Category Archives: Sailing

An American Finally Has Finished Dakar Malle: Focus Was Slow and Steady, Not Speed

The Motorcycles and Misfits podcast from Santa Cruz, California has put together a fantastic interview with local sailor Mo Hart, first American-born rider to finish the Dakar Malle.

This week on our motorcycle podcast we are joined by Mo Hart, fresh back from completing the Dakar Rally. This is no small feat, especially in the Malle category, which is the most challenging for competitors. This is where you have no support and have to maintain your own bike after a long day of riding. And taking the expense and skill it takes to compete, it’s no surprise that this is the first year that any American finished the race in the Malle category. Way to go Mo! We’ve got so many questions for Mo, including Emma’s probe into how you handle bodily functions out in the abyss of the Arabian desert.

Source: ASO Dakar 2023 Route
  • 14 legs
  • 16 days
  • 8,549 km
  • 4,706 km of “special legs”

And of course everyone knows the turtle and hare legend (slow is smooth, smooth is fast), which comes through in his description of finishing, keeping both his machine and body functional. It’s a race where almost anything can interfere and change everything in a split second.

Mo’s ride: KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA with American Rally Originals performance tuning

I found it very satisfying to listen to a real-world version of the turtle getting a medal, especially in contrast to all the flaccid-sounding noise that comes from “free speed extremists” who optimize for disposable lives and throwaway cages.

And on top of that you get insights into the mental and physical challenges for one of the hardest races in the world since 1979.

Dakar 2023 Malle Moto Team ARO

It’s a great interview for all the race-specific details, for sure, including safety of riding across extreme environmental, social and political conditions in Saudi Arabia.

Mo points out many times he started racing bikes only in 2015, which seems unbelievable, and that’s because his stamina and determination is linked directly to his long time on the US Sailing Team on campaigns to go to the Olympics.

The part about having to be primarily self-funded and going into heavy debt (Raised $1,885 from 12 donations while spending over $100K) to finance a race that makes him into a quiet legend is quintessentially on brand for American sailors.

It was one of the toughest Dakar events ever. Our goal was to get one American across the finish in the unassisted Malle Moto (Original by Motul) class. Mo Hart was able to do that for us.

It’s better than the Olympics, even on an old wave-pushing bathtub called the Finn. There might be a hint towards Mo’s training mindset there, not to mention when he reveals he grew up riding basic motobikes left in the dust by other riders:

Finn drag profile. Source: SailRaceWin

Congratulations Mo and Team ARO. The only thing missing is an electric bike.

222km/hr Wind-Powered Land Speed Sets New World Record

Team New Zealand have recorded the fastest wind powered land speed yet.

‘Horonuku’ named by Ngati Whatua Orakei meaning ‘gliding swiftly across the land’ did exactly that and was clocked at 222.4km/h in 22 knots of windspeed on Lake Gairdner in South Australia.

The design looks like an airplane sideways, much like a sailboat, hinting at the future.

Skipper Glenn Ashby sounds much like Maverick in Top Gun, navigating dangerous “shifts and puffs” like an F18 avoiding canyon walls… with zero visibility.

Amazing to watch

Cockpit ready. Source: Team NZ
Cockpit ready. Source: Team NZ

His cockpit recording could be the basis for the next action movie in the series: “Glenn, you have three months to put together a team….”

Even more remarkable is they started their attempt just this past summer.

The difference of course is that “save the world” fiction of Top Gun cares not at all about harm to planet (1950s power projection), while this real life story is the exact opposite demonstrating missions centered on actually saving the world.

If all the money wasted on the con game of “driverless” transit were spent on solar/wind energy instead, it would make a world of positive difference. Top Gun’s anti-drone narrative is about caring (nod to Blade Runner), but this one is humans caring for each other AND their environment.

In related sustainable high efficiency news, MIT announced an ultralight print than can be made into solar fibers/cloth or shell. Another speed record could soon become a blend of sun and wind.

Etymology of “Cockpit”

Around the 17th century (1600s) an experienced seaman was rated as “midshipman” because of the location of his duty, or his compartment below deck — it was the middle of the ship or midship for short.

Source: University of Wisconsin, Madison. Click to enlarge and find the midships label.

In the 18th century the title of midshipman transitioned to anyone who was a candidate for a commission on a ship.

From there the term midshipman came to mean an apprentice officer on a ship, someone who aspired for promotion.

That aspirational role seems to be where an old English term from the 17th century comes into play. An apprentice or servant was called a cocc (“one who strutted like a cock”)

The middle of the ship where an aspirational officer apprentice would roam like a proud chicken of the sea… thus probably generated the term “cockpit”.

The word “pit” likely referenced the midship again, where work was done or maybe also because the decks of a ship were lower versus high stern and bow.

The 1862 Man-o-War “Midshipman’s Diary: Cockpit Journal” makes this fairly plain to see.

Source: Archive.org

Today midshipman is still a term used to describe the entry level role for someone who wants to become commissioned as a naval officer. However, now it means an academy on land instead of constrained into the middle of a ship at sea.

Cockpit meanwhile somehow elevated way beyond the aspiring midshipman into the place on a vessel for command and control, such as the nose of an airplane or aft area of a sailboat.

One other thought on this topic is that chickens had a superstitious meaning at sea. “Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight” was one saying about where to put sailor tattoos. Another was that the cock tattoo on a right foot would prevent drowning.

