The Microtransat Challenge


History of the Microtransat

The Microtransat Challenge was originally conceived in 2005 by Dr. Mark Neal of Aberystwyth University and Dr. Yves Briere of the Institut Supérieure de l'Aéronautique et de l'Espace (ISAE, formerly known as ENSICA) in Tolouse, France. The first transatlantic race was supposed to take place from Portugal in 2008 but this was delayed until 2010 and the start point changed to Ireland.

Warm up events before the first transatlantic attempts

The first Microtransat competition took place on a lake near Toulouse, France in June 2006. Three teams (Aberystwyth University, ENSICA/IUT de Nantes and INNOC) took part.

The second competition took place on the Irish Sea off the coast of Aberystwyth, Wales, UK in September 2007. This was intended to give competitors a sample of what sailing at sea was like. Four teams from Aberystwyth University, ENSICA/IUT de Nantes, INNOC and Queens University took part.

Transatlantic Attempts

Summary of attempts to date

2010
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
September 11th 2010 Aberystwyth University Pinta 87 km autonomously
653 km until last message
18 days Lost, last position report on September 29th 2010 Tracking map

Team blog
2011
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
September 16th 2011 ENSTA Bretagne Breizh Spirit 194 km until recovery, possibly drifting for last 107 km 8 days Recovered at sea on September 24th 2011 Tracking map

Team Page
2012
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
June 27th 2012ENSTA Bretagne Breizh Spirit DCNS 229 km 4 days, 17 hours Washed ashore in Kilmore Quay, Ireland on August 19th 2012 Tracking map

Team Page

Photo of recovered boat in Ireland
November 27th 2012 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 8 12.5 km 8 hours Sailed into the Isle of Wight and lost. Tracking map

Team page
2013
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
July 3rd 2013 Ecole Navale Erwan 1 220 km4 days, 5 hours Recovered at sea by a passing boat on August 20th 2013 Tracking map

Recovered boat
October 11th 2013 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 9 28 km 15 hours Sailed into the Isle of Wight, recovered on Bouldnor shore, Isle of Wight on October 12th 2013. Tracking map

Team page
2014
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
May 16th 2014 United States Naval Academy ABoat Time 408 km 5 days, 11 hours Caught in a fishing net. Tracking Map
September 6th 2014 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 9 62 km 24 hours Sailed into the Isle of Wight, recovered near Hamstead Ledge, Isle of Wight on September 7th 2014. Tracking map

Team page
November 30th 2014 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 9 185 km 2 days, 9 hours Sailed into the Portland Island, recovered near West Weare, Portland on December 2nd 2014. Tracking map

Team page
2015
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
March 18th 2015 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 10 853 km, tidal effects dominate path after first 50 km 12 days, 9 hours Sailed into Brighton Beach on March 30th 2015. Tracking map

Team Page
June 13th 2015 United States Naval Academy ABoat Time 477 km 9 days, 9 hours Picked up by a fishing boat after running aground in Outer False Harbour, Nova Scotia Tracking map

September 1st 2015 ENSTA Bretagne and Dalhousie University Breizh Tigresse 1427 km, deviated from planned path after approximately 600 km 32 days, 6 hours Lost, last position report October 4th 2015. Disqualified October 14th 2015. Tracking map

2016
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
July 5th 2016 Epsom College That'll Do 374 km 4 days, 21 hours Position reports stopped on July 10th, found on Chesil Beach on July 17th. Tracking map
July 7th 2016 United States Naval Academy ABoat Time 324 km 6 days, 1 hour Caught by a fishing boat on July 13th. Tracking map
July 7th 2016 United States Naval Academy Trawler Bait 433 km 15 days, 20 hours Recovered at sea on July 23rd, wind vane found to be missing. Tracking map
September 12th 2016 Andy Osusky OpenTransat 898 km 24 days, 23 hours Disqualified on October 17th after 10 days without a position report. Last reported position 150 nm south of Newfoundland. Tracking map
Team Page
October 6th 2016 Team Joker Snoopy Sloop 10 84 km 22 hours Last reported close to the eastern shore of Portland Island. Disqualified on October 17th after 10 days without a position report. Tracking map
Team Page
October 16th 2016 Craig Gorton Gortobot V2 361 km 8 days, 1 hour Last reported approximately 55 nm north west of Cape Codd. Disqualified on November 4th after 10 days without a position report. Found in the Azores in July 2017. Tracking map
Team Page
2017
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
June 2nd 2017 SailBuoy SB Wave 4682 km, only sailing properly for first 2384 km. 68 days, 21 hours Picked up by a fishing boat on August 10th Tracking map
June 22nd 2017 United States Naval Academy ABoat Time 263 km 2 days, 18 hours Caught by a fishing boat on June 25th. Tracking map
June 22nd 2017 United States Naval Academy Trawler Bait 2113 km total, only sailing properly for the first 152km. Possibly caught by a fishing boat after this. 39 days, 3 hours Picked up by a fishing boat on August 1st. Tracking map
August 9th 2017 Phil Smith Phil's boat 267 km 6 days, 23 hours Picked up by a fishing boat on August 16th Tracking map
Team Page
2018
Start DateTeam NameBoat NameDistance coveredTracked time*StatusOther Information
June 7th 2018 Sailbuoy SB Met 5354 km total (until reaching finish line). 79 days, 12 hours Completed on August 26th Tracking map
June 26th 2018 Epsom College That'll Do Two 364.5 km total. 4 days, 11 hours Disqualified on July 10th after 10 days without a position report. Tracking map
July 30th 2018 Dalhousie University Sea Leon 3762.7 km total. 76 days, 2 hours Disqualified on October 24th after 10 days without a position report. Found in Ireland on Feb 21st 2019. Tracking map
September 16th 2018 Gortobot Gortobot v3 827.9 km total. 10 days, 5 hours Ran aground on Nantucket Island on September 27th. Tracking map

