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10:16 Wednesday 05 September 2012  Written by Paul Miles

Snoopy prepared for self-navigating Atlantic voyage

Vistors to Bray Lake Watersports in Monkey Island Lane may have seen something strange sailing on the water over the past few months.

Since April, Robin Lovelock has been testing out his solar-powered 'robotic boat' on the lake in preparation for an epic voyage which will see the tiny vessel sail from the UK to the USA - all by itself.

Robin wants to be the first person to complete the Microtransat Challenge,  which aims to stimulate the development of autonomous sailing boats through competition.

Failing technology, storms and 'curious dolphins' have been blamed for sending previous boats to the depths.

Robin, from Sunninghill, is waiting for the perfect conditions to launch the boat - and the journey will take up to six months as it crawls along at 2-3 knots.

A former senior scientist for NATO and a manager in the UK defence industry, he started his 'hobby' over fours years ago.

"I just got hooked," he said.

Working with a group of six friends, the 'Last of the Summer Wine' team created the model boat which is 1.3 metres long, has sails of only one metre high, and weighs just 10kg.

It is fitted with an electronic automatic GPS guidance system which allows it to navigate itself along a pre-planned route.

At the helm is 'Snoopy', who will be attached to the boat and will be keeping an eye on proceedings.

On his decision to install the fictional character as captain, the 65-year-old who runs his own GPS software business Sunninghill Systems, said: "It is basically a wind-up to the academics and those that treat it seriously."

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