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Renewed effort to sail Snoopy model boat across Atlantic

Snoopy Sloop
Image caption Previous Snoopy Sloop voyages ended in failure shortly after launch

A man is making a renewed attempt in a decade-long effort to see his model boat become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic.

Retired scientist Robin Lovelock's 4ft (1.2m) boat, Snoopy Sloop, launched from Boscombe in Dorset earlier.

Within a few hours, the boat's GPS tracking device showed it heading north east back towards the shore.

Earlier efforts failed with the robot boat washed up on the Isle of Wight or thought to have been snatched at sea.

Mr Lovelock, of Sunningdale, Berkshire, insisted the latest incarnation was "very strong and unsinkable".

The project 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.

A Global Positioning System (GPS) computer has been designed to pilot the 14.6kg boat for the 5,000-mile (8,000km) journey.

It is aiming to take a route via the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, to eventually reach land at Plymouth, Massachusetts, US. The journey could take up to eight months.

Mr Lovelock took advantage of a "weather window" to launch the boat from Boscombe Pier earlier, after which he said it was "heading in the right direction".

He said he had "as much chance as anyone" of successfully getting the boat to the US.

"I'm confident about the software and programming, it's always something that breaks or human interference like a fishing boat.

"Every day it sails out to catch the trade winds, we'll be more confident," he added.

Image caption Robin Lovelock has programmed the boat for the 5,000-mile (8,000km) journey to the US

After several years of prototyping and planning, he launched his first attempt to send the boat, with a model of the Charles M. Schulz comic character on the bow, from Barton-on-Sea in Hampshire in 2012.

It hit trouble off the Isle of Wight six hours later and was found washed up on the island.

Other launches also ended in failure, including in 2015 when the boat was found drifting by Royal Marines.

The last launch in 2018 was cancelled over a technical fault.

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