Former Earthrace trimaran a casualty of ‘Whale Wars’

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Earthrace, the biodiesel-powered multihull that in 2008 broke the record for the fastest powerboat circumnavigation, is now at the bottom of Antarctic waters - and at the center of the "Whale Wars."

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The 78-foot wave-piercing trimaran, now named Ady Gil and owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, sank in Antarctic waters after being struck Jan. 6 by the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2. (Play the accompanying videos to see the collision from Sea Shepherd and from the Shonan Maru 2.)

Sea Shepherd was trying to disrupt the annual whale hunt conducted by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research. The conservationist group says the Shonan Maru, which it accuses of illegal whaling activities, deliberately rammed Ady Gil, shearing off 8 feet of the bow. The Japanese say the New Zealand-registered trimaran was struck as it pursued its mission of attacking the ship the Japanese refer to as a "whale research vessel."

Click below for video from the Japanese vessel.

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There were six crewmembers aboard Ady Gil, and no injuries were reported. Maritime New Zealand says it is investigating the incident, as well as a complaint lodged against Ady Gil and Sea Shepherd by the Japanese whaling fleet prior to the incident.

Ady Gil sank two days after the collision, despite attempts to tow it to a nearby base, according to Sea Shepherd. The group says environmental hazards were removed before it sank.

Sea Shepherd's efforts to end whaling by the Japanese - a practice the Japanese insist is for research purposes - has been transformed into a television show on Animal Planet called "Whale Wars."

Click below for video filmed from the Sea Shepherd vessel Bob Barker.

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Sea Shepherd acquired the former Earthrace last June from Pete Bethune after the New Zealander's circumnavigation record was ratified. Bethune's biodiesel-fueled Kevlar-and-carbon fiber trihull circled the globe in 60 days, 23 hours, 49 minutes, ending his record-breaking run June 27, 2008 in the Spanish port of Sagunto.

Earthrace was reportedly purchased for $1 million through a donation by Ady Gil, co-owner of a company specializing in constructing production facilities for television programs. The vessel was said to be worth $2 million when it was launched in 2006.

As Ady Gil - the boat - was sinking, Ady Gil - the Hollywood executive - was already raising money for another Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

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