A toy boat is expected to be launched, very soon, from a beach on the UK south coast and start an epic voyage lasting many months to reach the USA east coast. This little boat has sails only 1 metre high and weighs only 15kg. It has solar-powered electronics to steer itself using GPS, from the UK beach, westward along the English Channel, then south to catch the trade winds, and past the Azores, Bahamas, Bermuda and eventually land at it's secret destination in the USA. The boat is skippered by Snoopy the Viking.
This is Snoopy's fifth attempt to cross the Atlantic: the first was in November 2012, when he appeared on TV being launched from the beach at Barton-on-Sea. Sadly, his 5,000 mile plus journey ended sooner than expected: at the entrance to an old military bunker near The Needles on the Isle-of-Wight. That was the last we saw of him. But then Snoopy had a new boat, almost identical to the first, and tested with more months of continuous sailing on Bray Lake. This made two abortive attempts in March 2013, being beaten by the surf, but in October got away, only to end up on the Isle-of-Wight again. He was rescued, repaired, and waited months on Bray Lake for his next attempt, in September 2014. The result was the same: landing on the Isle of Wight, being rescued, and getting ready for another 2014 attempt. That was at the end of November - and this time he got past Weymouth ! Snoopy's amazingly tough little boat is ready to try again, in early 2015, having survived unscathed, from gale force winds and tidal currents.
Every attempt, we learn something new: in 2012, it was to watch the boat closely, in case of "human intervention". In March 2013, it was to wear waders, and launch when the surf is FLAT. In October 2013, it was to ensure the screw holding the rudder was tight, and held with Loctite ! In September 2014, it was to pick a day with more wind, and launch from a bit closer to Bournemouth !
Robin Lovelock started this hobby project seven years ago, aided by local friends, and testing is done on Bray Lake near Maidenhead, just twenty minutes drive from his home. The robot boats can navigate themselves around the lake, and since April 2012, "Snoopy Sloop", the boat designed to make the Atlantic attempt, has often been on 24/7 test, sailing back and forth in the corner of Bray Lake. In 2012, over 5,000 miles were sailed, in winds gusting above 50 mph, to give confidence in reliability. The same was done with the later boats, all sailing several thousand miles before their Atlantic attempts.
Bray Lake is the home of Bray Lake Watersports, who teach Sailing, Wind-surfing, Paddleboarding, and Kayaking. Activities also include Swimming, Battlefield Live, Segway, and Bungee-Jumping ! The lake is a popular destination for organised groups of school children, youngsters, and even pensioners. Simon Frost owns Bray Lake Watersports and has a passion for all activities on the water. Simon's guys have often had to rescue one of Robin's boats from the island, or an inaccessible bit of shore, in exchange for a donation to their "drinks kitty".
Robin's inspiration has been the many unsuccessful attempts by international teams, competing to be the first robot boat to cross the Atlantic. These other teams have far more resources than Robin's "last of the summer wine" team, and often meet at international conferences on robotics. The French first suggested this friendly "Microtransat" competition, years ago, and the rules are administered by Aberystwyth University. Several attempts have been made : the Welsh Team tried, but their boat was last seen somewhere west of Ireland and they never did find it. The French made four attempts, and the Americans, one. So far these robot boats have only survived for about a week. To make the crossing they will need many months! Maybe they needed the experience of Snoopy the Viking!
Simon Frost, Bray Lake Watersports. Tel: 01628 638860 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.braylake.com
<- if you want to visit Bray Lake and see Snoopy being put through his paces.
Robin Lovelock. Tel: 01344 620775. email: email@example.com www.gpss.co.uk/autop.htm <- for the latest news - including live tracking of Snoopy on a map, updated every hour.
Play the 3 minute Bray Lake Video to see surf-boarding, sailing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, bungee-jumping, Segway, Wildlife, and Snoopy fighting through other water traffic :-)
From 2015: SNOOPY RESCUED: SEE TRACK BELOW, FROM LAUNCH UNTIL 27TH MARCH, WHEN HIS TRACKER STOPPED. THEN ARRIVAL IN BRIGHTON ! :-)