row of exercise bikes

Global athletes benefit from BNU’s sports science expertise and facilities

Buckinghamshire New University’s MSc Sports Performance lecturers have featured in a short film, delivering physiological tests for two Sail GP athletes in the Human Performance Laboratory.

Sail GP is an international sailing competition using high performance F50 foiling catamarans, where teams compete across a season of multiple races around the world.

Having worked with BNU in 2014 for some episodes of Anatomy of an Olympian, director George Miller approached the University to contribute to a series of short films he has made for Sail GP and its partner, Rolex.

Mark Homer, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Psychology, Phil Woodbridge, Technician, Sports Science and Human Performance, and students studying sport and human performance courses, designed and delivered a series of physiological tests to assess athletes’ body composition, agility, strength, and cardiorespiratory fitness.

In the film (from 2m 14s), you can see Mark and Phil putting Danish star Julius Hallstrom and Brit Richard Mason through their paces – both are known as Grinders in Sail GP, crew members who operate manual winches to raise the sails and move the boom (pole that improves angle and shape of a sail). Grinders are one of the most important and physical roles on the boat.

Sail GP athlete undergoing tests in Human Performance Laboratory
Sail GP athlete visiting Human Performance Laboratory

Reflecting on the experience, Mark Homer commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed having George, his crew, Julius and Richard in our Human Performance Laboratory to allow Phil and I to test two global athletes pushing the limits of their physiology using our state-of-the art equipment and expertise.

“Our students benefitted hugely from this practical experience, a key feature of our sports performance courses, and were delighted to support world class athletes in a demanding discipline.

“The crew were very complimentary of the professional delivery and expertise our team brought to the shoot and we look forward to working with them again on future projects.

“We wish Julius and Richard the very best for the rest of the season.”

George Miller, Director, added: “It was great to have the opportunity to really see from a physiological perspective, what it takes to be a high-performing athlete racing in the SailGP series. These athletes are some of the most elite performers in the world of sailing and the tests that Dr Mark Homer and his team at New Buckinghamshire University put together in their Human Performance Lab, really showed what these competitors have ‘under the bonnet’.

“Mark and Phil adapted the tests skilfully to reflect the specific demands of sailing – performing a VO2 Max test using an arm crank grinder for example instead of a treadmill or static bike – and a timed short-course running test to mirror the dimensions of the high-performance catamaran our athletes compete on.

“It was a full-on day for everyone and our two, star performers, Julius and Richard, really pushed themselves to the limit to not only make some entertaining content, but also to learn a lot more about what they are capable of under the rigours of lab conditions. A great day and huge thanks to Mark and his team at the Human Performance Lab for conducting the session in such a professional and engaging manner. The athletes keep asking when they can do it again!”