A WELLS businessman has put the ship into sponsorship in a world first.

Craig Rackstraw, who owns a wireless technology firm, has designed tracking and monitoring devices to send two replica ships to circumnavigate Antarctica.

His company Bath-based Icoteq is supporting Harry, 10, and Ollie Ferguson, 12, in their 20,000-kilometre mission.

The equipment will report back via satellite the boats' location throughout the journey and sensor data measuring sea temperature and ocean pH, with images from an integrated camera sent monthly.

The metre-long scaled wooden replicas of 19th century warships will drift through the Southern Ocean following the circumpolar current around the coastline of Antarctica as part of Project Erebus.

Craig said: “We were contacted by the boys’ father, MacNeill Ferguson, to ask if we could advise him on the best tracker to buy online to fit to the boats.

"We were so inspired by his sons’ mission, we offered to build the technology for them.

“We developed a custom tracking and data monitoring device that incorporates a GPS receiver, air and ocean temperature probes, a pH probe to measure ocean acidity and a forward-facing camera.

"Position and scientific data will be sent back to us using an ARGOS satellite communication link.

“The boys will hopefully provide inspiration to other children and families.

"They’re both extremely hands on and have worked hard to make this happen.

"They built the boats as far as possible by themselves.”

Craig hopes low-cost sensors such as those used on Ollie and Harry’s expedition could be a viable way to help monitor climate change.

He said: "This is currently done using expensive complex equipment.

"If low-cost sensors combined with citizen science can contribute to the gathering of important scientific data, it could open the doorway for larger scale monitoring at a fraction of the price.”

Ferguson said: "It’s like a mission to Mars.

"We cannot rescue the boats once they're launched, so we have to plan every detail."

The vessels are due to leave for South Georgia and will be handed over to the territory’s government to be taken on board a fisheries patrol vessel, from which they will be launched 160km north into the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.

Ollie and Harry already hold the world record for the longest distance travelled at sea by a toy boat, which sailed more than 15,000 km through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.