Chair Bobsleigh (Wing Commander Helen Smyth RAuxAF)

This year the UKAFWSA Ice Championships took place in St Moritz, Switzerland from 17-24 February, with single Service sliding taking place the previous week.  It has been the aspiration of UKAFWSA to hold a Championships at the St Moritz track for many years as it has been almost 25 years since military bobsleigh raced at St Moritz and it is the only natural bobsleigh track in the world.  Being able to hold the event at this track has been incredible; it is a track steeped in history.  It is the home of bobsleigh and to be able to slide at the track is a huge privilege.  The 1722 metre long ice channel from St Moritz to Celerina provides a real adrenaline kick and it has 19 corners.  The top of the track is at 1852m and there is a vertical drop of 130m.  It is created by hand and constitutes the world’s largest ice sculpture every year.  Sliders can achieve top speeds of 136km/h.  The track has played host to 2 Winter Olympic Games (1928 and 1948).

The history of the Olympia Bob Run goes back to the end of the 19th century. At that time, British winter guests were looking for a facility where they could practice the sport they had only just invented: bobsledding.  After an elitist group of bob enthusiasts – who had been associated with the St Moritz Bobsleigh Club – had been squabbling with their colleagues in the skeleton sector within the St Moritz Tobogganing Club about the use of the Cresta Run, they decided to build their own track.  However, it was not until 1903 that they planned, built, and inaugurated their bobsleigh track by holding a bob race on 1st January 1904.  Today, the course of the St Moritz bobsleigh track is still more or less the same: it still leads from St Moritz Kulm Park through a Swiss stone pine forest to Celerina Cresta.

The Bobsleigh Championships usually involves 3 days of Inter Service training followed by 2 days of racing.  The single Services always spend the previous week getting used to the track (we move tracks every year).   The race consists of 4 race runs or “laufs” over 2 days.  We have been trying to increase numbers in the women’s event for many years and the aim is to eventually get the same number of female teams competing as male teams.  The race format allows for 4 male teams and 3 female teams in each Service to race, with the fastest 3 male sleds and fastest 2 sleds in each service to count.  The finish times are then added up and it is the cumulative fastest time that decides the winning team.  It frequently comes down to tenths of seconds to decide the winners (which is amazing when you have 4 runs and 3 teams to count) and some teams don’t get all their qualifying teams to cross the finish line so every single run counts.  St Moritz is a fast track with some of the sleds hitting over 135km/h at the bottom of the track (which is where most crashes also take place).  We have a medical plan in place, with medics on the track for every single second of the training.

Bobsleigh develops teamwork in our military personnel and sliders demonstrate both moral and physical courage.  It is not easy taking a bobsleigh down the track; you must trust your driver as a brakeman/woman and the driver as a responsibility for getting the sled safely down the track; if you take a tumble in the bobsleigh, you must refocus quickly to take your next run down the track.  I have watched many young service personnel develop and flourish in the sport and subsequently in their military careers and I am incredibly proud to have been involved in this sport for so many years.  It is known as Formula One on Ice and combines speed with adrenaline and can take you to the edge of your physical limitations.  Teamwork is vital in this sport.

The 2 day Inter Service Bobsleigh race follows the Bobsleigh World Championship rules as closely as possible.  There are frequently tense moments amongst the athletes and coaching staff, which requires a degree of diplomacy from the bobsleigh staff as these Championships are the pinnacle of the military bobsleigh season.  This was the first year in many years that our international bobsleigh athletes were unable to attend the Inter Services as they were away competing at the World Championships in Winterberg, Germany.  As St Moritz is a natural track, its annual season is less than the refrigerated tracks and so we were lucky to secure the last few weeks of its season.  The week after we left was the final week of it being open and it hosted the Para Bobsleigh World Cup race.  Most of our Inter Service Championships are held at the end of the sliding season, after the World Championships or Winter Olympics and our International military athletes join us for our week of competition.  The sport of bobsleigh is incredible; it is one of the few sports where you have ice time shared between novices and Olympic medallists and we are so fortunate to have had Olympic medallists come back to coach our athletes over the years.  This year the Army were coached by Tom Delahunty (late RAF) who coached the Canadian women to 2 Olympic Gold Medals and was a former bobsleigh pilot himself, having also coached GB and The Netherlands in the past.  The Royal Navy were coached by former Olympic bobsleigh pilot, Lee Johnston.

