New Atlantic Snoopy Sloop unmanned boat tested

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Media captionRobin Lovelock launched his first attempt last November

A man hoping to see his unmanned boat become the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean is testing a new model after the first attempt ended in failure.

Retired Nato scientist Robin Lovelock's 4ft (1.2m) boat Snoopy Sloop set sail from the Hampshire coast on 27 November but hit trouble after about six hours.

He believes it was snatched by someone, possibly a sea kayaker, and later released near rocks.

He has built a replica of the boat which he hopes to launch within weeks.

Mr Lovelock, from Sunninghill in Berkshire, said he plans to launch the new incarnation of Snoopy Sloop from the same point at Barton-on-Sea in Hampshire around the start of April.

'Strong tide'

The boat, which cost about £450, is being tested on Bray Lake in Berkshire.

The attempt is part of the Microtransat Challenge to become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic from a point to the south of the Republic of Ireland.

Image caption The boat's tracking system showed it on the Isle of Wight, instead of on its way to the Bahamas

Since 2010, two French boats have foundered in severe weather and a University of Aberystwyth vessel suffered technical failure.

Mr Lovelock initially blamed a strong tide for pushing his first boat eastwards from Barton-on-Sea towards rocks off the the Isle of Wight.

But he now thinks a third party may have seen the media attention surrounding the launch and paddled out to divert the boat as a "wind up" after following it online through its tracking system.

A Global Positioning System (GPS) computer was designed to pilot the boat for the 5,000 miles (8,000km) - taking about six months at 3mph to cross the ocean.

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