Viking Key West Challenge 5/13/2019
Forty Vikings from 42 to 82 feet and a record 475 participants descended upon the southernmost city in the United States last week for the 2019 edition of the Viking Key West Challenge. Ben Sharpe was the winning captain for the fourth time, leading the Viking 56 Gypsea to victory in a closely contested – but fun-focused – competition.

“The Key West Challenge has been a success every year, but this time around the energy level, excitement and fishing was at an all-time high,” said Viking President and CEO Pat Healey. “This is an event exclusively for Viking owners, family and friends. It gives us the opportunity to thank them for being part of the Viking family.”

After a captain’s meeting at Dante’s Tiki Bar that featured delicious food, fun prizes and lots of camaraderie, the teams headed off the following morning for a glorious day on the water. A total of 45 sailfish were released and one swordfish was caught on day one. Gypsea topped the Day One leaderboard with five sails released, followed by the Viking 80 Mr. Grinch with four sails. The Viking 62 Tami Ann also released four sails and took third on time. The teams steamed back to the scales at Conch Harbor Marina to weigh their catches and pose for pictures. The Viking 44 Miss Peggy Sue II and captain/owner David Heeter stole the show with a 108-pound swordfish, which was donated for lunch the next day!

A pool party and lunch, a kids dock tournament and a poker run highlighted a relaxed but festive lay day. In the kids tournament, which was sponsored by The Billfish Foundation, Colin Dicembrino took first place, with sisters Ella and Mia Wilson placing second and third, respectively. “This is what it’s all about – passing on the passion for fishing to the next generation,” TBF President Ellen Peel said. “Great job kids!”

The fishing turned white hot on the final day, with 87 sails released. The Viking 48 Fish Wish released eight sails and caught an 8.3-pound dolphin for 808.3 points. Last year’s champ, the Viking 55 Ragin Cajun, was right on their heels with seven sails and a 21.4-pound tuna (721.4 points).

Gypsea had a solid day two as well, with five sails. But it was their dolphin that turned out to be the difference-maker. With an overall point total of 1,004.6, Gypsea edged second-place finisher Mr. Grinch (1,000 overall points) to take the 2019 Viking Key West Challenge crown. Ragin Cajun landed third place overall with 933.8 points. Natalie Rarick on the Viking 82 Bandit took both Top Angler and Top Female Angler awards with eight sailfish and a total of 892.2 points.

Sponsored by Christi Insurance Group and Travelers, the four-day event wrapped up with an outdoor evening dinner and awards ceremony at the Margaritaville Resort that began with a beautiful Key West sunset. “You can’t beat this,” said Pat. “We truly do appreciate your participation in making this a very special Viking event.”

Next year, the 7th Annual Key West Challenge will be held April 15-18, 2020. Book your slip today!
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