It is frequently said that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” and this year at St Moritz, our enemy was climate change.  The temperature was unseasonably warm, and we had to adapt to this with different sliding times and additional sliding on one of the days to get our race runs in.  This meant that track walks for the bobsleigh athletes took place before 0600 hrs and the final day of racing saw our race begin at 0750 hrs which meant that the athletes were up at the track incredibly early to get their sleds prepared for the race and a track walk in.  However, this was all worth it to be able to get 4 race runs in.  At one point, it looked like it would become a 2 lauf race due to the warm weather.  Thanks are extended to our skeleton and luge colleagues who sacrificed training and race runs to enable the bobsleigh race to be held; a great example of how the ice family operates, working together.  The race days had to be brought forward due to the large amount of snow expected on the Friday (which materialised, and no sliding took place).  This did allow all bobsleigh athletes to spend the day on sled maintenance and preparing the sleds and vehicles for the road move back to the UK.

We welcomed a number of senior military visitors as well as some of our sponsors to the Championships and it was great to be able to get several our guests down the track in a 4 man bobsleigh so they could experience the ice adrenaline rush.   Fortunately, this was scheduled for the Thursday after the sliding rather than the Friday.  We were also able to host the Presidents Dinner on Thursday night following the prize giving and it was a great opportunity in an informal setting to allow our guests to get to know the athletes.  The prize giving took place in the iconic location of the “Dracula Club” at the top of the track, where many a famous name has partied the night away!  The club and bar are covered in bobsleigh memorabilia from over the years and it really is a fascinating location to hold the prize giving in.

Even though the week of sliding and racing had to be adapted, often at short notice, this did not remove any of the tension or competitiveness of the Championships.  Luge and skeleton athletes sacrificed several their runs on the Wednesday to allow the bobsleighers to “bank” their first two race runs in case the weather became too warm to slide.  It was an exciting Championships.  In the women’s race, there were 6 teams competing (3 from the RAF, 2 from the Army and 1 from the RN/RM).  All bobsleighs that started the race, finished.  In the men’s race, 11 teams started, with 9 teams finishing.  There were battles for individual trophies and titles as well as team trophies and overall Team Champions.  In addition, there are the trophies for the fastest brakeman and woman.  Over the last few years, we have introduced a new category, that of Best Novice Driver and to qualify you must be a driver in your first Inter Services.


The results from the Championships are as follows:


Women’s Individual Championships


1st – AS1 Tech Emily Cantley & Cpl Jessica Stewart RAF (4 min 49.09 secs)

2nd – Pte Kelsea Montgomery & Sgt Dom Burge ARMY (4 min 49.95 secs)

3rd – Pte Chantel Brindle & Sgt Sally Barrett ARMY (4 min 53.38 secs)


Men’s Individual Championships


1st – LCpl Nick Gleeson & Rfn Tom Harris ARMY (4 mins 31.45 secs)

2nd – Cpl Shanwayne Stephens & AS1 Tec Levi Wiffen RAF (4 mins 35.61 secs)

3rd – Cpl Anthony Harvey & AS1 Tech Ethan Green RAF (4 mins 40.25 secs)


Best Novice Male Driver (1st Inter Services as a Driver) – Cpl Anthony Harvey RAF (moved from brakeman to driver)

Best Novice Female Driver (1st Inter Services as a Driver) – AS1 Tech Emily Cantley RAF (moved from brakeman to driver)


