OCEAN CITY- The Ocean City Marlin Club is hoping to take the lead in the decades-long series with its friendly rivals from Cape May when the two clubs compete this weekend for the annual Challenge Cup for the 34th time.
The Challenge Cup, which pits teams of boats from the Ocean City Marlin Club against teams from the Cape May Marlin and Tuna Club, officially began in 1979 as a formal competition between the friendly rivals, which meet in the canyons off the Ocean City coast each September to battle for the coveted trophy. After 33 years, the competition could not be closer as both clubs now have 14 wins in the series. There were a few years when the tournament wasn’t held or the results weren’t recorded.
With the win last year, the Ocean City Marlin Club pulled even with Cape May in the decades-long series at 14-14. Last year’s tournament was a testament to the closeness of the annual event. The tournament was postponed one week because of rough seas, but when it was held one week later, it was one of the closest ever in the long history of the event.
After two days of fishing in rain and fog, the two clubs were tied with 3075 release points. As dictated by the tournament rules, Ocean City was declared the winner because its last fish was caught and released just three minutes after Cape May’s last fish.
With the win last year, Ocean City has now won two in a row and three of the last four. This year, Ocean City is looking to retire the cup. Any time one of the clubs wins three Challenge Cups in a row, the trophy is retired and the losing club bucks up for a new trophy. The Challenge Cup was last retired after Cape May won three straight from 2002 to 2005.
The tournament site used to rotate each year between the two clubs, but several years ago, it started being held in Ocean City each year because of the night life and other amenities the resort offers to the participants. The tournament officially got started yesterday with registration and a captain’s meeting, but the action offshore gets going today with the first of two fishing days. The Challenge Cup is a billfish release-only tournament and the competing boats from both teams will attempt to accumulate the most combined release points to win the coveted trophy. The Challenge Cup concludes on Saturday with an awards ceremony and banquet at the Ocean City Marlin Club.