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Mechanical problems end robotic sailboat’s attempt to sail Atlantic

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (LOG NEWS SERVICE) — A mechanical failure appears to have ended the attempt by a small robotic sailboat to make its way across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to the coast of Ireland.

The boat, developed by UBC Sailbot, a team from the University of British Columbia, had completed over 400 of its 1,600 nautical mile journey before high winds damaged the rudder mechanism and left it unable to turn.

UBC Sailbot said in a release on Aug. 29 that Ada, their autonomous sailboat, appeared to have experienced a rudder control failure, probably mechanical in nature (servo or linkage) and was currently headed south on a close-hauled bearing. The failure, they said, had occurred in over 20 knots of wind, while Ada appeared to be planning at 12.4 knots.

An online tracking system, which reported the boat’s position and other vital information every 20 minutes to the projects website, confirmed that the vessel was off course and drifting.

The 18-foot autonomous boat — named after Ada Lovelace who is often cited as the world’s first computer programmer — was launched on Aug. 24 and had been expected to reach Ireland in two to three two weeks.

Successfully sailing the robotic sailboat across the Atlantic was to be the culmination of a three year project to design and construct the unique craft by a group of engineering, electronic and computer students and recent graduates at the UBC campus in Vancouver.

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