Last December we posted — so far, of the original 29 competitors in the Vendee Globe singlehanded around the world race, 5 have been forced to retire after being damaged by collisions with UFOs, unidentified floating objects. One of the five, French skipper Kito de Pavant, on his boat Bastide Otio, struck an object in the Southern Ocean which destroyed his keel housing, ripped off his aft keel mountings and left the appendage supported only by the hydraulic keel ram. Pavant was subsequently rescued by a French research and supply vessel.
The “unidentified floating object” which damaged Kito de Pavant’s boat, Bastide Otio, is unidentified no more. After analyzing video footage found on a hard drive taken from the sinking boat, the distinctive head of a sperm whale can be seen briefly surfacing aft of the boat shortly after the collision. Sadly, it seems unlikely that the whale survived being run down at 16 knots by the keel of the 8 tonne IMOCA Open 60 racing sailboat. Pavant was not injured during the collision.