A HELENSBURGH sailor has described the terrifying moment his yacht was attacked by a pod of killer whales off the coast of Spain.

Graeme Walker and wife Moira, who have been sailing for more than 30 years, were on board the 48-foot Promise 3 yacht with friend Stephen Robinson when a trio of orcas approached the vessel on Tuesday morning.

Almost halfway through a 1,600 mile trip from the Mediterranean back home to Scotland, the passengers were helpless as the giant mammals terrorised the 12-ton yacht, jolting it from side to side for 45 minutes.

Graeme, 60, told the Advertiser: "I was at the wheel of the yacht at approximately 7.45am when I felt the boat lurch before the wheel suddenly turned and the boat was pushed off course.

"The first animal then broke surface at the yacht's port aft quarter coming up for air.

"The yacht was then pushed sideways in the opposite direction and its wheel started spinning as another animal broke surface.

"Everyone came on deck and MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre) Finisterre were alerted that an attack was under way."

Concerned that vulnerable points on the yacht could be breached as a result of the attack, Graeme asked for assistance from the MRCC.

He continued: "After about 15 minutes MRCC Finisterre called Promise 3 and asked if the attack had halted, we stated that it had not.

"By this time a much larger animal had joined the attack.

"MRCC were surprised by the continued duration of the attack and said they would try and locate a larger motor vessel that could come to our position in the expectation that its noise would frighten the orcas away.

"The three animals made repeated attacks while we remained in the cockpit and the boat was hit from both sides and the rudder shaken.

"The whales would break off, swim away and then come back towards the boat underwater, breaking the surface for air just before reaching the yacht and then diving below.

"Large air bubbles appeared beside the yacht as they swam below, changing our direction from side to side."

The orcas eventually swam off after nearly an hour, before the Promise 3 crew started sailing again at one to three knots initially, then restarting the engine and heading for the port of La Coruna. It took a further 10 hours to get to land.

The yacht's rudder was damaged in the attack and Graeme said it will take a week to fix, while the group have yet to decide whether to continue their journey home by sea.

A series of similar incidents in Spanish waters recently have led to authorities ordering a temporary ban on yachts under 50 feet sailing in the area near where Graeme's attack occurred.

Graeme added: "The boat and crew stood up to the ordeal remarkably well."

We'll have more reaction and pictures in next week's Advertiser - out on Thursday, October 1.