March 2022, Articles

Developing the ‘F1’ of Sit Ski Aerodynamics

A year’s worth of Kiwi engineering know-how, teamwork and aerodynamic improvements to Paralympian Corey Peters’ sit ski have helped prepare him for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

HPSNZ, Snow Sports New Zealand and the University of Canterbury collaborated on the innovation project to reduce the drag on Corey’s sit ski and increase his overall race speed.

Corey took up the sit ski in 2011 after his spinal cord was injured in a 2009 motocross accident. He won a bronze medal in the Downhill event at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games and is targeting the podium again in Beijing this year.

HPSNZ Performance and Technique Analyst Dr Cameron Ross says the sit ski project focussed on aerodynamic adjustments designed to maximise Corey’s speed.

Sit skis feature a seat and suspension system mounted to a single ski.

“We have changed the leg cover to decrease the frontal pressure and to redirect the air to along the side of the sit ski beside Corey,” Cameron explains.

“But our biggest win has been reducing the drag behind Corey.”

That was achieved by redesigning the sit ski seat with a Kamm tail – an innovative design feature at the back of the seat to minimise aerodynamic drag.

The team used 3D scanning and printing, machine fabrication as well as wind tunnel and Computer Fluid Dynamics (CFD) testing, with outstanding results.

“The overall improvements that we have made to the sit ski have reduced drag by 10%, which is very significant.” Cameron says.

He believes New Zealand is the only country that has been able to reduce overall drag by improving airflow at the back of the sit ski. Countries such as the United States and Japan have invested heavily in the aerodynamics of their athletes’ sit skis but Cameron thinks the improvements to Corey’s sit ski are world-leading.

Corey has already tested the new sit ski design in competition in 2022, riding it for the first time in January at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Norway, where he finished fourth in the Men’s Giant Slalom, and again at the Super G World Cup in Sweden where he claimed bronze.

He describes it as the Ferrari of sit skis and says the new aerodynamic design gives him a huge boost of confidence ahead of Beijing.