'Killer whales attacked my yacht for 45 minutes'

Media caption,
The orcas repeatedly rammed the yacht

A Scottish yacht owner has described how his boat was attacked by three killer whales off the coast of Spain.

Graeme Walker, his wife Moira and their friend Stephen Robinson were targeted early on Tuesday morning.

Mr Walker, from Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, felt a sudden jolt as he was at the helm of the 48ft yacht, before spotting one of the orcas.

The retired chief financial officer told BBC Scotland: "We realised they were after the boat."

During their 45-minute ordeal, off Cape Finisterre, they prepared the life raft as the Promise 3 was rocked and spun round.

They later discovered a 1.5sq ft chunk had been bitten out of the fibreglass rudder.

Speaking from La Coruna, where the yacht is undergoing repairs, Mr Walker said: "I felt a thump on the boat and the helm was pulled out my hand.

"I was not really sure what was happening, then one of the animals broke the surface, on the left hand side of the boat, for breath."

Image caption,
The yacht's rudder was badly damaged by the whales

Mr Walker admitted he had been worried because "you never know how these things are going to play out".

He added: "None of us have ever been through anything like this before."

He believes two juvenile orcas were responsible for the initial attack but a third one, which was "a lot bigger", soon arrived on the scene.

Mr Walker called the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Finisterre who advised him to ensure the sail was down and the engine off.

The operator said the orcas would probably lose interest after 10 minutes - but they continued to attack the 12 tonne boat for 45 minutes.

Image caption,
Mr and Mrs Walker feared they might have to leave the yacht on a life raft

Mr Walker said: "The boat would literally spin through 90 degrees when the animals came in. It was as pronounced as that.

"When they actually bit on the rudder and started shaking the rudder the wheel was spinning from side to side.

"You could not have touched it. You would have broken your arms."

His main fear was that a broken rudder could potentially have put a hole in the boat and resulted in it taking on water.

Mr Walker added: "The good thing was it was light.

"If it had happened two hours earlier it would have been pitch dark, which would have been even more unpleasant."

Image caption,
The yacht is currently being repaired in La Coruna

He said everyone on board stayed calm and "there was no screaming or bawling or anything like that."

At the time of the attack, the Walkers and Mr Robinson were 720 miles into a 1,600 mile journey from Almerimar in southern Spain to the Clyde coast of Scotland.

Orcas are normally in the area where the attack happened to feed off tuna - but this is the first year they have been know to target boats.

Mr Walker said he first became aware of the problem after reading an article in The Guardian but did not realise the incidents had been so frequent.

On Tuesday the Spanish transport ministry banned boats of 15m or less from sailing close to the coast between Cape Prioriño Grande and Estaca de Bares point in Galicia for a week.

Despite the restrictions he has been delayed in any event as his yacht will take a week to repair.

When asked if, borrowing a famous line from Jaws, he now needs a "bigger boat", Mr Walker laughed and said it had crossed his mind.

He added: "If I can get one that is steel then that might be the way to go."