Lieutenant Colonel Helen Smyth

The Inter Service Bobsleigh Championships returned to Konigssee, Germany for the first time in 8 years.  The last time the Inter Service Bobsleigh Championships were held in Konigssee was in 2011 so it was a very welcome return to what is without doubt a challenging track.  The track consists of 16 corners and 1251 metres of pure adrenaline rush.  The track overlooks Lake Konigssee and in the distance at the top of the Kehlstein mountain lies Hitler’s Retreat – Eagle’s Nest.  It really is a scenic location for a bobsleigh track, not that you can appreciate the view when focussed on getting down the track as fast as you can.

The training for the Inter Services continued on from the single Service sliding week the previous week.  Inter Service sliding commenced on Sun 24 Feb which allowed the 3 Services 4 days of sliding, getting between 2-3 runs a day each.  This was the opportunity to finalise their teams for the race days which were scheduled to take place on 28 Feb/1 Mar.  Each Service could start the training week with 5 male sleds to train and 3 female sleds to train; for the Inter Service Race this would be reduced to 4 male sleds to race, with the fastest 3 sleds to count and 3 female sleds to race with the fastest 2 to count.  There is still the aspiration to increase female participation to allow the number of female sleds to match their male counterparts.

During the Championships we were without our international athletes who were out in Canada competing at the Bobsleigh World Championships at the Whistler track.  This was LSgt Lamin Deen and Pte Nick Gleeson.  However we were able to welcome back Nicola Minichiello (World Champion in 09) who coached the RAF during the week and who supported the Chairman with all the rules for the Jury on the race days.  Cpl Shanwayne Stephens RAF returned from a season sliding as  Jamaica 1 and headed up the RAF team for the Championships.

Sgt John Jackson returned to the ice in his final year competing and coaching the RN/RM.  We also welcomed back Sean Olsson (Olympic Bronze Medal in Nagano in 1998) who was the head coach for the Army.  The Championships were also visited by Jeff Schuneman who taught Sean Olsson to drive a bobsleigh, some 30 years ago.  The sport has evolved so much over the last 30 years and competitors loved hearing about what the bobsleighs were like all those years ago!

It was an absolute pleasure to welcome Lt Gen Jacques to the Championships and to get him to brake for Sgt John Jackson in the 2 man bobsleigh, allowing Lt Gen Jacques to experience the thrill of the Konigssee track.  Lt Gen Jacques has been hugely supportive of bobsleigh and his presence at the track will be very much missed next Season.

It was a really close race after 2 weeks of sliding at Konigssee and the end result was a historic double for the RN/RM.  They took both the Male and Female Team Trophies, something that the RN/RM have never achieved before.  The Male Team event was a close fought race with just over 3 seconds dividing 1st to 3rd place (very close when you consider this is 3 teams per service over 4 runs).

Vice Admiral Kydd very kindly presented the bobsleigh trophies and a full list of the results can be found below:

Bobsleigh Inter Services Results

Male Team:

1st – RN/RM

2nd – RAF

3rd – ARMY

Female Team:

1st – RN

2nd – RAF

3rd – ARMY

Male Champions – Sgt John Jackson/LCpl Johan Van Heerden RN/RM

Female Champions – Cpl Mel Benfield/SAC Rhiannon Walton RAF

Best Male Novice Driver – Pte Luke Dawes ARMY

Best Female Novice Driver – FO Rachel Biddle RAF

Fastest Brakeman – Pte Ollie Butterworth (5.08 secs) ARMY

Fastest Brakewoman – SAC Rhiannon Walton (5.79 secs) RAF

At the prize giving there was a special mention for Sgt John Jackson who was retiring from coaching and sliding.  Commodore Coulson paid tribute to his dedication to the sport.  It has been absolutely fantastic to hear more recently that Sgt Jackson has finally (along with his 4 man crew) been awarded the Bronze Medal from the Olympic Games in Sochi following the disqualification of the Russian sleds.

The prize giving culminated with the Chairman’s Trophy for 18/19.  This was presented to CSgt Ash Morris RM for his management of the RN/RM bobsleigh team over the last 6 years; he has put his heart and soul into his job and his hard work paid dividends this year.  Not only does he manage the team but he has demonstrated his prowess in the front of a sled and had the fastest run in the first race lauf.

Following on from the Inter Service Championships, a number of athletes had the opportunity to attend an IBSF development camp in Lake Placid and as a result of a lot of hard work over the summer period there are now a number of service athletes who will have the opportunity to race for GB over the 19/20 season.  Their success will be featured in the season round up for 19/20.