The Volvo boats are racing from Boston to Galway, Ireland. Ericsson 3 hit a whale. I have raced across the Atlantic 7 times never at the speeds of these boats. I have hit whales twice in those crossings.
In 1971 we had been sailing in thick fog for several days, I will remind you that navigation then was a sun sight, star sight and /or dead reckoning. As we had not seen anything for a while, we were relying on dr which put us more or less 20 miles south of Sable Island. There is a current which sets you north towards the island. It is a graveyard of ships. There are more than 100 wrecks there.
I was in my bunk when we hit the whale. We were running under spinnaker and it was night. I was panicked that we were going aground on the island. We hit him twice, once with the forefoot of the boat and a second time with the keel. Scrambling up the companionway just in time to see the whale pop up astern, losing him in the fog very quickly.
The next encounter was in 2005 aboard “Tempest” the 80 foot S&S design. At dusk this time. I was steering under spinnaker at about 15 knots. Suddenly, it was as if we had hit a sandbar. I hardly had time to look over my shoulder to see him, as conditions were a little squirrelly.
Finally I had a near miss in the 2004 Bermuda race. It was early morning. We were sailing into a hot rising sun. Jack, who was trimming the spinnaker said oh look there’s a whale. I had no idea where it was. When I did see it. I had to decide which end to go around. We were sailing at 10-11 knots with the spinnaker up. I chose to head up going around his head; as the shadow of the spinnaker passed over him it seemed to startle him and he lurched forward, I gasped, he dove straight down and it was over before anyone else noticed.