A record 475 participants converged on the southernmost point of the United States in mid-April to battle fellow Viking-devoted competitors in two days of great fishing. “The Key West Challenge has been a success every year,” Viking Yachts President and CEO Pat Healey says, “but this time around, the energy level, excitement and fishing were at an all-time high.”
The weather was nothing short of beautiful on Day One of the event, and just seven minutes after lines in, Blue Angel was on the board with its first sailfish release. By noon, 22 sails had been released, and by day’s end, Gypsea and Mr. Grinch—the daily winners—were duking it out, separated by just one fish.
The bite followed the same tide-turning trends on Day Two. Angler Sarah Hall released a sailfish at 8:52 a.m. to pull her Mr. Grinch team toward the winner’s circle, but Tami Ann closed the gap by releasing a sail 10 minutes later.
At 9:17 a.m., Mr. Grinch called in another release to put it ahead of Gypsea.
Capt. Kevin Dunn and his Ragin’ Cajun team, who were on the board with just two sails at the end of Day One, had begun a steady stream of releases, and by noon had acquired another five, soaring into Third Place Overall and a Second Place Daily with another two releases in the afternoon. Fish Wish, a 48-footer owned by George Mencia and captained by veteran Greg Newell, redeemed its Day One finish of just one release by bagging another eight on Day Two for the daily, just missing the billfish category’s third-place position by 21 minutes.
Learn about catching sailfish in the Florida Keys here.
With a combination of points, a 4.6-pound mahi took the Gypsea team over the edge to secure the overall position of first with 1,004.6 points—making this Challenge the fourth win for Capt. Ben Sharpe. Mr. Grinch placed first in billfish releases with a total of 10 for 1,000 points and Ragin’ Cajun finished third overall with 933.8 points, with 900 of those points in the release category.
Natalie Rarick, fishing aboard the Viking 82, Bandit, won both Top Angler and Top Female Angler for her eight sailfish releases and meat fish with a total of 892.2 points of the team’s cumulative score of 922.4 points in the tournament.