Fastest Brakewoman in a time of 6.10 secs – Cpl Jessica Stewart RAF

Fastest Brakeman in a time of 5.16 secs – Rfn Tom Harris ARMY


Men’s Team Event (max 4 bobs to race from each Service, fastest 3 sleds to count)


1st – RAF with a combined time of 14 mins 8.59 secs

2nd – RN/RM with a combined time of 14 mins 16.24 secs

3rd – ARMY


Women’s Team Event (max 3 bobs to race from each Service, fastest 2 sleds to count)


1st – ARMY with a combined time of 9 mins 43.33 secs

2nd – RAF with a combined time of 9 mins 44.52 secs

3rd – Royal Navy


The Chair’s Trophy for his exemplary contribution to bobsleigh was awarded to Tom Delahunty


by Squadron Leader Heather Ratnage Black, Director ICE Championships


UKAF WSA Inter Service Ice Championships 2023 took to the road once again to change venue and settled in Lillehammer.  With Konigssee, Germany, remaining in rebuild phase following the floods of 2021 and Igls, Austria, preparing for re-modelling, the choice of tracks suitable for our athletes across the 3 disciplines was significantly reduced.  The staff of Lillehammer are always exceptionally supportive of our athletes and staff but the journey to transport equipment across Europe is not undertaken lightly.  Fortunately the track facilities and ice quality made the journey more than worthwhile!

A good mix of familiar faces and new blood were the fabric of each Service’s skeleton team this year and it was encouraging to see the cooperation between everyone to learn from each other whilst maintaining the competitive edge.  Fastest start for the men was taken by newcomer Cpl Johan Van Heerden RM in a time of 4.91sec. For the women Flt Lt Nicole Burger took the fastest start title in 5.36 sec.

In the team and individual and team competition we had Flt Llt Rhys Thornbury OLY returning to the ice who mixed his experience of GB coach and international athlete to lead the RAF Men’s team to their 17th consecutive Inter Service Skeleton victory.  The Female competition was hotly contested with the RN ensuring the RAF worked hard to achieve the victory.  Final places came down to the last run of the day with only two hundredths of a second separating 1st and 2nd place after 4 runs resulting in AS1 Chelsea Ainsley retaining her title! Genuinely gripping competition and a delight to see the return to a full Inter Service event once again.

  Ice Sports  
1 Bobsleigh Inter Service Male Champions ARMY
2 Bobsleigh Inter Service Female Champions  ARMY
3 Bobsleigh Inter Service Male Champion  LCpl Nick Gleeson & Rfn Tom Harris ARMY
4 Bobsleigh Inter Service Male Runner Up Sgt Adam Baird & Mne Taylor Lawrence RN/RM
5 Bobsleigh Inter Service Female Champion  Flt Lt Rachel Herod & AS1 Emily Cantley RAF
6 Bobsleigh Inter Service Female Runner Up  Gnr Sienna Wilkinson & Sgt Sally Barratt ARMY
1 Luge Inter Service Combined Team Champions RAF
2 Luge Inter Service Male Champion Sgt John Paul KIBBLE RAF
3 Luge Inter Service Male Runner Up Cpl Steve Webb Army
4 Luge Inter Service Female Champion Sgt Danielle Scott Army
5 Luge Inter Service Female Runner Up AB2 Kaliska Clarke RN
1 Skeleton Inter Service Male Team Champions RAF* (17th consecutive year)
2 Skeleton Inter Service Female Team Champions RAF
3 Skeleton Inter Service Male Champion Flt  Lt Rhys Thornbury RAF
4 Skeleton Inter Service Male Runner Up  AS1(T) Toby Edghill RAF
5 Skeleton Inter Service Female Champion  AS1 Chelsea Ainsley RAF
6 Skeleton Inter Service Female Runner Up  Lt Sian Lewis RN
Squadron Leader Heather Ratnage-Black, Director ISISC and Chair Skeleton