* Tracked time means the amount of time that the boat was transmitting its position to the race organisers. For boats which completed the challenge it only covers until they reached the finish line.

2010

The first transatlantic race started from Valentia, County Kerry, Ireland in September 2010. Although several teams had registered, only the team from Aberystwyth University were able to launch during this time.

They started on the afternoon of September 11th 2010 from approximately 4 nautical miles north west of Knightstown on Valentia Island. The boat was to sail towards a waypoint 30km offshore before heading south west towards a point between Madeira and the Azores. A north westerly wind prevented the boat from sailing directly towards its first waypoint and it began on a South Westerly course narrowly missing land only 6 hours after the start. Despite several attempts to tack towards the first waypoint, the boat failed to reach the waypoint and turned south in the early morning of the 13th. It then proceeded to sail south for a further 12 hours. At this point the main computer is believed to have failed. The boat then turned around and sailed North parallel to the Irish coast for another 14 days before messages from an independent tracking unit failed. A map of Pinta's progress can be found at http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-2010.php.

2011

The second transatlantic race started in September 2011 with a start line stretching north/south from a point approximately 160 km west of Brest, France to a point approximately 200km west of Bideford, England.

Only the team from ENSTA-Bretagne in Brest, France were able to launch. Their boat sailed for 8 days in total. Unfortunately it stopped making progress towards the start line after 2 days and gradually moved away from the start line, without having crossed it. The boat was spotted by a customs aircraft 2 days later, the aircraft was able to take a picture of the boat showing that one of the sails had sustained damage. The team then decided to rescue the boat and were able to recover it 4 days later. The course taken by the boat can be seen at http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-2011.php

2012

The third transatlantic race was open for the whole of 2012. The start and finish lines where the same as the 2011 competition. Two teams attempted, but failed to complete the Microtransat in 2012.

The team from ENSTA-Bretagne began their attempt in June using an improved version of their boat from 2011. Unlike their 2011 entry this successfully crossed the start line, but position messages from their SPOT messenger were very intermittent. After 113 hours of sailing the messages stopped arriving all together. At the end of August the boat was found washed up on the southern coast of Ireland some 300 miles from its last reported position.

In November Team Joker launched their boat Snoopy Sloop 8 from Barton-on-Sea in Southern England, it was programmed to sail 30 miles south into the English channel and then head West towards the start line. After two hours sailing straight towards the first waypoint, the boat moved for towards the east. After a total of just 6 hours the boat hit a rocky beach, near the Needles, on the Isle of Wight, it's tracker stopped, and it has yet to be found.

The course taken by both robots can be seen at the http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-history.php?year=2012

2013

The fourth transatlantic race was open for the whole of 2013, it added the option of a second route from west to east starting from a line to the eest of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and heading towards a line to the east of Ireland. Several North American teams had asked for a west to east route and registered for the 2013 competition, but unfortunately none of them had their boats ready in time to compete during 2013. Two European teams did attempt the traditional east to west route, which remain unchanged from 2012.

The first of these was Erwan 1 from Ecole Navale in Brest, France who began their attempt on July 3rd 2013, crossing the start line two days later and making good progress along their route. Unfortunately on July 7th, their boat stopped transmitting, it was recovered on August 20th about 20 nautical miles north of its last reported position. Photos of the recovered boat can be found in the Erwan 1 - Microtransat 2013 photo gallery.

