Breaching whale smashes sailboat's mast off western U.S. coast

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A breaching whale smashed the mast and rigging of an 11 1/2-metre racing sailboat in a Pacific Ocean encounter off southwest Washington Thursday, leaving bits of blubber behind, the sailors told the Coast Guard.Crew members aboard the L'Orca were safely in the cockpit and unhurt during the encounter, said Ryan Barnes.

The crew said the whale did not appear seriously hurt.

Orca is another name for the black and white killer whales often seen in Northwest waters.

The whale strike happened about a half hour after the L'Orca set out Thursday morning from the mouth of the Columbia River off Astoria in the 311-kilometre Oregon Offshore International Yacht Race to Victoria, B.C., Barnes said.

"All of the sudden, a few inches, a foot maybe off the starboard side, a whale came breaching out of the water," Ryan Barnes told coast guard Petty Officer Shawn Eggert in a video interview. "It looked to be a humpback whale, about 30 feet in length."

Geographic location: U.S., Columbia River, Victoria

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