Gibraltar Chronicle Logo
Local News

Racing yachts in close encounter with orcas off Gibraltar

Photo by Brend Schuil / Team JAJO / The Ocean Race

Two sailing teams competing in a round-the-world race had a scary encounter with a pod of orcas near Gibraltar, race officials said on Friday.

Two boats racing in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint had direct encounters with orcas in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Gibraltar on Thursday afternoon.

The teams confirmed 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.

Scientists are still trying to understand this 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,” the organisation said in a statement.

Most Read

Download The App On The iOS Store