What is a Bobsleigh?
The bobsleigh itself is often referred to as a “bobsled” to differentiate between the sport and the sled itself. They are large, heavy sleds made to hold the entire team. However, inside the sled is decidedly sparse, containing only the steering system, a small seat for the driver, and brakes for when it crosses the finish line.
Each discipline within bobsleigh comes with its own maximum and minimum weights. This is to make sure that the sled doesn’t weigh too much, to keep things fair, and not too little to remain safe. However, this means that there are limits to the number of features that can be found in or on a sled.
Most teams will opt to be as close to the minimum sled weight possible, and make up the rest of the weight by having heavy athletes. Contrary to what Cool Runnings might have you believe, adding weight to the sled is not illegal and is a common practice, as long as the whole sled and crew do not exceed the limit
The sleds are designed to drive at speeds close to 100mph, and operate seamlessly. In a sport governed by thousandths of a second, and little deviation or flex in the sled can have a dramatic effect. Sleds must also be able to withstand the stresses of crashing at those speeds. When a bobsleigh crashes, the entire sled flips upside down. The sled itself much then protect its athletes as well as be able to be used almost immediately after. All of these design requirements mean that a competitive 2-man sled can cost from £50,000 – £100,000 and a 4-man sled can be double that again.
Bobsleigh or Bobsled
Bobsleigh and bobsled do mean the same thing. When the sport was founded it was called bobsleigh after the bobbing up and down that athletes did in an attempt to gain speed. As a matter of distinction, people then started calling the sport Bobsleigh, and the sleds themselves Bobsleds. However, the word Bobsled soon became the widely used phrase for both in America. As such the two are used interchangeably, however in the USA only Bobsled is used.