Retired NATO scientist's boat was damaged just hours after departure

A five-foot British boat that was attempting to become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic has been ‘wrecked’ near The Needles, just hours after its departure.

Retired NATO scientist Robin Lovelock’s boat, Snoopy Sloop, left Barton-on-Sea, Hampshire on Tuesday at around 11.30am.

But by 6.45pm strong tides had pushed the boat onto land near The Needles.

On his website, Mr Lovelock wrote: ‘Snoopy is wrecked near The Needles. We have an offshore north wind now bashing him against rocks.

‘Depending on damage, he can either be relaunched… or be fixed to sail again soon.

‘However, this seems increasingly unlikely. The good news is that he worked well – and he was very unlucky.

‘A launch an hour earlier, or from a few hundred yards further west, and he might have made it past The Needles.’

Snoopy Sloop cost Mr Lovelock £450 to build and he has spent four years developing it on Bray Lake, Berkshire, where the boat has logged about 5,000 miles of sailing.

It has eight solar panels on its deck, powering a five-volt battery that runs a motor to control the rudder and the GPS.

Mr Lovelock was hoping it would make it to the Bahamas, via the Azores – a voyage that was scheduled to take six months.

Several teams have tried – and failed – to cross the Atlantic unmanned in recent years, as part of a competition started by French hobbyists a few years ago. Their rules state that boats must be wind-powered and can report their position by GPS.

A team from Aberystwyth University lost their boat off the coast of Ireland in 2010 and two French attempts failed within the first week.