Aerodynamic benefits of drafting in speed skating: Estimates from in-field skater's wakes and wind tunnel measurements

Wouter Terra*, Alexander Spoelstra, Andrea Sciacchitano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The effect of drafting on the aerodynamic drag of a long-track speed skater is investigated in-field, at the 400m ice-rink of Thialf, Heerenveen. The Ring of Fire system is used to measure the flow downstream of an elite, isolated skater at approximately 11 m/s, transiting repeatedly through a tunnel filled with Helium-filled soap bubble flow tracers. Large-scale stereoscopic particle image velocimetry is used at an acquisition frequency of 500 Hz to obtain the near to far wake up to 11 m distance behind the skater. Over these 11 m, the center of gravity of the wake can shift up to 10 cm laterally, depending on the phase of the skating motion, and it moves about 15 cm to the floor. The former suggests that a trailing skater should slightly adapt its trajectory to achieve the lowest aerodynamic drag by drafting. The drag reduction of a trailing skater is estimated from the measurements on the isolated rider, assuming that the trailing rider's drag reduction only stems from the loss in total pressure in the wake of the first rider. The drag reduction is obtained with varying lateral and longitudinal distance between the leading and hypothetical trailing rider. It is observed that the peak reduction (∼40%) steeply decays with increasing lateral offset: at an offset of 50 cm the reduction is negligible. Instead, with increasing longitudinal offset, the decay is more gradual: at a distance of 11 m the reduction of 17% remains significant. The in-field estimations of the drag reduction are supported by wind tunnel measurements conducted on scaled skater models. Finally, the results obtained on the ice-rink indicate that a trailing skater should follow a slightly wider trajectory of about 20 cm, in comparison to the leading skater, to achieve the peak drag reduction during the entire skating stroke.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105329
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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