Along with many news outlets, we recently reported on the unusual number of incidents of orca strikes on boats off Gibraltar. This has led to speculation that the whales are teaching each other how to do this and that perhaps it’s retribution for our intrusion on the sea, or possibly just games. In this latest incident, as with all mischievous acts, the perpetrators attempt a getaway to avoid the limelight. If the orcas were hoping to hide their tracks, they made a mistake in attacking the VO65s racing in The Ocean Race, one of which happened to catch them on video as they bit the rudder of the VO65 Team JAJO.
The video includes the same “inappropriate” language we all might use while being attacked or being playmates for orcas.
Team JAJO and Mirpuri Trifork Racing 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 the boats, or in at least one case ramming into them and nudging or biting at the rudders.
“Twenty minutes ago, we got hit by some orcas,” Team JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek said 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.”
As reported earlier, many boats have been attacked (or played with) and damaged, with three being sunk. None of the orca attacks or sinkings have resulted in a loss of life.
For the scientifically inclined, the Ocean Race provided a link to an article in Scientific American with more detailed hypotheses about the puzzling orca behavior.
Both VO65s emerged a bit rattled but unscathed and have carried on racing to Genoa, Italy.
Given the history of the many unresolved whale strikes, there have been many discussions on whether the boats are ramming whales or the whales are ramming boats. Team JAJO plans to bring the video evidence to a personal injury lawyer after writing down an 800 number from the back of a passing Muni bus. Even though the evidence appears black and white, many see some gray zones.