2003, January 15: Attack from the Deep?

The Geronimo
The 'Geronimo'
[Larger version here]

Sometime very early on the morning of January 11, 2003, the crew of the trimaran Geronimo set off to attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest non-stop yacht trip around the world. Olivier de Kersauson and his crew of ten were making their third attempt at the record, one which the Geronimo had formerly taken in 1997... but luck was not on their side, as many things slowed their progress this trip.

        One of those things was a giant squid.

        The trimaran was just off the coast of Portuguese island of Madeira, when Kerhausen saw a tentacle through one of the ship's portholes. "It was thicker than my leg and it was really pulling the boat hard." The creature was about 7 to 8 meters long [22 to 26 feet] and, according to crewman Didier Ragot, it was "jammed between the top of the rudder blade and the hull and then it sent two of its tentacles down to the base of the rudder blade and grasped it." The whole boat shook, and quickly lost speed... and though some of the crew were worried the squid was going to climb aboard and attack, once they slowed the trimaran down enough, the squid simply let go and swam away. There was minimal damage to the boat, but they had lost a lot of distance and time in their record attempt due to the strange encounter.

        Judging from the crew's report, it's hard to say if the squid actually attacked the boat, or if the animal was just in the wrong place and collided with the ship. Either way, it was an extremely rare encounter with a living giant squid in their natural habitat. Still, the collision is part of what eventually lost the Geronimo the 2003 Jules Verne cup... but, as a happy ending to the affair, the Geronimo won the Jules Verne cup in the following year, 2004.

        Minus the squid, of course.

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