Robotic boats find clear sailing in Gloucester Harbor

From left, the Endicott College team adjusts its boat; the team from Aberystwyth, Wales,  keeps tabs  on its craft offshore; Sims Gautam of  the Albemarle (Va.). High School team.
From left, the Endicott College team adjusts its boat; the team from Aberystwyth, Wales, keeps tabs on its craft offshore; Sims Gautam of the Albemarle (Va.). High School team. Photos by Bill Greene for The Boston Globe

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GLOUCESTER – The robotic sailing team from Olin College in Needham wants, one day, to build a boat that will be able to sail itself across the Atlantic. First, however, these ambitious engineering students had to conquer Gloucester Harbor.

The group is one of 18 teams that gathered last week to participate in the seventh SailBot International Robotic Sailing Regatta, a competition that challenges high school and university teams to create unmanned boats that can follow a course and steer around obstacles without human control.

For five days, a fleet of scaled-down sailboats zig-zagged through the water off Pavilion Beach as their creators watched, fingers crossed, from nearby boats. Teams came from as nearby as Gloucester High School and Endicott College in Beverly, and as far away as Vancouver and Wales.

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