Please select your home edition
Edition
YY.com app (top)

America's Cup 36: AI, RL, TLA, ETNZ, LRPP

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail-World AUS 5 Mar 11:00 GMT
Auckland's Viaduct Harbour venue for the 36th America's Cup © Carlo Borlenghi

Now there's a wee event happening across 'The Ditch' (Tasman Sea) next week. So I certainly enjoyed writing from the armchair a little while ago, and whilst on that, thanks very much to all of you who read it (tens of thousands around the globe).

However, since then I have very much been absorbed in other matters inside the greater Sail-World group, and yet around the same time fortunate enough to be placed into a chat group of some very, very avid sailors who've been messaging away, and that's managed to keep me roughly in touch with the grand spectacle.

Well looky here...

Never sure there was any question as to big business being involved with yachting, similarly for management consultants, but advisory firms in critical issues was a fairly new one to me.

What we're talking about is how Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) partnered with McKinsey & Co (and more specifically their subsidiary Quantum Black) to use Reinforcement Learning in their bid to defend Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli in next week's 36th America's Cup. Many thanks to Clay Bischoff, Senior Partner with McKinsey & Company (also two-time Teams Racing World Champion) who brought to it all my attention.

Arguably more than ever, the new AC75s had pushed the envelope farther than ever before. Whilst the keels might have had wings (nothing like the ones of yesteryear BTW), single element soft wing mainsails, and no spinnakers despite the pronounced prodders, these were beasts hitherto the likes of which had probably only existed in sketches from storyboards that did not quite make it into The Invincibles.

R&D has been intrinsically linked to the America's Cup perhaps since it began, which may be one of the reasons the Auld Mug is the oldest sporting silverware going around. Yet such a new and untested class was always going to need loads of time and money, and in the modern world, both were in short(ish) supply.

Bischoff said, "Teams were limited in the time they had to both create and also test key boat components. Given the short timeframe between the release of the competition rules and the start of the race, teams were limited by the volume of boat design iterations they could produce, and by the task of coordinating schedules to have skilled crewmembers on hand to test them."

"To overcome this, McKinsey created a 'digital twin' - an artificial intelligence bot within a simulator - to replicate the sailors and boat, and to allow for continuous design and testing. The team used Reinforcement Learning (RL) to help the bot respond to wind, currents, sail shape and more, mimicking how humans learn. Given the dynamic nature of the environment being replicated, this represents one of the most complex applications of RL ever."

The approach not only sped up hydrofoil design time by ten times, it even taught the world's best sailors new techniques!

Modern AI

Five years ago, a machine beat a human four to one in the ancient and complex game of Go. Tech giants have been at ways of harnessing it for everything from scientific research to robotics, software, medicine, and so on ever since. Now without getting into arguments about SkyNet, vector based autopilots and two-handed in the Sydney Hobart, or spinning propeller helmets with the late Pierre Bézier, what it all brought out was that man had helped the machine, and the machine had in turn helped man by offering a different paradigm. Nice. Now whether that will mean ETNZ have some advantage will remain to be seen, but it is fair to say that LRPP would have been at some of their own AI 'games' as well.

Bischoff closed by saying, "The application of cutting-edge AI to the pursuit of the oldest trophy in international sport highlights the transformation that sailing is undergoing as teams work to incorporate the latest tech into their training routines and performance. Given the time-consuming nature of designing and testing America's Cup boats, this deployment of RL represents a major pivot point in the competition, rapidly speeding up the evolution of the boats, and ultimately, the sport."

Gods of Water

Back in real life now, and not sure you ever have to look too far to see Aussies on boats at the pointy end of the fleet in the big leagues. Indeed, at one iteration of the Cup, Team USA looked awfully like Team AUS to me!

