New Snoopy Sloop model boat in unmanned Atlantic bid

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Media captionThe boat would have taken six months to complete the trip

A man whose unmanned model boat crashed hours into a bid to cross the Atlantic Ocean is to make a new attempt.

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.

With Snoopy still lost, work on a new boat has begun with Mr Lovelock hoping to launch it in the spring.

The attempt was 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.

'Wind up"

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

Snoopy has now been technically disqualified as it has been more than 10 days since it broadcasted a tracking message.

Mr Lovelock, from Sunninghill, Berkshire, initially blamed a strong tide for pushing the 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.

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

In an open letter on his website, Mr Lovelock said: "I'm hoping that you may decide to contact me and confirm my belief on what happened.

"Maybe you even have a photo, and you can give me permission to put it on my page to convince and entertain others?

"If I can be absolutely certain on what happened... I can stick to my existing design with complete confidence, saving some time here."

Mr Lovelock said it would not have been the first time Snoopy was taken. Two schoolboys took the craft home after spotting it on Bray Lake during tests.

They later contacted Mr Lovelock to inquire about a possible reward before returning it when it was clear the boat could be tracked.

A new boat of the same design, costing about £450, is now in development with hopes it can be launched in the spring.

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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