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The 2009 Bermuda Triple Crown Billfish Championship series saw 54 different teams participate in at least one Triple Crown event, with the largest blue marlin in the series weighing 865 pounds. The series awarded a record $896,700 in cash and $85,000 in prizes over the three-event series. To fish the BTC, visiting boats making the crossing must run at least 680 miles to reach Bermuda. Considering the quality of the charter and private boats in attendance, you have many of the most competitive teams in fishing plying the rich waters off Bermuda during the peak July marlin run. With the average blue marlin weighing 450 pounds and some reaching the grander range, the BTC is considered the most challenging and competitive blue marlin fishing series in the world.

The very consistent visiting team from St Augustine, Florida, aboard Bree, a 72-foot Merritt yacht, won the championship, scoring 2,958 points. Owners Randy and Paula Ringhaver have competed in all five years of the Triple Crown with incredible consistency in the tournaments. With Capt. Bryce Garvey, mates Chris Kaulen and Kyle Laine, teammates Greg Simmions, James Cason, Rick Chapman and Ian Fletcher, Bree recorded three blue marlin releases, one white marlin release and one blue boated at 558 pounds. Ultimately, it was the additional points from the weighed blue in the Classic and the white marlin release by Paula Ringhaver in the Sea Horse that made the difference. The team on Bree, including the captain, mate and five high-point anglers, will each receive one of the best prize packages of any billfish series: Each will be given the coveted Vanmark Jewelry Triple Crown Billfish Champion ring; a bronze blue marlin sculpture from Geoffrey Smith; a blue-and-white marlin trophy from King Sailfish Mounts; championship apparel from Old Harbor Outfitters; a Triple Crown painting from Steve Goione; special Triple Crown lures from Mold Craft; Old Harbor Outfitters sunglasses; Old Harbor Outfitters fillet knives; and one-year subscriptions to Marlin, Sport Fishing and Salt Water Sportsman magazines. The boat receives a Pompanette flying gaff, a Carolina Glider fighting harness artistic gaff from Evade Offshore Armor and a trip to Los Sueños from the Black & Blue Marlin Club. The top five 2009 boats all had a shot at the crown, with Bree ultimately winning by three points, the closest finish in Triple Crown history. The Blast and World Cup winner Wound Up scored 2,955 points, finishing second; late-charging Anita Jean finished third with 2,900 points; Off Piste and Mama Who rounded out fourth and fifth with 2,300 points.

The series kicked off with the Bermuda Billfish Blast, July 3-6. Forty-one boats participated, with most of them also competing in the Blue Marlin Fourth of July World Cup. The Blast awarded $260,000 in cash and prizes. Local boat Wound Up led by Capt. James Robinson scored an early blue marlin release with angler Mike Henry in the chair. At 1:41 p.m. the team on Wound Up saw the fish they were looking for as a big blue piled on a lure and took off. Seventeen-year-old angler Stefan Olsen made his way to the fighting chair. After a hard fight lasting two hours, the fish came up dead. At 3:40, Robinson made the announcement that the fish was secured and measured 132 inches short length. At 865 pounds, it was enough to earn the win in the Blast and brought the World Cup title back to Bermuda. Wound Up received $116,700 in winnings for the Blast and an estimated $340,000 in the World Cup. Wound Up also received an invitation to compete in the IGFA Offshore World Championship, leading the Triple Crown after the Blast with a total of 1,865 points. Off Piste, another local boat with owner Brian Lines, mate Dano Lee and anglers Kevin Winter and Todd Peever, had a fantastic first day, catching a blue and two whites to finish in second with 900 points. Off Piste took a daily release jackpot, second-place team and top angler honors. Visiting Louisiana boat Mama Who also had a good run with one blue and two white releases for owner angler Elaine Jones. Mama Who‘s Capt. Keith Linville and mates Bayeux Morgan, Charles Moore and Robbie Davies got it done for Lainey, finishing third and earning high-point lady angler. Bree scored a blue and a white release worth 700 points in the Blast.

The Bermuda Big Game Classic, July 8-12. Fifty teams competed for $500,000 in cash and prizes. The beautiful 72-foot Merritt Bree, with Capt. Bryce Garvey and owner Randy Ringhaver, was the big winner in the 2009 Classic. This team released three blue marlin on Day Two (two were part of a doubleheader success) and then boated a 558-pounder northwest of Argus bank on Day Three to take the lion’s share of the jackpot winnings. The biggest blue marlin in the 2009 Classic was the 594-pounder taken by local boat Reel Hotwith Capt. Nick New and angler Dennis Hayes on Day One (this is the first year that the biggest blue in the Classic has been less than 600 pounds), but Reel Hot was not entered in the overall largest blue marlin jackpot. So the 558-pound blue aboard Bree was worth $134,333 for taking the $105,000 largest marlin jackpot as well as the Day Three blue marlin jackpot worth $29,333.
The three blue marlin released on Day Two earned Bree the Day Two release jackpot worth $27,333 and was good enough for the overall most release points jackpot worth $90,000 and the separate base entry release points award worth $7,500. In addition, their tally of 2,058 points secured them first-place honors, worth $45,000 more, and they won the Manufacturer’s Cup for Merritt Yachts, which comes with an additional $8,000 in cash. So their total cash winnings came to a tournament-record $312,166 and an invitation to compete in the IGFA Offshore World Championship. Needless to say, they won enough King Sailfish Mounts trophies, Vanmark Jewelry, Geoffrey Smith sculptures, Steve Goione prints and other goodies that they will need all of their 72 feet of boat to haul everything back home when they leave Bermuda. Huge congratulations to Randy and Paula Ringhaver, Capt. Bryce Garvey, Chris Kaulen, Kyle Laine, Greg Simmions, James Cason and Rick Chapman — the team aboard Bree! There was a standing ovation at the awards ceremony because this is a class-act team that is very well liked by all the locals and visitors. They have fished Bermuda every year since the inception of the Triple Crown and have enjoyed considerable success; this is the fourth consecutive year that they have brought a qualifying (i.e., 500-plus-pound) blue marlin to the scales at Barr’s Bay Park during a Triple Crown event. I am pretty sure that no other boat has matched that achievement. Bree took the lead in the BTC with a total of 2,758 points. Off Piste finished second in the Classic and sat in second place in the Triple Crown with 2,300 points. Attitude finished third in the Classic and also moved up the ladder. Wound Up did not score any billfish but snuck in and won the game-fish division.

