VIDEO: How to optimise aerodynamics and win the race
This week, all eyes will turn to Saint Moritz for the Alpine World Ski Championships. To reach the podium, competitors know that their aerodynamic ability will be put to the test - they really are a decider in who comes out top in any race.
Longines Alpine Skiing
Longines Live Alpine Data: episode 3 – science of downhill
Image credit: Longines Alpine Skiing
The main event at Saint Moritz, the downhill, will offer a choice aerodynamic approach, just as at Beaver Creek in 2015. Switzerland's Patrick Küng, defending his title, had taken a lead of 24 hundredths over American Travis Ganong and 31 hundredths over his countryman Beat Feuz. The differences were tiny. Küng had built his success on the three key aerodynamic points of the course: the glide portion of the Flyway and the Golden Eagle and Red Tail jumps.
What exactly are the aerodynamic factors in alpine skiing? It refers to both the techniques (schuss position, ski-snow contact) and the equipment (waxing of the skis, moulded boots, smooth suits) that best allow the skiers to overcome air resistance, thus avoiding any loss of time in competition. In other words, it is about how to save those few precious tenths or even hundredths of a second that determine who gets the spoils.
Two of the foremost skiers when it comes to the aerodynamic approach are Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the Longines' ambassador and twice world downhill champion (2007, 2013), and the American Steven Nyman, the master of the glide and the schuss position (position used to avoid being slowed down by the air).
In the video below, these two downhill racers help us to explain just why and how they use aerodynamics to win a race. We have studied the duel that Svindal and Nyman fought out in the downhill at Val Gardena in December 2016. Svindal had pulled back over half a second in the final glide section of the Saslong, despite the skier from Utah being in his element there (three victories).
Longines Live Alpine Data: Episode 3 – How to master the downhill
Sixteen hundredths down at the last intermediate time, the Norwegian, adopting a millimetrically precise schuss position, had managed to achieve a higher speed than his rival by exploiting all of the aerodynamic preparation that he had done. This technical approach is one of the specialities of the Norwegian team, where Svindal is the model skier.
Longines Live Alpine Data: Episode 1 – Saving seconds on a jump
The federations and the athletes have got to grips with the issue of aerodynamics by carrying out various tests in wind tunnels, just as they do in Formula 1. From the manufacture of the suit, designed to be like a second skin, to the adjustment of the skier's position in the face of the natural elements: everything is calculated and optimised. The true mechanics of precision.
Longines Live Alpine Data: episode 2
Longines' Live Alpine Data technology, which is encapsulated in a unit mounted on the skier's boot, includes radar and movement sensors and was officially unveiled at Sölden at the start of the season. It will be launched at the St. Moritz World Championships 2017, where Longines is both a partner and the official timekeeper.