In October, Team Joker made another attempt with their new boat Snoopy Sloop 9 that was based on a similar design to their 2012 entry Snoopy Sloop 8. They launched from the same location in Barton-on-Sea in Southern England on October 11th. The boat followed a different path to their 2012 attempt, being carried east and west by the tide, and after 15 hours it washed ashore on the Isle of Wight, although this time on a beach further east and with it's tracker still working. The boat was soon recovered and is being prepared for the 2014 attempt.

The course taken by both robots can be seen at the http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-history.php?year=2013

2014

The fifth transatlantic race was open from April 1st to December 31st 2014. A minor rule change was made, requiring boats to transmit and log their positions once every 6 hours instead of once every 24 hours. The start lines were also moved further offshore to reduce the chance of collisions with other boats, although many teams still chose to launch from closer to shore. There were a total of three attempts made to cross the Atlantic, one by the United States Naval Academy and two by Team Joker.

The US Naval Academy began their attempt on May 16th 2014 with their 1.2 metre long "MaxiMOOP" ABoat Time, from Cape Cod in Massachusetts and were aiming for Fenit near Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland. On May 22nd she was accidentally caught in the nets of the scallop dragger Atlantic Destiny based in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The crew were able to bring her on board and contacted the team. They noticed some small damage to the solar panels, but no water inside the boat. The boat was eventually returned to the team who hope to try again in 2015. Some photos of ABoat Time can seen in the photo gallery.

Team Joker made two attempts, the first began on September 6th 2014 from Barton on Sea in Southern England, the same location as their previous attempts. The boat used was Snoopy Sloop 9, the same boat used in their October 2013 attempt. There was only a very light wind and Snoopy became caught in the tides around the Isle of Wight and was dragged east through the narrow passage between Hurst Castle and the Isle of Wight, then dragged west and back through the passage and finally dragged east again. 24 hours after launch Snoopy was washed up on a beach near Bouldnor Cliff on the north side of the Isle of Wight, the team were able to rapidly recover the boat which had some damage to the rudder servo and keel. The team have uploaded some photos and videos of the launch and recovery to their website.

Team Joker's second attempt began on November 30th 2014 and launched from Boscombe Pier, approximately 12 km west of their previous launch site in Barton on Sea. The boat sailed well to its first waypoint approximately 25 km south of the start point, before turning west and heading for the next waypoint to the south of Prawle Point in Devon, approximately 150 km to the south west. The boat performed a small loop a few hours later due to the actions of a strong tide, but the proceeded to head west, although on a course which pointed due west instead of the intended south west. From around 9 AM on the 1st of December the boat became trapped by strong tides around Portland Island which took it on two loops around the eastern side of the island, before bringing it round to the western side of the Island on the morning of the 2nd and finally into Chesil Beach on the western shore of the island on the evening of the 2nd. The team were able to recover the boat a few hours later. The only major damage to the boat was from the rudder linkage. More information on this attempt is available on the team's webpage.

The course taken by all three robots can be seen at the http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-history.php?year=2014

2015

The sixth transatlantic race was open during the whole of 2015 and first half of 2016. Three attempts to cross the Atlantic were made by Team Joker, the US Naval Academy and a collaboration between ENSTA Bretagne and Dalhousie University.

Team Joker made the first attempt of the year with Snoopy Sloop 10. They launched on March 18th from Boscombe Pier, the same site as their second 2014 attempt. The boat initially sailed well reaching its first waypoint approximately 25km South of the start point after around 12 hours. It then progressed towards its second waypoint south of Prawle Point in Devon approximately 150 km further South West. After a few hours the tide began to dominate pulling the boat back to the east. This trend continued with the boat gradually making progress to the West until March 22nd when it was drawn into the tidal race around Portland Island and travelled in circles for a day, before heading further south and towards France and then starting to move East on the 26th. On March 27th the boat stopped reporting its position through its Spot tracker. It was found on Brighton beach three days later and recovered with little damage. The onboard tracker revealed that the boat had moved steadily north east since its last spot report before ending up in Brighton. More details, photos and videos can be seen on the team's website.

The US Naval Academy's ABoat Time was the next attempt to launch. They started on June 13th from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The boat made good progress but after a short while its course appeared to be heading too far north and straight for Nova Scotia instead of the Atlantic. On June 23rd the boat sailed into Outer False Harbour on Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia and was later picked up by a fishing boat. The fisherman handed her into the Canadian Fisheries Service at Yarmouth a few days later and she was eventually returend to the team. A software bug was later found that caused the boat to follow its previous target heading that happened to take it on a straight line towards Nova Scotia. The hull had suffered some damage including loosing its wind vane, breaking the rudder shaft and a small hole in the deck where the wind vane had been. This was probably caused by the fishing boat picking her up. A photo of the recovered boat can be seen on our Facebook page.

