The Computer Scientist


Nathaniel Pankhurst saw the advertisement for an internship at Land Rover BAR on the placement website at the University of Portsmouth. It was February and he was half-way through the second year of a Computer Science degree, and knew almost nothing about the team.

“I didn’t know anything about the team prior to that, I don’t think I even knew who Ben [Ainslie] was. I looked up a few things and got a better understanding of the team and what the team represents; alongside their aim to win the America’s Cup they also want to be the most sustainable sports team and leave a lasting legacy and that really drew me in. It felt like an amazing opportunity, so I dropped in the application.

“I had only been a developer, I had never had anything to do with sailing. I have never had anything to do with the maths behind sailing, but yes, I came in for an interview in March last year. I had a chat to Tom [Cheney; lead developer in data analysis and testing team], we had a talk about what the team are doing here and I provided an insight into my skills.

“I got the offer the same day, I accepted it the same day and started on 1st June. Nathaniel started working on the race management tool, a software application that the team used to run its own internal practice racing in a way that would simulate the way it was done by America’s Cup Race Management.

“The first few days of my internship started with trying to make that look a little bit more human-friendly. Then I started getting introduced to the recording of weather and Replay [a data analytics tool]. I’ve contributed to the POIs [Points of Interest] and how we view the sailing, and how we did in the sailing after the fact – creating and managing the POI explorer.

“I think it [being here] has prepared me for the world in a way that I could never have asked for, being introduced into such a team. Everyone here, it doesn’t matter whether you’re an undergrad, a postgrad, if you’ve got 20 years of experience in the field; it doesn’t matter if you even know anything about sailing, your voice and your ideas are accepted and looked upon in the same way as everyone else in the room. It doesn’t matter what your background is, you have got the same voice and they are happy to listen to your ideas.

“At Land Rover BAR, you really do get an idea of being part of a team, a better idea of learning from your mistakes because your mistakes are real mistakes. You have to take responsibility for the tasks that you are doing, you have to be a lot more ready to turn up and put in that bit of extra time if you’re behind, because you feel a lot more part of it as opposed to being 9 to 5. It’s a lot more, ‘Right, I’m behind on this. I want to pick it up, I want to get it done over the weekend so that I can have it in on Monday to produce and show to people.’ It’s just an amazing situation.

“There is still a lot that I have got to learn, but it has just opened up an entire new world for me to look through. I go back to university in September, I’m going up to finish all of my studies. I think what I can take from this, and what I have taken from this, is that I have so much more to learn, and how to put your voice out into a team.”