First Sea Lord launches Mayflower Spirit

Britain’s senior sailor helped launch a ‘new’ Mayflower – 400 years to the day pilgrims left Plymouth for the New World.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin joined the American and Dutch Ambassadors for quadricentennial celebrations of the original ship’s departure from Devon – celebrations brought bang up to date with the launch of one of the world’s only fully autonomous ships.

At Plymouth’s historic Barbican, Admiral Radakin and Ambassadors Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson and His Excellency Karel van Oosteron saw Mayflower Autonomous Ship commissioned with a traditional bottle of Plymouth Gin poured over her bows to mark the occasion.

The 21st Century Mayflower is a solar-powered, artificial intelligent and fully-autonomous trimaran marine research vessel built to sail the world’s oceans and collect vital environmental data.

It has been designed to provide a safe, flexible and cost-effective way of gathering data. The Mayflower is intended to transform oceanography by working in tandem with scientists and other autonomous craft to help understand critical issues such as global warming, micro-plastic pollution and marine mammal conservation.

It is fitting that we are here in Plymouth, the UK ocean hub and a city which has been vitally important to the Royal Navy for centuries – and remains vitally important to us today

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin

“Here we train alongside our partners from all over the world, including the United States of America and the Netherlands.”

He continued: “Our partnership with Plymouth is firm strong and enduring, and here too some of the UKs cutting-edge maritime technology and marine autonomy takes place, and this vessel is just one example of that work.

As your Royal Navy continues to transform and modernise, I am excited by the potential for autonomy to increase our availability, our sustainability and our lethality – and to do so with our international partners.

“That is why the Royal Navy is here today alongside the USA and the Netherlands supporting the Mayflower 400 programme.”

Admiral Radakin also visited some of the local industries involved with the Royal Navy’s new technology projects, notably Thales at Turnchapel Wharf and MSubs at Estover, who are developing autonomous submarines for the US Navy.

And he saw the city’s cultural transformation with Plymouth’s new £46 million museum and art gallery, which houses several restored historical figureheads previously held in Devonport naval base.