The third attempt of the year was made by ENSTA Bretagne and Dalhousie University with their boat Breizh Tigresse. The boat departed from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 1st. It sailed steadilyast until September 9th when it was just North of Sable Island. After this the course became erratic first heading north, then looping, heading south, continuing east and eventually looping several more times before tracking messages stopped on October 4th. Unfortunately the boat has not been recovered and it is unclear what went wrong.

The course taken by all three robots can be seen at the http://www.microtransat.org/tracking-history.php?year=2015

2016

The seventh transatlantic race was open during 2016 and early 2017. It saw the busiest year to date with a total of six boats from five teams launching.

The first team to launch was Epsom College who launched their boat That'll Do from the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Dragon in the English Channel near Salcombe in Devon on July 5th. Unfortunately the boat didn't make much progress west and was pulled east by the tide and wind. It stopped transmitting position reports on July 10th approximately 40 nautical miles/74 km East of the start position. The boat was found on Chesil Beach almost straight north of its last reported position on July 17th. She was badly damaged with a flooded hull, the mast was badly bent, the keel and rudder sheared off and signs of red paint on the hull. The paint may have been the result of a collision with another boat. Some photos of the recovered boat are available on the Team Joker website following their assitance with the recovery of the boat.

The second and third attempts were made by the US Naval Academy with two identical boats ABoat Time and Trawler Bait. These were launched simultaneously from Cape Cod, Massachusetts on July 7th. Both initially sailed straight east but were nearly blown back to shore by a storm on the 8th. They boat narrowly avoided coming back ashore but Trawler Bait appeared to have been damaged by the storm and began to follow a very erratic path but still headed in roughly the correct direction. ABoat Time recovered much better from the storm and made a good course towards the east until being accidentally picked up a fishing boat on July 13th. Trawler Bait remained at sea until July 23rd when she was recovered by a fishing boat. She had sustained damage to her sails and wind sensor during the storm and this explains why the track had been so erratic since the storm.

The fourth attempt of the year was by Andy Osusky and his boat OpenTransat. He launched from Renews-Cappahayden on the Eastern side of Newfoundland on September 12th. From the start the boat did not perform as expected and mostly sailed south instead of east. It stopped transmitting postion updates on October 7th and was disqualified on October 17th after 10 days without a position report. Unfortunately the boat was never found.

The fifth attempt was by Team Joker, relaunching their boat Snoopy Sloop 10 that they had used in 2015. They launched again from Boscombe Pier on October 6th. This is the same site as their 2015 and November 2014 attempts. The boat sailed well to its first waypoint approximately 25km South of the start point and then turned West, sailing a very straight track up until the late evening of the 6th, when the boat did a loop presumably due to sailing against the tide. It then recovered its Westerly course and continued to sail up until the morning of the 7th when the last reported position came in just to the East of Portland Island. The boat was never recovered and the team speculated that problems with the ruder not centring had caused it to sail a more northerly course than intended.

The sixth and final attempt of the year was by Craig Gorton with his boat Gortobot V2. This was launched from

2017

The eighth transatlantic race was open during 2017 and early 2018. T

2018

The ninth transatlantic race was open during 2018 and early 2019. Four boats competed from: Sailbuoy, Epsom College, Dalhousie University and Gortobot. It saw the first successful completition of the competition by SB Met.

SB Met from the Sailbuoy team were the first team to compete with their boat SB Met. They began their attempt from Newfoundland on June 7th. After 79 days at sea SB Met became the first boat to complete the competition when it crossed the finish line off the West coast of Ireland on the morning of August 26th. The team then sailed the boat home to Bergen in Norway, arriving there on October 5th. The jury declared SB Met the winner of the 2018 Microtransat for the Sailing class, unamnned division.

That'll Do Two from Epsom College launched their attempt on June 26th from just East of Sandown on the Isle of Wight. Their boat slowly progressed into the channel but its path appeared to be dominated by the tide. It unfortunately stopped transmitting position reports only 4 days later on June 30th and was declared disqualified on July 10th after no further position reports were received.

The third attempt of the year came from Dalhousie University with their boat SeaLeon which launched from near Syndey, Nova Scotia on July 30th. The boat progressed well to begin with and crossed the start line on August 18th. This made them only the 3rd boat to cross the western start line. The boat progressed well until August 26th when it turned north for no apparent reason, it then managed to correct this on September 7th and turned east again on September 18th. After September 25th the course became increasingly erratic with several circles, slow movement and eventually tracking stopped on October 14th. The boat was later found in Castletownbere, County Cork, Ireland on February 21st 2019.

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