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Orca pod attacks Ocean Race boats near Gibraltar

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The crew of the Ocean Race’s Team JAJO endured several heart-stopping minutes on their approach to the Strait of Gibraltar on Thursday when their boat came under attack from a pod of orcas.

Video footage shows the orcas, also known as killer whales, circling the Dutch yacht, before accelerating towards it, ramming into it, and biting the rudders, while the crew bangs on the hull in an attempt to drive them off.

“This was a scary moment,” Team JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek said.

“Three orcas came straight at us and started hitting the rudders. Impressive to see the orcas, beautiful animals, but also a dangerous moment for us as a team.

“We took down the sails and slowed down the boat as quickly as possible and luckily after a few attacks they went away.”

The Mirpuri/Trifork Racing team of Portugal also reported a run-in with orcas, organizers said, adding that there were no injuries or damage to either boat.

Authorities have noted a steady increase in interactions between orcas and vessels in the Strait of Gibraltar and Portugal, with more than 20 incidents in May alone.

In some cases, boats have been significantly damaged, at least three to the point of sinking, organizers said, and the behavior appears to be spreading among different killer whale family groups.

Earlier this week, an orca repeatedly rammed into a yacht in the North Sea off Shetland, in the first such incident in northern waters.

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