Orcas toss yacht 'like a rag doll' in Gibraltar Strait attack

A pod of five orcas, or killer whales, attacked a yacht in the Strait of Gibraltar. The British sailor and owner of the yacht, Iain Hamilton, found himself in a precarious situation when the orcas ripped off both rudders of his yacht, disabling him from steering. In describing the incident with BBC Radio 4, Hamilton recounted, "We had no mechanism for steering the boat. [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.

This incident is not unique. A sudden surge in orca attacks on sailing vessels has been reported, with 20 such incidents recorded in just the past month by the Atlantic Orca Working Group. These encounters may appear playful and coordinated at first, but they often lead to significant damage to the vessels involved. To determine the cause of this unusual behavior, researchers are examining theories, one of which proposes that a single traumatized female orca might be instigating these aggressive interactions.