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Going really, really, really deep

by John Curnow, Editor, Sail World AUS 23 Apr 2023 15:00 PDT
AC40 OD - Alinghi Red Bull Racing - April 18, 2023 - Barcelona - Day 20 © Alex Carabi / America's Cup

Now this is not exactly the kind of thing you want to do when sailing. Deep is best left to submersibles and miners. Expand your mind a smidge, however, and you could well be onto something, for technology has already had a massive impact on our sport. The last decade would seem to have quadrupled the outcomes over the preceding ten years, and a quick evaluation of designs will put an emphatic exclamation mark after that statement.

So here's the thing. What then about the very sailors themselves? We are organic, so until we become The Borg, a little diagnosis or software update is not terribly binary in nature or process. Ah yes young Padawan, but a little tech can go a long way into appreciation and understanding of our very nature, and resultantly, offer ideas as to being fit for purpose, pathways to objectives, and expeditiously achieve greater outcomes. Not so much the tool at that stage, as the aid...

Take all of that on board, look to see how the F1 motorsport scene and AC have merged somewhat, add in the OD AC40s, and you're not so much on the Holodeck any more, as you are live in real time, and in 5k. Unequivocally, we are off to explore the new Team Australia Challenge for the 2024 Youth and Women's America's Cup. Want to apply or help fund the team? Please go to

Given that the AC40 is OD, as well as supplied equipment, and that a simulator is on its way to assist the burgeoning team with its endeavours, it remains that the human element is very much then standout item. It is here that you can apply your resource, and it is highly unlikely there will be any shortage of applicants, especially when you consider just how many Aussies are either out there plying their trade around the globe (BTW well done Will Ryan on yet another World Championship), or currently building up a full head of steam in the Junior ranks, and thinking of Tom, Tom, Nathan, Matt, Olivia, Nina, Lisa or Tess etc etc etc...

OK. So clearly then we need to truly, deeply, and comprehensively understand the humans. As a self-confessed nerd, we could go off on a tangent and talk about Jacob's Ladder, acid tabs, or spending in excess of half a day doing an annoying test, where you swear you just answered the very same question not ten seconds ago.

No. That's all very then, and this is now. Enter stage left, Deep Sphere. Ten minutes and you're done. There will be all revealed about your operational style, and how you could slot in, and you only need the one cup of coffee. Nice.

Cue Katharina Kuehn, the Chief Neuroscience and Strategy Officer at the Winning Group, and Founder of Deep Sphere. "It's a neuroscience based blueprint of human nature and behaviour. And what it does, is that it taps into our non-conscious as well as conscious decision making processes, and it makes them explicit so that people can know better who they are, and who others are in their team - whether that's sports or business.

"Deep Sphere is helping show people how they can optimise their performance based on this very understanding. Using neuroscience to do it takes it to a wholly new level, because it makes it a lot more predictive, and a lot more profound about their very understanding about people."

"We'll look at the team composition and see what an optimal team composition is, so that we can select complimenting temperaments into the team that work together optimally. We have done so not just with the Winning Group, but also andoo Comanche. Often you just don't have the luxury of time for the team to get to know each other, to collaborate most effectively and get a really deep level of trust, which is exactly what they need.

"Even though it takes us under ten minutes to do the assessment, it really tells people who they are at the deepest level, so they can know themselves and each other in the team, and develop that level of deep understanding and trust so they can understand how they respond under pressure, how they can communicate most effectively, and what kind of responses they will default to when they don't have the luxury of time or sleep, or all the rest of it," said Kuehn.

So do people find it confronting? "It's interesting you say that, because our experience with it is not at all. I think wanting to understand is the very reason over half a million Aussies read their horoscopes every week. People have a very, very deep desire to understand themselves better. So what I find most often is that people actually don't find it confronting. People are actually very curious about it all."

In the past, a lot of these kinds of tests would need to raise the person's stress levels to extreme or even abnormal in order to see the real process/behaviours being deployed. "We don't need that. It's a different angle. This is based on the emotional operating processes in the brain that are hardwired in from evolution. Certain people respond with certain strategies under pressure, and this is what we're able to predict.

"For example, some people will default to trying to stop time and analyse meticulously, other others will leap into risk. So then, the particular strategies and behaviours are linked to innate temperaments, and that's actually what we identify, and then are able to predict."

"Neuroscience is the foundation of the tool. There are studies with deep brain simulation that have identified the best scales to measure this. We've then gone and done testing over 500,000 profiles to come up with the most predictive and shortest set of questions to eliminate the need for the hours long tests. We've used artificial intelligence and huge amounts of data to optimise the test to make it really quick, non-intrusive, and very user friendly," stated Kuehn in closing.

