The Microtransat Challenge


FAQ

Q: Is there an entry fee?
A: No, entry is free!
Q: Is any financial assistance available for travel or building my robot?
A: No, at this point in time we are not able to provide any financial support. Competitors are recommended to apply for their own funding/sponsorship.
Q: Is the competition restricted to just universities or can companies compete as well?
A: The competition is open to anybody including private individuals, universities, schools and companies.
Q: How many boats can each competitor enter?
A: Each competitor may enter as many boats as they wish.
Q: How long is it expected to take to cross the Atlantic?
A: We expect it to take around 2 or 3 months to cross the Atlantic.
Q: How likely is it that anyone will complete the race?
A: There's a good chance nobody will complete. If you do intend to enter the race, be prepared not to get your boat back! Saying that we hope that everyone does complete the race.
Q: Is there a prize for winning?
A: The only prize is the glory associated with being the first fully autonomous boat to cross the Atlantic.
Q: Why is the finish line so long?
A: We originally planned to finish between Martinique and St. Lucia as these are legally part of France it would be easy to transport the boats back to Europe without any import taxes. However several teams from outside the European Union have now joined and for them it is easier to finish in other places such as Florida. Therefore we have defined the finish line to be at 60 degrees west and between 10 (approximately 100km east of Trinidad and Tobago) and 25 degrees north (approximately 1200km east of the Bahamas). In order to prevent somebody accidentally drifting across the finish line each team must designate a circle 50km wide which they will aim for, they will only be considered to have completed when they hit this circle even if they cross the finish line somewhere else. When the West to East route was introduced in 2013, a similar length start and finish line were created to make the two routes comparable in difficulty.
Q: My boat is longer than 4 metres, can I compete ?
A: No, the maximum is 4 metres. This is an absolute maximum, if your boat is longer than 4 metres you must find a way to shorten it.
Q: Are multi-hull's allowed or is the competition restricted to mono-hulls only?
A: Yes multi-hulled boats are allowed.
Q: Are there any rules regarding the type and material of sails?
A: No, there are no restrictions on the types or materials of the sails.
Q: Are there any limitations on the height of mast and/or depth of keel?
A: There is no limitation on the height of the mast. The keel should ideally be less than 2 metres deep to ease recovery.
Q: Are pivoting keels or moving ballasts allowed?
A: Yes they are allowed.
Q: Instead of using a sail, can I used a wind turbine and propeller for propulsion? Or a kite instead of a sail?
A: Yes you can use kites or wind turbines. Although a wind turbine maybe more fragile and prone to failure than a sail and a kite needs to be kept flying even if the wind speeds drop.
Q: Do the boats have to include any kind of autonomous collision-avoidance system to prevent collision with other floating objects?
A: No you don't have to. The International Rules for Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLGREGs) define a vessel as carrying passengers or cargo, it is our understanding that this doesn't class an autonomous boat as a vessel and therefore exempts it from these rules. There is no current legal status for autonomous boats, from what we can tell in speaking to the IMO and both the UK and French coastguards it would be classed as a buoy not a vessel. By keeping the boats length at 4 metres most vessels wouldn't even realise a collision had taken place. Additionally we strongly recommend each competitor carry an all round white light visible from 2 nautical miles away, a radar reflector, make their boat highly visible and have clear warnings that it is unmanned. Competitors are free to implement collision avoidance if they wish (but are not required to by the rules) and to make use of technologies such as RADAR or AIS (Automatic Identification System)
Q: Are there any virtual buoys that must be passed during the race or can competitors follow any route they wish?
A: Competitors are free to choose any route they wish. Only the start and end points are defined. However competitors are advised to keep clear of shipping lanes, keep to international waters and to make use of the trade winds.
Q: Can I enter for both the West to East and East to West routes?
A: Yes you can. You could theoretically sail from the USA/Canada to Ireland, cross the West to East finish route and sail south and cross the East to West start line and sail back to the Caribbean. However we strongly suggest you bring your boat ashore in between and check it for damage and remove any barnacles and biofouling.
Q: What route should I take? Can I just sail in a straight line from Ireland to the Caribbean?
A: For the East to West route, we recommend you follow the trade winds and sail south towards Cape Verde before turning west and heading for the carribean. Sailing a straight line between the UK/Ireland/France and the caribbean means sailing through the azores high where winds are unlikely to be favourable. It also requires sailing through the sargasso sea where large amounts of seaweed and debris are known to collect. For the West to East route we recommend sailing up to north of 52 degrees (southern Newfoundland) to avoid shipping coming out into the Atlantic from Montreal and Eastern Canada. More details on optimal route choices are available in this paper by Professor Paul Miller of the United States Naval Academy. You may also want to consult the pilot charts of the Atlantic which show prevailing weather conditions and ocean currents.

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