Adapted Inter Service Ice Sports Championships 2022

Finally, we were able to get back on the ice after a 2 year break.  The event was only confirmed in early Feb 22 and then final planning began in earnest to get all the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton athletes and staff from all 3 services out to Igls in Austria to enjoy a week of competition.  This was not going to be an ordinary Inter Services…… the single Services missed their novice camps and competitions so it was decided that to get mass participation the Inter Services should be rebranded a Festival of Sport and an Adapted Ice Sports Championship.  The Inter Service Championships is always 4 race runs over 2 days and this year, this was adapted to form 2 days of racing, one day for the novices who were in their first couple of seasons of sliding and then a senior’s race for those who had experienced racing before.

All 3 services had spent a week on ice immediately prior to the Inter Service week and this was an opportunity to develop their novices before the Inter Service training commenced on Mon 28 Feb.  What was fantastic to see at this event were the athletes who had recently returned from the Beijing Winter Olympic Games sliding and who were helping the novices.  This is the beauty of ice sports.  You can get a complete mix of experience on a track, and everyone will help each other out.  It truly is a close knit community.  Although the athletes will only get 2 training runs a day, many hours are spent at the track, sorting out the sleds and walking the track.

We were fortunate to have many very experienced coaches out in Igls and the coaches don’t just watch their own service athletes; they will provide feedback to all.  In the bobsleigh contingent coaching the RN/RM was Lee Johnston, the Army were coached by Sean Olsson and Capt Sarah Smith with the RAF being coached by Sgt Ross Brown. Skeleton and Luge coaches saw the usual suspects trackside with Carl Beet, Sid Lawrence, Robert ‘PJ’ Pritchard-Jones, Graham Holmes and Mike Howard ensuring the athletes had the best opportunities for success.


Our Olympic athletes were Mne Taylor Lawrence and LCpl Nick Gleeson who were fresh from pushing Brad Hall in the 4-man race (achieving a superb 6th place overall).  Nick also pushed Brad in the 2 man race and achieved 11th place (even after crashing on the 3rd run).  LCpl Shanwayne Stephens was back in the RAF driving seat after driving the 2 and 4-man bobsleigh for Jamaica at Beijing.  It was tremendous to see LCpl Gleeson jump into the front seat after his season on the international circuit as a brakeman.  All the athletes were happy to chat about their Olympic experience, inspiring the novices as they start their bobsleigh journeys.


Training runs took place Mon-Wed for skeleton and bobsleigh with luge training extending into day 4  Race draws were made on the completion of training and then it was down to the athletes to make their final sled preparations and focus on the task ahead.  All staff collectively manage the race area and jury positions for all 3 disciplines and bobsleigh were fortunate to have Ian Richardson, co-Director GB Bobsleigh and jury member for the IBSF, who kindly accepted our request to be our independent delegate on the race jury.  Even though we were running some novice races, adhering as close as possible to IBSF race rules is always preferred to give all the sliders their first experience of racing.

Race day dawned with skeleton taking the early slot on the track.  Novices raced day 1 and it was delightful to see the next generation of athletes get their first competition under their belts.  Senior athletes were racing day 2 and the support they offered to the junior competitors was second to none.  Race day 2 for skeleton showed that the drive an passion for the sport is alive and well despite the COVID induced break for all.  As this was an adapted event the competitors were all briefed that this would not be classed as an Inter Service Championships for this season only and there would be no team prizes.  The results for both the novice and senior races can be found below.


Luge kept to their format of race day on the Friday and it was highly encouraging to see new faces in the field as well as more experienced sliders.  The impending war in Ukraine had prevented UKAF Luge Chair, Ed Rolls, from attending due to his day job but he was keeping one eye on the unfolding events when work allowed.