That would mean it is a really good time to talk about the entire team, with the on-water aspect led by Silver Medallists Olivia Price and Nina Curtis from Weymouth 2012. "It is a long held dream Olivia and I have both shared from a young age. The America's Cup was written into our national psyche when Australia II rewrote history, and John Bertrand's team won it off the USA. It's pretty exciting to think we could now help write a new chapter in Australia's sailing and America's Cup history," Nina said.

From over in Europe Price said, "This will be a game changer for future generations of female sailors, and it's an honour to be trailblazing this opportunity with my fellow Australian women sailors."

In the Patron's roles are John (Herman) Winning Jnr, and one John Bertrand AO. As we close in on the 40th Anniversary of Australia II's historic win, JB's involvement is as monumental as ever, being invited to visit many of the campaigns' headquarters to see directly how tech and sport and intertwining even further.

JB said, "Olivia Price rang me from a little while back and asked me whether I'd consider being involved as Patron. I know Olivia and the Olympic women's squad very well, as the chair of selectors for the London Olympics. Terrific individuals; their application and dedication are just wonderful."

"John Winning Jnr has joined the team as another Patron. I was keen for John to be involved because of his entrepreneurial overview of the world. Not only in sailing with andoo Comanche and the way they put the team together with the big vision of that project, but also in this business world where he's really at the cutting edge by using artificial intelligence and the application of technology."

JB was one of the 60 or so Keynote Speakers at the recently staged Human Kind event at Luna Park, with so many of the sessions over subscribed, as in excess of 5000 people assembled daily. It was a three-day event staged by the Winning Group, but the general public was far from excluded.

"My theme was building high performance teams, and making decisions at the right time. I've got to know John further in that environment, and he's really one out of the box. He'd masterminded it all, and I thought that's the sort of thinking that is required to take a project like this to the next level.

"So now we're off and running, and it's the first time obviously that women have been able to enter the world of America's Cup on a level playing field, because the AC40s are all One Design. There'll be 12 nations involved late September, early October 2024, in both women's and youth classifications."

"The boats' energy is stored in batteries, so you don't need to have power from cyclists or grinders on these boats, which has eliminated women's participation in the past. It's a breakthrough for female sailing athletes, and also a wonderful opportunity for the youth from 18 to 25 years who can be male or female. We are going to the market to ask for our applications from all around the country, and there's going to be some interesting developments that will come through from all of this."

Obviously funding is an ongoing scenario, but at least it is just a fraction of the full AC show. No R&D, no equipment, just a simulator, which is say 150k Euros, which makes it a really remarkably small budget to get it kick started. There is also access to the AC40s from June 30, 2024 onwards. It is a clean slate all round, with opportunities for both individuals and corporate Australia to be taken up, so go to see what is available.

"The main game will be working with the prospective team members in the simulator, which we'll have in a couple of months time here in Australia, and it could well be based at the Winning Group's HQ.

"In terms of the Board, the Chair is Annick Donat, and she's from the finance industry, then there Paul Manka, also from finance, and Peter Wrigley, who is a co-owner of the TP52 Koa. Wrigley is the Team Manager at this stage, which sort of makes him the new Warren Jones until a full appointment can be made. He's done all the key negotiations with Emirates Team New Zealand, and will continue in that role. He's been very, very good at just getting stuff done."

"The vision of Grant Dalton and his team has to be applauded. I spoke to Grant before I got involved, regarding where he was coming from, what he wants the boats to be in terms of a global racing class, and an important part of the AC training platforms moving forward.

"From my observation, pretty much all the sailors that I've spoken to, skippers and so on, all with different syndicates, just love racing these boats. That certainly means that this class will be further refined, and not put on the back burner if ETNZ do not win. He's creating a legacy beyond the America's Cup with this initiative by bringing women to the table for the first time, and youth sailors, under the banner of the America's Cup."

"Remember, the AC started off before the US Civil War, making it the oldest in modern history, and the most prestigious sporting event in the world for all of its 170 years. Now for the first time, women have the opportunity to play the game at the highest level, and I applaud that because, the potential of women in this sport is enormous. Being given a platform where they can compete using super high technology gear will bring a new cohort of interested people into the sport as a result. It's a breakthrough," said Bertrand in closing.

OK. There it is. There is so much more on the group's websites for you. Simply use the search field, or 'edition' pull-down menu up the top on the right of the masthead to find it all. Please enjoy your yachting, stay safe, and thanks for tuning into

John Curnow
Editor, Sail World AUS

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