Sixth Form hopefuls are in the running to be the first group to have ever successfully sailed an autonomous model boat across the Atlantic Ocean.

Epsom College students have received Royal Navy backing in their bid to take on the Microtransat Challenge.

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Launched in 2005, the event aims to stimulate the development of fully autonomous model sailing boats capable of crossing the Atlantic as part of a student-led STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) project.

Although a number of university-led teams have tried and failed at the Challenge, the Epsom College crew are confident that they have created a boat with the potential to accomplish what nobody has been able to do before.

To date, all of the 12 Microtransat attempts have been unsuccessful including one by the United States Naval Academy team whose 1.2m boat, Aboat Time, managed only 408km in 5 days 11 hours before being caught in a fishing net.

An HMS Pursuer, an Archer-class P2000 patrol and training vessel will take ten boys and girls from Portsmouth to their chosen launch point off the south-west coast of England from where the College students will release their boat, That’ll Do.

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The Challenge has involved up to 20 students in different capacities but the main core and driving force behind the project were Charlie Steward, Tim Lazarus, Jamie Gleave, Aiden Findlay and Tom Egan who are all Year 12 and 13 students.

Leading the team is Jamie Styles, Epsom College’s Head of Chemistry, but the challenge has also brought together staff from a range of departments including Mathematics, Geography, Physics and Computing.

A mammoth task to undertake for sixth formers alongside their academic work, they have been working on the design of the boat since September 2015.

In May this year, the team successfully launched a high altitude balloon to 35,000 metres in order to test some of the boat’s components.

To track the progress of their boat, students and staff will use a GPS module which calculates the boat’s position and software the students have coded themselves will help them to determine a heading to the next waypoint.

Amazingly, the boat has the ability to transmit its location every hour, from anywhere in the world, and the USB datalogger records its position every 30 minutes.

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Mr Styles said: ‘Having the Royal Navy support us in this school engineering project will make a real difference.

"One of the hardest challenges is getting the boat away from the shore and having a lift to the start line will undoubtedly increase our chances of success.2

If successful, the boat should arrive in Antigua in six months’ time.

You can follow the progress of That’ll Do as it live tweets from the ocean via @Epsom_Transat.

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