In a most unlikely accident, a 30-foot humpback whale breached out of the water during a sailboat race in the Pacific Ocean Thursday, snapping off the mast of L’Orca, one of boats in the race.
Then the whale was gone, leaving behind only bits of scraped-off skin and blubber, a broken mast and some messed up rigging. The boat could not continue in the Oregon International Offshore Race.
The accident occurred about 30 minutes into the race, which began at 9 a.m. at Buoy 2 near Astoria, Ore., with a destination of Victoria, B.C.
Ryan Barnes, son of boat owner Jerry Barnes of Sandy, Ore., provided this account to U.S. Coast Guard officials in a video posted by the Daily Astorian:
“Our boat speed was about 9 knots over the water. All of a sudden, a few inches or a foot maybe off the starboard side, a whale came breaching out of the water … hit the mast about halfway to three-quarters of the way up and proceeded to fall forward off the starboard side of the boat.
“The mast came down as well as the forestay and all the rigging, and our toe rail and all our lifelines on the starboard side of the boat were demolished as well. No crew was injured. The crew was all in the cockpit at the time.”
After the whale was gone, the crew came out on deck and cleared the lines and other hazards. Other boats in the race came to assist before the Coast Guard arrived to provide assistance to Astoria. The Coast Guard video also shows the damage to the boat and bits of blubber left behind.
The incident sounds similar to a whale-boat encounter last summer off South Africa, when a southern right whale crashed into a sailboat. In a video by CBS News, technicians were able to slightly enhance the original video taken from another boat. Here’s an interview on The Today Show with the boat’s occupants.