According to race organisers, two sailing teams competing in a round-the-world race had a harrowing brush with a pod of orcas on Thursday afternoon.
The two teams are a part of The Ocean Race, a global race that collects data on climate. The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint, a shorter three-leg edition of the competition, is being competed in by the two boats that came into contact with the killer whales. The Ocean Race comprises seven stretches across the globe.
Team JAJO, an Amsterdam-based team, was one of the crews on one boat. The other is crewed by the Portuguese team Mirpuri Trifork Racing. The incident took place at around 2:50 local time, the group reported in a news release, when the boats were moving through the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Gibraltar.
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There were several orcas participating, according to JAJO Team leader Jelmar van Beek. Both crews stated that there were no casualties and that there was no damage to the boats, but they said that the orcas had pushed up against the boat and had shoved and bit at the rudders. A boat once received a ram from an orca.
According to a news release from Team JAJO’s captain Jelmer van Beek, “We were hit by some orcas twenty minutes ago.”
Three orcas charged directly at us and began thrashing the rudders. It was impressive to watch the orcas, who are stunning animals, but it was also a risky time for our team. After a few attacks, they fortunately stopped, so we swiftly lowered the sails and slowed down the boat. This was a tense situation.
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The incident occurs after reports of orca assaults on vessels that appeared to be planned. Around Gibraltar, which is close to Spain, there have reportedly been numerous such incidents. According to studies, the number of times orcas have rammed the hull or rudders of boats has increased over the past two years, but it is unclear why.
52 such contacts were noted between July 2020 and November 2020 by GTOA, a team that investigates orcas in the Gibraltar region. There were 207 of these exchanges in 2022. According to The Ocean Race, the deterioration has caused sinking in at least three instances.
The whales appeared to have a strategy, according to a boat skipper who was attacked by orcas twice, once in 2020 and once in 2022, according to Newsweek.
He told Newsweek, “For the first time, we could hear them speaking under the boat. It didn’t take them very long to damage both rudders this time because they were stealthy. They appear to have done everything with precision. They left everything else alone.
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