Cape Town - A Southern right whale and a yacht were in collision on Saturday during the Intasure Spring Regatta in Simon’s Town.
The skipper, crew and the whale survived the ordeal, but the vessel was seriously damaged and had to be towed to Simon’s Town harbour.
Rodney Tanner, skipper of the Bad Habit, a modified 35-foot yacht, said he and his crew of eight had no idea the vessel was on a collision course with the huge mammal until it was too late.
“We were working through very difficult conditions, with the wind at 35 knots and a 2-metre swell and we could not see the wildlife in the water, and had no clue of what was bearing down on us.
“We felt a triple bump at the back of the boat, then the whale surfaced with its tail thrashing about.
“It appears that the whale had come between the rudder and the keel, and in about 10 seconds it tore off the rudder and broke open the stern,” Tanner said.
The boat rapidly took on water and “the crew had to go into survival mode as the vessel was in serious danger of sinking”.
The skipper said that within 10 minutes they were knee-deep in water. He was also struck in the face by a tow rope during the rescue.
The collision caused the transom-mounted rudder to be ripped off, leaving a hole about half a metre wide below the stern deck, which caused a massive inflow of water.
The crew used life-jackets, sails, seat cushions, and pieces of the yacht to plug the hole, the NSRI said in a statement.
Three of the yacht’s crew were injured: one was treated for hypothermia and near drowning symptoms; another for bruising to her knees and a third for a laceration to a lip.
The remainder of the crew was unharmed.
The media boat at the event was first on the scene and rendered assistance by taking Bad Habit in tow.
Trevor Wilkins, who was on board, said they were hampered by bad conditions.
Wilkins commended the NSRI for the way they handled the situation, rescued the crew and brought Bad Habit to safety.