Ralph Mothes tells MBY of his lucky escape after a 40-ton whale lands on his boat

A South African yachtsman who made news around the world yesterday after pictures emerged of his boat being leapt on by a whale has denied claims that he had somehow provoked the cetacean into defending itself.

Ralph Mothes and his sailing companion Paloma Werner were cruising in their 32ft steel yacht, Intrepid, off the coast of south-west South Africa on Sunday when the whale decided it would try and pass over – not under – the boat.

The southern right whale, estimated to be around 33ft long and weighing in at 40 tons, smashed into the yacht’s topsides, ripping off the mast and luckily leaving the two on board completely unharmed.

Whale meets yacht

After initial reports of the incident yesterday, it emerged that officials in South Africa had launched an investigation into claims the whale had reacted after being “harassed” by a RIB and a yacht.

“We would be stupid if we even thought of harassing these magnificent mammals and have always and will continue to sail with care and treat them with great reverance and respect,” Mothes told MBY.

“Most sailors who sail up and down the coast at this time of year see whales and often need to take avoiding action, but then the whale is directly in your path and not breaching, like this one was doing. It was just a freak accident.”

Mothes further rejected suggestions that the images were faked, which some had claimed due to the fact he’s not actually looking in the direction of the vast black mass flying towards him in the photo.

“The photos are real – scary but real,” he said. “That’s what happened and we’re lucky to be alive. We were sailing, had no engine on and no idea it would come out of the water where it did.”

Remarkably, the boat is not a write-off.

“The mast is being repaired as we speak and the doghouse will have to be rebuilt or replaced with a bimini. Some stanchions are broken and there are a few dents here and there but otherwise our steel Intrepid is fine and probably will be back in action by the end of next week,” Mothes said.