So as AC36 looks set to get away in earnest, all of Australia wishes these two leaders inside their respective teams the very best of the duelling that is going to captivate all the way from Auckland to Anchorage, and the Tuamotus to Turkmenistan. Glenn Ashby and Jimmy Spithill have each won the America's Cup twice beforehand. Ashby has amassed a stunning 17 World Championships, and won a Silver Medal at Beijing with the incredible Darren Bundock in the Tornado. Spithill was the youngest ever AC Skipper, and has offshore credits to his name to boot. Both have talent by the sail bag load...

Yes. We will have all your America's Cup news and footage right here on Sail-World.com

Right oh - there is plenty of information on the group's websites for you to review when you can. Please avail yourself of it.

Now if your class or association is generating material, we can help you spread your word just by using SUBMIT NEWS on our homepage.

Got this newsletter from a friend? Would you like your own copy next week? Just follow the instructions on our newsletter page. Whilst there, you can also register for other editions, like Powerboat.World

Finally, many thanks for making Sail-World your go-to choice. We're always here to keep pumping out the news. Stay safe, and have the happiest time possible depending on your level of restrictions.

John Curnow
Editor, Sail-World AUS

Related Articles

Gladwell's Line: Touchdown in Tokyo
Tokyo2020 may well be the circuit-breaker that returns international sport back to normality No two Olympics are the same, and Tokyo2020 will be notable for having been conducted against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and may well be the circuit-breaker that returns international sport back to normality. Posted on 24 Jul
Sail-World NZ: July 24 - Latest NZ and World News
Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for July 24, 2021 Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for July 23, 2021 Posted on 23 Jul
The big end of town
That would be 60 to 100 in the old language, so that means feet... That would be 60 to 100 in the old language. So that means feet, and whilst some will be 20-30 tons, quite a few will be double that or more. How come? Posted on 18 Jul
Fashionably black
And you're going, 'No it's not! It's cyan.' Ah yes young Padawan, but eventually she will be black And you're going, ‘No it's not! It's cyan.' Ah yes young Padawan, but eventually she will be kitted out entirely in black, which is certainly fitting. After all, she does hail from Melbourne, where power dressing is an art. Posted on 4 Jul
The Catman
Well more precisely Group Beneteau's sailing cat man, actually. Let's look at the Lagoon 55... Well more precisely Group Beneteau's sailing cat man, actually. We have spoken a lot with and about Bruno Belmont in relation to Excess the brand.However, now it is time to look at Lagoon, and in detail at the new and quite different Lagoon 55. Posted on 29 Jun
Live Ocean back expansion of Gulf protection
Peter Burling and Blair Tuke back the move to increase the Hauraki Gulf marine reserves Live Ocean's Peter Burling and Blair Tuke have welcomed the move to significantly increase the marine reserves and other protection measures announced by the NZ Labour Government, on Tuesday. Posted on 23 Jun
Can I get sauce with that please?
Probably going to need lashings of tomato sauce to help that sandwich go down Probably going to need lashings of tomato sauce, or a massive pile of mint jelly to help that sandwich go down. Which sandwich, precisely? Well that would be the IOC not seeing the brilliance of the Mixed Offshore event for Paris 2024, and beyond. Posted on 20 Jun
The good, the incredible, and the brilliant
Ever since writing 'More Grit' I have been on somewhat of a Western trip Ever since writing More Grit! I have been on somewhat of a Western trip. It was only further solidified after actually meeting both the incredible Bill Hatfield, and the brilliant Jeanne Socrates. Posted on 16 Jun
Letter from the Antipodes: Kiwi's export their Cup
A look at the latest round of SailGP ; The Ocean Race Europe ; and the exported America's Cup A look at the latest round of SailGP - still a work in progress; The Ocean Race Europe hands out some unexpected outcomes; What we are expecting to hear on the fate of the 37th America's Cup - and why it can't work in New Zealand Posted on 12 Jun
Sail-World NZ: June 12 - Latest NZ and World News
Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for June 12, 2021 Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for June 12, 2021 Posted on 8 Jun