The 36th Sea Horse Anglers Club Billfish Tournament July 15-19. A total of 23 teams competed for $180,000 in cash and prizes at this year’s Sea Horse. The race for the Triple Crown came right down to the wire. Tease Em had a fantastic tournament, releasing three blues and two whites, scoring 1,900 points to win the Sea Horse and challenge for the Triple Crown. Anita Jean also had a great tournament, scoring 1,700 points and finishing second with three blue and one white release. Both Tease Em and Anita Jean were one release away from winning the Triple Crown. Never Enough hooked into a solid blue marlin on Day Three tipping the scales at 674 pounds and earning them a sweep of the daily and largest blue marlin jackpots, which aggregated to $78,000 of cash winnings. Big congratulations to Capt. Trevor Cockle, as it was his first time fishing Bermuda waters this year. In addition, owner and angler Walter Shikany aboard Never Enough won the high-point angler award with all of the boat’s 1,374 points that added $2,300 to their winnings. In the early afternoon, Reel Lax released a big blue marlin after a battle of more than an hour — this blue was estimated to exceed the 500-pound mark and was probably closer to 600 pounds. Then Reel Lax hooked into another big blue marlin of similar size and scored the release. What a great week Capt. Dave Cilk, owner Lester Petracca and angler Chris Petracca have had after letting go of that 1,000-plus-pound marlin before the tournament and then releasing three in the Sea Horse, moving Reel Lax up to third place overall.

The final hour of the Triple Crown was one of those exciting days in this sport where the top five teams all had a shot at the crown. At 3:17 p.m., Capt. James Robinson’s Wound Up hooked into a big blue marlin, which they stayed close to and had the leader in extremely quickly. At the first opportunity, a gaff was sunk, and at 3:45 p.m. Capt. Robinson reported that the blue was in the boat. It had a 120-inch short length, but it was not fat.

The team knew they had a fish near the 600-pound mark. At lines out, Wound Up was headed to the scales and trailing Bree by 593 points. At Barr’s Bay Park the anticipation was very high as the big blue was hoisted; it tipped the scales at 590 pounds, and the celebrations began across the bay aboard Bree. For the fifth consecutive year, the trend continues that the Classic winner also takes the big cake. The three-point margin of victory is by far the closest that we have ever had, and no prior team ever won the Triple Crown with less than 3,500 points. It was tough on Wound Up, but they won the World Cup and Blast, and we all expect Capt. Robinson to get his Triple Crown ring one day. So, many congratulations to Randy Ringhaver, Capt. Bryce Garvey and the 2009 Triple Crown champions — Bree! The entire fleet was delighted for the Bree team because they are a classy group of people and have always been so gracious.

Rank Vessel Points
1 Bree 2958.00
2 Wound Up 2955.00
3 Anita Jean 2900.00
4 Off Piste 2300.00
5 Mama Who 2300.00
6 Reel Lax 2200.00
7 Queen of Hearts 2000.00
8 Tease Em 1900.00
9 Mako 1900.00
10 Reel Addiction 1900.00
11 Lisa 1900.00
12 Que Mas 1700.00
13 Never Enough 1574.00
14 Weez in the Keys 1500.00
15 Won Buy Land 1419.00
16 Triple Play 1400.00
17 Over Budget 1300.00
18 Attitude 1216.00
19 Tantrum 1200.00
20 Overproof 1200.00
21 Sea Toy 1100.00
22 Fish On 1100.00
23 Chasin’ 1000.00
24 Foreign Exchange 1000.00
25 Sea Scorpion 900.00
26 Profit Margin 900.00
27 Playmate 700.00
28 Treasure Isle 700.00
29 Mega Bucks 700.00
30 Mattanza 600.00
31 Reel Hot 594.00
32 Last Stall 500.00
33 Rum Bum 500.00
34 Offshore Lady 500.00
35 Touchdown 400.00
36 Blue Chip 400.00
37 J.A.C.S. 400.00
38 Challenger 400.00
39 Seraphim 200.00
40 Paradise One 200.00
41 Waste Knot 200.00
42 Runabout 200.00
43 Tenacious 200.00
44 Margin Call 200.00
45 Topless 200.00
46 Panchdara 200.00
47 Smooth Operator 200.00

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