Another boat wrecked after killer whales taught each other to attack them

The crew of a sailboat were forced to call the coast guard for help when a group of orcas rammed their vessel and broke the rudder and pierced the hull.

The Mustique was on its way to Gibraltar just off the south coast of Spain, when it was set upon by the group of angry killer whales early yesterday (Thursday, May 25).

The frightening attack adds to dozens of orca attacks on vessels so far this year on the Spanish and Portuguese coasts.

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A rapid-response vessel and a helicopter were sent to assist the 20-metre (66 feet) vessel that had four crew and was sailing under a British flag.

It was then towed to a nearby port for repairs.

It comes as reports of a vengeful orca that is training fellow killer whales to attack yachts around Gibraltar.

Researchers think the ring leader, called Gladis, has a vendetta that started after she was hit by a boat or trapped in an illegal fishing net.

"That traumatised orca is the one that started this behaviour of physical contact with the boat," said Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and a representative of the Atlantic Orca working group.

But the vindictive apex predator isn't content with simply attacking boats herself – the rest of the local killer whale population are joining in too, after learning how to ram into vessels by copying her, reports the Telegraph.

On May 2, six orcas crashed into the hull of Bavaria 46 which was sailing in the Strait of Gibraltar near Tangier in Morocco at the time.

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Skipper Greg Blackburn was already up against the elements, facing "heavy weather", strong winds and a rolling swell of two to three metres, when the group of whales hit the rudder of his boat.

"We were like: 'There's definitely something down there,'" Blackburn, from Leeds, told 9news. "After that was when we got the first sighting of them."

Two orcas launched the attack, ramming into the side of the boat, and four more quickly joined in.

"Once the main pod turned up it looked like there was a matriarch with a calf," he said.

"After reading reports and knowing what has been going on, I just thought we were in for a ride now."

After about an hour the orcas lost interest and swam away, leaving the skipper and fellow sailors unharmed.

But Bavaria 46 suffered huge amounts of damage that ended up costing thousands to repair.

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