French sailor Kito de Pavant was sailing along in the Indian Ocean a month after the start of the Vendee Globe round-the-world race when his Bastide Otio monohull violently struck an unidentified floating object.
The high-speed collision 120 miles north of the Crozet Islands destroyed the keel and part of the hull around it, forcing de Pavant to radio for help and abandon the sinking ship.
Fortunately a supply ship called the Marion Dufresne 2 was in the area and picked up the sailor.
"I was lucky with my bad luck," de Pavant said, according to Nine.com.au. "The Marion Dufresne was in the area and that only happens four times a year."
The incident occurred on December 6, but it wasn't until the end of February that video of the collision was discovered on the hard drive of the boat's computer and solved the mystery of what the racing yacht struck.
The video, revealed to the public for the first time Tuesday, shows the violent impact and de Pavant emerging on deck moments after a sperm whale disappears into the boat's wake.
Two angles of the impact of the “Un cachalot” (sperm whale) can be seen starting at the 2:17 and 2:56 marks:
LaCroix reported that on-board cameras record continuously during the famous race and are stored on boat's computer. Fortunately de Pavant rescued the hard drive before abandoning his vessel, which has never been found.
But at least the mystery of the what sunk the racing yacht has been solved.
"Thanks to the magic of computing, I am satisfied to know what happened even if it does not change much to the unhappy story that I experienced," de Pavant told France Bleu.