Mini Transat attacked by orcas
Published on October 13th, 2021
The 23rd edition of the Mini Transat has completed the first leg of 1350nm from France to the Canary Islands, and as the Mini 6.50 Class solo skippers prepare to start the 2700nm final leg across the Atlantic to Guadeloupe on October 29, talk of orca strikes was among the debrief.
For the past year, reports of rogue killer whales attacking boats off the coast of Spain and Portugal have made headlines, so when 90 21-footers passed along this corridor soon after the start, the odds were good that conflict would occur again.
Jay Thompson (USA), 9th in the prototype division:
“This first leg was an adventure from beginning to end. I knew there would be things that would go on during the race that would be unpredictable, but I hadn’t imagined that I’d encounter an orca and that it would make off with the lifting surface of one of my rudders after spinning the boat round 360 degrees! Was I frightened? I didn’t even have the time to be scared as it all happened very quickly.”
Felip Moll Marquez (ESP), 55th in the production division:
“I managed the start of the race well with the exception of one thing: I was attacked by orcas at night, just before the front. I think it was the second day out. They began to push my boat and play around with it. It was frightening!
“The front rolled in then, which I handled pretty well. We had 37 knots. It enabled me to escape and get away from the orcas. I didn’t notice any damage to my boat before the severe weather warning. However, my autopilot stopped working … I think the orcas broke it when playing around with my rudder.
“I didn’t sleep for three days as I had to helm non-stop. It was a bit complicated. I don’t really know how I managed to deal with the lack of sleep. I brought the boat to a stop from time to time, but I did have a second autopilot. I tried to install it and in the end it worked!”
After a one day postponement, the 23rd edition of the Mini Transat, reserved for the Mini 6.50, the smallest offshore racing class at 21-feet, got underway on September 27, 2021.
A notable proving ground for sailors with shorthanded aspirations, it is also test platform for new boat types, with 65 competitors entering in the production division for manufactured boats while the prototype division has 25 entrants with custom designs.
Held biennially, with limited participation for safety that includes strict qualification guidelines, the 4,050 nm course is divided in two parts: Les Sables d’Olonne (France) to Santa Cruz de La Palma in the Canaries (Spain), restarting on October 29 for the finish at Saint-François in Guadeloupe.
Source: Mini Transat