vehicle. I topped it off by saying we can pretend we are Olympic athletes (old and way out of shape ones but hey we could pretend). We all decided that we should try the Bobraft but the group drew the line at wearing lycra for the ride.
The Bobraft which seats 4 people can hurtle down the piste in speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour but it has no driver… it basically makes its own way down the path with 4 passengers. The guys thought the element of danger (there not being a driver) made it super cool. As you can see in the overhead picture of the piste, this is a pretty hairy ride. The Bobraft actually has a longer run than the one with the driver (what they call a Taxi-bob) … I guess it’s because gravity does most of the work on this one. And unlike a rollercoaster, you are not tethered to anything… one vehicle, 4 souls, a lot of slippery ice and some good brakes (at least one hopes that the vehicle has good brakes).
During the entire week we discussed it – over breakfast, sitting on chairlifts, over dinner … you get the picture. As the week progressed, the excitement built to a crescendo. Maybe we should try both the Bobraft and the Taxi-bob. Maybe we should split the group into two and take two Bobraft rides and see who can go faster (yup… lots of type A personality types on that trip). Maybe…
In the end, we left France without venturing down to the site. If you ask the group they’ll say that the skiing conditions were too good to be sacrificed for the hour trip down to the Olympic site and back to the resort. But the fact of the matter is we chickened out – for all that bravado and talk about aerodynamics and safety, in the end the survival instinct took over. I guess in theory there is no difference between theory and practice but in practice you can bet there is.
Until next time,
PS. Having lived in earthquake zones for most of my life, my heart goes to our Japanese friends and colleagues. If you haven’t already done so, please donate what you can to the relief efforts. If you’re not sure how, here are a handful of possible charities.