Breaching whale damages sailboat off Oregon

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A sailboat participating in the Oregon International Offshore Race was struck by a breaching whale Thursday off the coast of Oregon. Thankfully, nobody aboard was injured.

The 38-foot vessel, ironically named L’Orca, was about a half-hour into the race from Astoria, Ore., to Victoria, Canada, when the whale breached and crushed the rigging and mast of the boat.


‘Our boat was moving at about nine knots over the water, and all of a sudden, about a few inches, maybe a foot off the starboard side, a whale came breaching out of the water,’ crew member Ryan Barnes of Portland, Ore., told the U.S. Coast Guard in a videotaped interview. ‘It looked to be a humpback whale, about 30 feet in length roughly; it hit the mast about halfway to three-quarters of the way up, and proceeded to fall forward and on the starboard side of the boat.

‘The mast came down as well as the forestay and all the rigging, and our tow rail and all our life lines on the starboard side of the boat were demolished as well.’

Barnes said that the vessel did suffer some cosmetic damage in addition to the broken mast and rigging, but the crew, including his father -- boat owner Jerry Barnes -- was in the cockpit at the time and no one was injured. A U.S. Coast Guard rescue vessel responded to the scene and escorted the damaged boat and its occupants back to Astoria.

Unlike a whale vs. sailboat incident off the coast of South Africa last year, no photos have yet surfaced.

And while it’s uncertain what injuries the whale sustained, they were likely minor. It did, however, leave behind a small memento of the incident.

‘We have some nice pieces of whale blubber as a souvenir and proof of what happened,’ Barnes said.

-- Kelly Burgess

Video: Ryan Barnes describes the whale breaching and striking his father’s 38-foot sailboat, the L’Orca, during the Oregon International Offshore Race. Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert / U.S. Coast Guard via YouTube