Bobsleigh raced in the afternoon slot and the first bobsleigh down the track each afternoon of racing was the “spur” bob, testing all the clocks prior to the first race run being started.  The pilot of the “spur” bob was none other than Ash Morris who had returned to the RN/RM team this season as management after retiring from the RM the previous year.  Everyone was delighted to see Ash back and great to see this veteran of the sport get back into a sled and drive.  In the novice women’s race there were 6 teams and there were 8 teams in the men’s novice race.  Having had 2 years away from sliding, to see so many novice teams competing bodes well for the future of military bobsleigh.  The grass root development of the sport is essential and to have such a variety of different experiences on the bobsleigh track during the Adapted Ice Sports Championships contributed to it being a memorable event – from complete novices to Olympic medallists.  What other sport allows for this span of experience?  There were a few crashes during the races, but our excellent medical staff were always right there on trackside and huge thanks must go to SSgt Tash Sinclair and Sgt Lindsey Walker who spent hours at the track making sure that individuals could continue to slide safely.  The men’s senior race and ladies open race took place on the Fri afternoon and there were 5 male teams racing and 4 female teams racing.  It was another great afternoon of racing and everyone who participated in the Championships was just delighted to have the opportunity to slide.


As this was an Adapted Ice Sports Championships, the decision was taken not to compete for any Service Team Trophies.  It was agreed that there would be trophies in each race category for the top 3 places.  Instead of the traditional combined prize giving on the last evening of competition, each discipline would hold their prize giving at the end of their races.  Therefore, the bobsleigh prize giving took place by the finish curve once the final race had been concluded on the Fri afternoon.  This then gave everyone ample time to sort out all the bobsleigh kit and get it loaded onto the vehicles ready for the long journey back to the UK.  We welcomed Lt Col Karl Johnston RM who has recently taken over as Vice Chair of the RN Winter Sports Association.  Karl is an ex-bobsleigher having competed in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games and he started his bobsleigh career on the Army Ice Camp back in 2000.  Karl is a veteran of a number of Inter Service Championships, so it was fitting that he presented the trophies at the Adapted Ice Sports Championships.

Skeleton Novice Women                  Skeleton Senior Women

1st Place LET (ME) Rachel White RN       Lt Sian Lewis RN

2nd Place Flt Lt Nicole Burger RAF           SAC  Chelsea Ainsley RAF

3rd Place Cpl Samantha Russel RAF         Cpl Lou Webb RAF


Skeleton Novice Men                    Skeleton Senior Men


1st Place AET Kane Boyle RN               Fg Off Rhys Thornbury RAF

2nd Place AET Marcus Or RN              SAC Benji Fulker RAF

3rd Place SAC Toby Edghill RAF         Cpl Rob Vickerman RAF

Bobsleigh Novice Women









Combined time of 1:52.21

Cpl Jo Belgrau RAF & SAC Iva Magpantay RAF

Combined time of 1:52.31

Flt Lt Hannah Rutter RAF & SAC Charly Bland RAF

Combined time of 1:54.92

AET Zoe Morris RN/RM & SAC Alexis Newton-French RAF

Novice Men 











Combined time of 1:48.85

Cpl George Dowling RAF & Cpl Jack Heslop RAF

Combined time of 1:49.25

SAC(T) Alex Cartegena RAF & Cpl Mike Cutler RAF

Combined time of 1:49.51

Mne Owen Allner RN/RM & Mne Alistair Renwick RN/RM

Women’s Open Race 










Combined time of 1:52.53

Cpl Jo Belgrau RAF & SAC Alexis Newton-French RAF

Combined time of 1:53.93

AET Zoe Morris RN/RM & SAC Iva Magpantay RAF

Combined time of 1:55.68

OCdt Eire Rowland-Evans Army & Pte Chantal Brindle Army 

Senior Men










Combined time of 1:45.08

LCpl Shanwayne Stephens RAF & SAC(T) Alex Cartegena RAF

Combined time of 1:45.51

Sgt Adz Baird RN/RM & LCpl Taylor Lawrence RN/RM

Combined time of 1:46.08

Cpl John Stanbridge RAF & SAC Anthony Harvey RAF