Unveiled only three months ago, the Ady Gil was one of the fastest boats on earth and was expected to be a tremendous help in the fight to defend the whales from the Japanese fleet. This crazy looking trimaran had previously been known as the Earthrace, and had set the world record for global circumnavigation. (See http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/news-091020-1.html for the unveiling.)
The Japanese were anxious about this ship, and about the Sea Shepherds' growing support for their mission to end the killing of whales. Determined to remove this threat, they targeted the Ady Gil relentlessly. They fired water cannons at it, and while it was in a blinding deluge of water, they rammed over the top of it in the Shonan Maru. Here's some dramatic video footage of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bbuq0YEIPNU.
Activists on board the boat had put up a good fight before the assault. They had stayed with Nisshan Maru, intercepting the fleet's chaser boats, and allegedly attempting to entangle the props of the Nisshan Maru. The Japanese whalers are claiming that the Ady Gil had shined some sort of laser device at the crew, and had fired some kind of projectile at them as well.
The Sea Shepherds vow to fight on, with Paul Watson stating that this incident "seriously escalates the whole situation."
The Japanese government has been supporting the whalers, who have expressed the intent to kill 985 whales this year. They call this "cetacean research." However, the scientific community has roundly condemned the disingenuous characterization of these killings as "research." There is no research being conducted, rather they are killing these whales through a loophole in an agreement that calls for an end to whaling except for that done for the purpose of ...research.
Meanwhile, the whales have not been consulted as to their opinion on the matter. However, it is widely speculated that they want to live, and do not want to be harpooned to death and dragged off to a factory in Japan.