THE British crew of a luxury yacht feared for their lives after a pod of 30 orca whales attacked their boat – and even made off the rudder.
Martin Evans, 45, and Nathan Jones, 27, were part of a three-man crew delivering the vessel from Ramsgate, Kent, to Greece.
The 25ft orcas bizarrely circled and smashed into the boat for two hours, before one munched on the rudder, and swam off with a chunk in its mouth.
The team feared for their lives during the attack near the Strait of Gibraltar, and shocking video shows the destructive animals attack.
They managed to sail the yacht to the peninsula at the southern edge of Spain, but were left stranded without a vessel when it was deemed too damaged to use.
Martin, who is originally from Slough but lives in Greece currently, said: “I was on watch at the time and the boat was on autopilot meaning it was self steering.
“We’d had problems with autopilot during the trip – every so often it would malfunction. I turned around and saw the wheel moving frantically left to right on its full lock.
“I thought ‘Oh my God, we’ve got a huge problem with the autopilot’ initially but then it was quickly obvious that it wasn’t the autopilot at all.
“I jumped round, took the helm, turned off the autopilot so I could manually steer and the wheel was just getting ripped from my hand.
“As I looked to my left and right – my port and starboard – there were orcas on either side of the boat, swimming along with us and bashing into the rudder.
“We were motoring with a sail up at that point, trying to make headway towards Gibraltar.
“The seas were fairly rough and we had to drop the sails and turn the engine and all of the electrics off.
“We had the Spanish coastguard contacting us because they’d heard over the radio that another boat ahead had seen us on their automatic identification system.
“An English skipper sent us a message saying ‘Kismet, Kismet, there’s orcas in the area’.
“We dealt with the initial orca attack for about an hour. There was nothing we could do, we just had to sit in the boat and wait for them to go away.
“We waited the attack out on the yacht with a cup of tea – the good British way to respond to killer whales attacking your boat.
“As this is going on and the rudder was going side to side, we knew it was going to cause damage because there was no way it could handle that amount of abuse.
“We could hear a clunking sound coming from the steering mechanism, giving us an idea that something had stretched, either the cables or the chains.
“We looked behind the boat and there were bits of rudder floating in the sea.
“The foam core that builds up the internal of the rudder had been torn out – whether it had snapped off from the orcas’ tails or chewed off with their teeth, we couldn’t tell.
“We saw one of the orcas cheekily swimming away from the boat with a chunk of rudder in its mouth.
“With the rudder damaged, we realised something was wrong with the actual steering system – this wasn’t just being bumped and assaulted by killer whales but we were really in a more dire situation.
“We were concerned that if the boat started to take on water and we began to sink then would we have to deal with the orcas in the water?
“We felt safe in the boat but wouldn’t have in the water, that would have been petrifying.
“Fortunately, the rudder was still attached to the boat, albeit damaged and we still had steering.
“We had about two hours of dealing with this orca attack and then as suddenly as they had arrived, they went away and we managed to get to Gibraltar.”
The journey from Kent to Greece should have taken the Halcyon Yachts crew 26 days but the boat will now stay in Gibraltar, following the attack on June 17.
Incredibly, Martin managed to keep his cool during the attack and was able to film the shocking moment that the orcas destroyed the rudder of the German-owned yacht.
Martin and Nathan have since flown to Greece and have decided not to sail past Gibraltar when returning to the UK on Martin’s boat, the Aqua Sue.
He believes that his vessel would not have survived the orca attack.
Martin said: “We were aware of the orca interactions that had been happening because our company had had boats attacked previously.
“I’ve got friends who are marine biologists around the world and they’re all interested in these very unusual developments where orcas have decided that they’re going to start attacking boat rudders.
“There was a stop on smaller yachts sailing along the coastline between Portugal and Spain earlier in the year due to these attacks but they’d mostly occurred further west from where we were.”