Today bobsledding is an sport rife with modern technology and design techniques. In recent years, companies better known for their expertise in automobiles and Formula 1 racing have become players with BMW designing American sleds, McLaren making the UK sleds, and Ferrari providing for the Italian team. Like many winter gravity sports, contenders can be separated by as little as hundredths of a second. This makes aerodynamics a serious concern, but the variability of the sled’s position and orientation over a run makes realistically simulating the aerodynamics, either in a wind tunnel or computationally, extremely difficult. Additionally, the sport’s governing body restricts a sled’s dimensions, weight, shape, and other details; for example, bobsleds are not allowed to use vortex generators that would help maintain attached flow and reduce drag. Instead, designers try to shave drag elsewhere, in the shaping of the sled’s nose or by tweaking the back end of the sled to reduce the drag-inducing wake. Even the shape of the driver’s helmet is aerodynamically significant. (Image credits: Exa Corp, Getty Images, BMW)
FYFD is celebrating #Sochi2014 by looking at fluid dynamics in winter sports. Check out our previous posts on how skiers glide, the US speedskating suit controversy, and why ice is slippery.