Lieutenant Commander Ed Rolls
For those yet to experience the thrill of Luge, think about whizzing a few inches above the ice with – apart from a crash helmet – little or no protective padding at high speed. Pre-race planning is essential, reactions are instinctive, and mistakes are both painful and costly.
The 2016 Inter‐Services Championships moved to Winterburg, Germany, after a number of years at Igls and then La Plagne. Winterberg is a difficult track renowned for its large G‐force curves and significant drop in gradient. Athletes needed their wits about them as they negotiated the 14 curves over a 1293m long track reaching speeds in excess of 115 km/h (70mph), and is notorious for its gentle start, lulling sliders into a false sense of security before cruelly unleashing the labyrinth and the large final corner. Many an experienced slider has come unstuck just short of the finish line!
The Inter Services fortnight consisted of one week of Single Service training, followed by a second week of UKAFWSA-funded sliding. The aim of the first week was to get all sliders to a common level of competence over the (unfamiliar for some) track, before week two focussed on improving technique, confidence and finesse, eventually climaxing in the hard fought Inter Services Competition.
Seemingly a recurring theme throughout 2016, ahead of Race Day the pollsters’ anticipated results were just too close to call with only hundredths of a second between individuals. Regrettably for the Army, Sgt Dani Scott QARANC, was unable to compete due to an injury picked up whilst competing with the GB luge squad at the World Cup race in Park City, USA. In the end, the race was won by Flt Lt Gavin Arnold after Gdsm Thompson’s DNF on his first run. This was unexpected and exciting to watch, as up to the point of his crash, Ray had set the fastest time of the week with his timing splits.
With this in mind, the team competition looked to be squaring up as a grudge match between the Army and RAF. In the end, however, the RAF won the overall Inter Service competition with an outstanding team effort, as despite Gdsm Thompson posting the fastest run of that competition, the next three places were won by the RAF giving them the ultimate victory. The Royal Navy, conspicuously absent from the results table, are still very much a fledgling team and have quite a gap to bridge. Following their investment in equipment, it is hoped that they will be able to start to challenge the Army and RAF in the not too distant future.