Despite winning the Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic in April, the Auspicious crew still had plenty of motivation.
For starters, the team held a lead in the Dominican Billfish Triple-Header Series.
Aside from that, Capt. Danny Lombardo and his crew wanted to prove the victory was the first of many. Six months later, as the series champions, Auspicious left the Dominican Republic proving it was no fluke.
The Florida-based crew tied main challengers Black Gold and Amazing Grace in the series-finale Cap Cana Classic on Oct. 2 to win the championship in the series’ second year.
“We formed the team in September of last year,” said Joe Rahman, owner of the 74-foot Viking. “What was most important to me after the win in Casa de Campo, just four or five months after we formed the team, was that it wasn’t just an act of luck. We practiced as much as we could to get the harmony of the team. I believe between March and October, we put a thousand hours on the boat fishing. That’s a lot of fishing.”
Puerto Rico’s Picara, which did not compete in the series, won the Cap Cana Classic. Rick Alvarez, the series director and founder, explained teams must compete in at least two of the three legs to be eligible to win the series.
Along with Lombardo and Rahman, the Auspicious team includes first mate Travis Upchurch, second mate Charles Porter, Margo Vollman and Brendan Burke.
The lead Auspicious built from the first leg shrunk in June in the International Billfish Shootout, which Black Gold edged over Auspicious with a strong final day. Simply tying four other series-competing boats in the Cap Cana Classic — which Hurricane Matthew shortened to a single-day tournament — was just enough.
Auspicious finished with 7,180 points, followed by Black Gold (6,570), Amazing Grace (3,300), Sea Wish (1,230), Lady Lola (820) and Shark Byte (410).
When Black Gold caught one first, it dwindled Auspicious’ lead to just 210 points — and one catch from changing the name on the trophy.
“All the sudden, we had a doubleheader,” said Rahman, who joined Porter as the two hooked up to the pair of blue marlin. “Every time with a double-header catch, it becomes an insanely difficult task on the captain. Normally one fish goes in one direction and the other goes in another direction. Danny did a great job to be able to catch both the doubleheaders that time.”
Said Lombardo, “You always go for both of them (on a doubleheader hook-up). On that day, the fishing was very slow for everyone. I’d call it poor fishing, at best. You don’t get a lot of bites so you have to capitalize on every bite. There are some times you can get a quick release on one fish but jeopardize the other.”
That clinched the win, despite Black Gold catching its second billfish in the tournament’s final minutes.
“It was a new team,” Lombardo said. “I’ve been doing this for a little while, coming from a family of fishermen. All the experience in the world doesn’t put a team together and make it work well. Coming into it as a new team, if you told me we’d go to Casa de Campo and win against tons of teams that fish in that area, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible but it would be tough.”
The Triple-Header Series will return in 2017 for the third year, with the Casa de Campo International Blue Marlin Classic kicking it off March 16-20. Alvarez confirmed the series would include the same three tournaments, adding, “They are the three most attended tournaments in the Dominican Republic,” and draw the most international teams.
The first two installments included six teams each. Contango won last year’s series. Black Gold — the only recurring team — finished third. Rahman said Auspicious plans to compete in 2017 to defend its series championship.