Southern Right Whale Takes Yacht Out Of Race In South Africa [Video]

A yacht was badly damaged and three of its crew injured Saturday when it collided with a southern right whale in a regatta, just off the coast of Fish Hoek in South Africa.

According to Darren Zimmerman, station commander for the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Simon’s Town, they received an emergency call that distress reports had been received from the False Bay Yacht Club.

Reportedly, a 35-foot yacht under the name “Bad Habit” with seven crew members on board had been struck by a southern right whale and was taking on water and in danger of sinking, one nautical mile off the coast of Fish Hoek.

Zimmerman said in a statement that the yacht was taking part in the annual False Bay Yacht Club Spring Regatta and the emergency call was sent out at around 12:15 pm local time, after the yacht was struck by the southern right whale.

“The yacht had struck a whale accidentally while sailing at about 13 knots – or 24km/h – causing the transom mounted rudder to be ripped off the yacht, leaving a hole about half a meter wide below stern deck and causing a sudden and massive inflow of water.”

Zimmerman added that the crew of the yacht did everything they could to stop the boat from sinking, including using life-jackets, seat cushions, sails and “whatever loose bits and pieces of the yacht they could to plug the hole to stem the ingress of water.” See the photo included below.

southern right whale

Reportedly they even used their own bodies in an effort to plug the hole. They also used buckets to bail out as much of the sea water as they could.

According to IOL News, Rodney Tanner, skipper of the Bad Habit said that they had no idea the yacht was on a collision course with the southern right whale until it was too late.

“We were working through very difficult conditions, with the wind at 35 knots and a 2-meter swell and we could not see the wildlife in the water, and had no clue of what was bearing down on us.”

Tanner added that they felt a “triple bump” at the back of the yacht, followed by the southern right whale surfacing, its tail thrashing about. He said it looks like the whale had “come between the rudder and the keel” and it took around 10 seconds for it to tear off the rudder and break open the stern of the boat.

Southern right whale
Southern right whale breaching.

When the NSRI officers arrived at the scene, they took the yacht under tow, while the seven yacht crew members stayed on board, continuing their efforts to stop the yacht from sinking.

Once the boat arrived in Simon’s Town harbor, the NSRI used water pumps to extricate more water from the yacht and a 44-gallon drum was placed on the bow, filled with water as a counterweight to keep the boat’s stern out of the water. Officials then hoisted the yacht out of the water using a carry lift.

Luckily, the crew survived the experience; although, one woman was treated for hypothermia and near drowning. Her condition was apparently caused from swallowing water when trying to block the hole in the boat. Another crew member suffered soft tissue injuries and a third had a minor cut to the lip. The other four crew members of the yacht were uninjured in the incident.

According to Zimmerman, the same yacht had also been struck by a whale while sailing on Friday. Possibly the southern right whale didn’t like the name, “Bad Habit.”

The NSRI have released the following video on YouTube, showing their efforts while taking the damaged yacht out of the water at Simon’s Town harbor. At the end of the video, the damage to the stern can be seen.

[Photos by National Sea Rescue Institute, Nestor Galina/CC BY 2.0]