Orcas threw a yacht around 'like a rag doll' and ripped off both rudders, the latest example of a killer-whale attack

  • A pod of orcas attacked a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar, ripping off both of its rudders.

  • The sailor said it felt as though the orcas were throwing the yacht around "like a rag doll."

  • There have been 20 incidents of orca attacks in the Strait of Gibraltar in the past month alone.

A British sailor had the rudders of his yacht ripped off by orcas in the Strait of Gibraltar, the latest of several killer-whale incidents in the area in recent weeks.

Iain Hamilton is now marooned in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on Spain's south coast, after a pod of five orcas attacked his yacht, he told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program on Monday.

He said he was sailing 20 miles west off the coast when he noticed a fin near his boat, followed by a series of increasingly jerky bumps.

"There was a very large whale pushing along the back of the boat, trying to bite the rudder," he told BBC Radio 4, adding that the big orca, along with four smaller killer whales, repeatedly bumped against the yacht.

"Then one of them managed to take off the rudder," he said.

Hamilton said it was "quite concerning" to be left with only one rudder, but the situation turned from bad to worse when the second rudder was torn off.

"We had no mechanism for steering the boat," he said. Hamilton added that the orcas "pushed us around like a rag doll."

The sailor told Radio 4 that he felt as though the orcas were being "almost playful" rather than aggressive, adding that they would have had the strength to destroy his yacht quickly if they wished to.

He also said the killer whales moved in a way that seemed "choreographed, almost, like synchronized swimming," according to the radio broadcast.

"They seemed to be playing with the rudders, and just inadvertently rendering the boat very vulnerable and in a fairly dangerous situation," Hamilton said in the interview.

It is unclear how the attack ended, or how the yacht got back to shore.

Hamilton went on to tell Radio 4 that the scale of orca attacks on the Strait of Gibraltar is far bigger than one might expect, referring to the Atlantic Orca Working Group's findings that there have been 20 incidents involving killer whales in the region in the past month alone.

Insider's Isobel Van Hagen previously reported on an incident last month in which a pod of orcas rammed a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar.

In a post on her blog, April Boyes, who was aboard the yacht, wrote a first-hand account of the event. She described the boat filling with water as the orcas "completely destroyed" the rudder.

Researchers are trying to work out why killer whales are increasingly targeting boats near Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, with one theory pointing to a single, female orca who may have been traumatized by a previous interaction.

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