The Reef Cup Invitational Sailfish Tournament has grown exponentially since its inception in 1986. This year’s competition was no exception as the total attendants reached almost 600 – the largest number to-date. In its 34th year, the tournament is now capped at 60 participating boats and has maintained a healthy waitlist for many years.
After waiting eagerly for several years to move off the waitlist, Joseph Cloutier and team Linda Mar made their Reef Cup debut this year, coming out on top as the 2019 Tournament Champions.
With a poor forecast over the course of the tournament, the Linda Mar team, which included anglers Cloutier, Scott Karl, Scott Seffer and Terry Neubaum, Captain Justin Hooper and mate Sean Albury, chose to take Day One as their Lay Day in hopes the weather would improve over the days following. 40 other teams agreed, taking Day One as their Lay Day. Charles Tallardy and his Finish Line team would win the day with 300 points.
While the weather did not improve much, Linda Mar ran the leaderboard on Day Two with a sail caught at 10:24 a.m. and another at 1:07 p.m. While Day Three and Four proved to be more tough for Linda Mar with only one sail caught per day, other teams had better luck. Total sailfish caught and released reached 23 and 22 respectively. Raptor lead the board on Day Three with 300 points and In Good Hands/Fish Wish lead Day Four with 200 points. At the end of Day Four, four teams, including Linda Mar, finished with a total of 400 points and time of catch determined the winner – Linda Mar earned their first Reef Cup win by the skin on their teeth.
“It was truly anyone’s game right up until the last minute,” said Cloutier. “Since multiple boats had four sailfish, we had to wait in anticipation to see if anyone else would catch a fish before lines-in.”
With large waves and high wind speeds, all anglers were challenged and Reef Cup 2019 saw low overall tournament scores – Total sails caught and released over the four-day tournament was just 72. Not quite the lowest, which was 26 in 1989 but still far from the highest, which was 507 in 2009.
The conditions were rough for any boat, but especially a boat of Linda Mar’s size. “It was tough navigating the poor conditions,” said Cloutier. “My boat is only 31 feet and we were really up against big ships and terrible weather.”
Cloutier credits his experienced captain Justin Hooper (who has been a part of Reef Cup for 20 years), mate and crew for navigating the weather. He said his team’s experience – they’ve all caught sailfish along South and Central America, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more – greatly contributed to their win last week.
Cloutier believes the highlight of the tournament was the camaraderie felt by all: “I had many close friends involved in the tournament, my captain included, and The Reef did a spectacular job putting it on. It was an incredible experience and I will absolutely return for the 35th Annual Reef Cup to defend my title.”
While the Reef Cup Tournament has seen large boats, large crews and repeat winners over the years, Linda Mar is proof the tournament is anything but predictable and it’s always anyone’s game.