Race boats bumped by orcas in approach to Gibraltar Strait
Two of the VO65 boats racing in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint have had direct encounters with orcas – killer whales – in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Gibraltar on Thursday afternoon.
Team JAJO and Mirpuri Trifork Racing have both reported being approached by orcas around 1450 UTC. The teams subsequently contacted Race Control to confirm there had been no injuries and no damage to their boats, despite the orcas pushing up against or in at least one case ramming into the boat and nudging or biting at the rudders.
“20 minutes ago we got hit by some orcas,” said Team JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek after the incident. “Three orcas came straight at us and started hitting the rudders. Impressive to see the orcas, beautiful animals, but also a dangerous moment for us as a team. We took down the sails and slowed down the boat as quickly as possible and luckily after a few attacks they went away… This was a scary moment.”
The area around Gibraltar is becoming well known for what some are calling ‘orca attacks’ on boats, where an individual or pod of orcas repeatedly ram into a boat’s hull or rudders. In some cases, boats have been significantly damaged – at least three to the point of sinking.
There is some good background on this Orca pod here – https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-has-a-group-of-orcas-suddenly-started-attacking-boats/
Scientists are still trying to understand this new behaviour.
Fortunately for The Ocean Race boats today, the orca encounters were brief and relatively benign, although no doubt frightening, but with no damage to the people, boats or animals.
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