It’s hard to find evidence for why such superstitions evolved. Some say it was because wooden crates often floated ashore after a shipwreck with chickens surviving despite them being unable to fly or swim. Some might say chickens were a source of food to ensure human survival, meaning they represented good luck after a wreck.

In any case I doubt midships with crates of chickens is where cockpit comes from. Perky ostentatious midshipmen seems the more likely story, given British sea humor and the fact that a term like “pigpen” was never used.

Unclaimed U.S. Lynching Monuments Display Lack of Redress

I found the following reflection on the national lynching memorial interesting because it shows the power of subtraction to display a failure in redress.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a professor of history at the Harvard Kennedy School who studies truth and reconciliation efforts from Belfast to Rwanda, believes that memorializing victims of structural racism is an important part of a larger movement of racial reckoning in the U.S. but that memorials alone are “insufficient to the harder work of transforming a society.” These efforts don’t go far enough, he told me, because they are too “passive” and easy to skip. He cited the importance of Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial being placed in the heart of downtown, and said that memorials need to “confront the spatial segregation that exists” and “penetrate areas that people cannot avoid.” A museum in Africatown, he worried, would allow people to “opt out” of learning about the history of the Clotilda.

Stevenson, the civil-rights lawyer and founder of the national lynching memorial, addressed this problem by adding a second set of steel rectangles to the memorial, each one representing a U.S. county where lynchings took place. He invited the respective counties to claim their monuments and to establish a memorial on their home ground to lynching victims. He also required each county to demonstrate that its community was taking steps toward economic and racial justice before acquiring its column. The unclaimed monuments that remain on display at the national lynching memorial serve as a reminder of the lack of redress across the country.

It’s deep within a story about the Clotilda, last known slave ship to enter the United States.

China Claims U.S. Aircraft Carriers Can’t Hide From New AI on Satellites

A new report out of China suggests it’s using AI on satellites to find and constantly track U.S. aircraft carriers, rendering them easy prey.

When USS Harry S. Truman was heading to a strait transit drill off the coast of Long Island in New York on June 17 last year, a Chinese remote sensing satellite powered by the latest artificial intelligence technology automatically detected the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and alerted Beijing with the precise coordinates, according to a new study by Chinese space scientists.

This is a long predicted shift from “on the ground” processing power for analysis, working through logistics issues (e.g. bandwidth performance, data integrity), to instead doing “real time” analysis on-board sensors in the air.

A core tenant of aircraft carriers has been, of course, they sail hundreds of miles away undetected while unleashing massive airborne devastation.

The threat of constant tracking using new global sensor networks means in simple terms naval strategist have to expend far more effort to engage carriers safely.

Submarines and fast attack boats, beyond the reach of satellite technology and able to sail undetected more easily towards targets, become a more logical physical platform for launching airborne attacks from the sea. It’s the kind of thing both Iran and Ukraine have been proving grounds for lately.

Such developments mark a potential inversion of logic behind massive build-up of the U.S. Navy that stretch back to the 1980s. Allegedly a June 1977 dinner with Graham Claytor (Navy secretary under President Carter) led to a famous “Ocean Venture” exercise that reamins relevant even to this day.

Mr. Lehman notes, the U.S. fleet participated “in a sophisticated program of coordinated, calculated, forward aggressive exercises—all around the world.” The Soviets would thereby see that, with any aggressive move they made, “the might of the U.S. Navy would be off their coasts in a heartbeat.”

Over 250 ships and more than a dozen countries in 1981, then under the racist President Reagan, set out to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that a giant NATO alliance could achieve dominance of the sea such that Russia would not detect navies (aircraft carriers in particular) until it was too late.

That’s a premise China would like to believe they have finally shattered by following a long-coming trend of on-board image processing with inexpensive sensors in the air.

As a footnote on blustery news about advances in technology, if you dig into a “dominance” narrative of the U.S. Navy technology during the 1980s you’ll also find surveillance history gems.

For example, ships in the Norwegian fjords were trivial to spot visually when covered in snow (bright white) sitting in deep dark waters yet at the same time hard to detect with even the best radar of the day because sitting beneath mountains.

British aerial reconnaissance of German battleship Tirpitz, near Bogen in Narvik Fjord, Norway, 17 July 1942. Click to enlarge. Source: IWM

This was well known in WWII and of course still true when NATO ships closed in on Russia in the Norwegian waters decades later. Moreover, nobody had bothered to heat modern ship antennas so NATO sailors had to climb in frigid weather to remove ice with hand tools.

There’s technology… and then there’s ignoring history while deploying technology into a world of already experienced variables. That’s a huge hint about why China is probably wrong, given how bad AI tends to be when pressed into actual service.

The reality of big data security (e.g. vulnerabilities in AI due to trivial integrity flaws, made even worse by satellite platform limitations) is another way to look at this.

China is doing what should be expected. They follow easy and obvious trends in big data, moving analytics to the edge and improving the sensor resolution. Yet China (let alone Russia) isn’t particularly known for being able to handle adversarial creativity and the unexpected (possible perturbations to defy expectations).

Carriers may sail another day, in other words, just by returning to the lessons of a bold “Ace” Lyons deception maneuver — ignore academic theorists decrying the end of carriers in 1981 by flying a dozen jets 1,000 miles from the USS Eisenhower to surprise buzz adversaries right in the middle of their naval exercises.

[Soviets] were particularly taken aback by the prowess of our commanders at sea in cover and deception operations. To kill a ship you need to find it first, and our commanders stayed up nights thinking up ways to bluff, trick, hide, and conceal their forces at sea so that they couldn’t be found.