Last August the Delta Dawn, a fifty-seven foot sport fishing vessel, bobbed above the Norfolk Canyon about 60 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. A woman sat in the fighting chair, her reel glinting in the morning sunlight, and eagerly awaited the lines-in announcement at 8:30 a.m., which would signal the start of the tournament. She had drawn the card for first angler aboard the Delta Dawn and would rotate every fifteen minutes with the other five women on her team. Whoever sat in the chair when the billfish bit would get to do battle.
The fishing team had arrived at Rudee Inlet before sunrise to take part in last year’s Wine, Women & Fishing Tournament (WWF), a fundraiser hosted by the Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation. In addition to bait and sunscreen, the women packed mimosas, snacks, and lunch for the team. As the name suggests, this event is open to women anglers only.
Jaime Keogh led the crew aboard the Delta Dawn last year and will be fishing again in this year’s 12th annual tournament. Together with her mates, she has fished three WWF tournaments and placed third in two of them. Jaime participates in the tournament for several reasons. Her father, Pete Manuel, who captains the Delta Dawn, is a cancer survivor, and the event raises serious money to battle serious illness. Every tournament sponsorship dollar funds breast cancer research at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). In the past eleven years, WWF has donated over $300,000.
There is another incentive: the fertile fishing ground. Jaime says that most participating boats have multiple opportunities to hook a billfish. “You always see something,” she said.
Being among female anglers and their crews is another reason Jaime enjoys WWF. “You don’t see women fishing that often,” Jaime said. “It’s good competition—all about camaraderie.”
One year, the Delta Dawn crew aided a boat experiencing mechanical problems. That boat ended up winning the tournament, but there were no hard feelings. “You hear a lot of ‘You go, girl’ and ‘You’ve got it,’” Jaime said.
About 30-odd boats participate in the event each year, but there is no limit on the number of boats and teams competing. Nearly half of the boats registering each year have fished in prior WWF tournaments. They return for the fishing and the fun. Jaime welcomes new women to join in the fun. “Come out and play with us,” Jaime said.
Linda Church, WWF committee chair, matches up women who want to fish but lack a boat or a team. On the day of the tournament, however, don’t look for Linda on the dock because she’ll be out on the water. “Once I fished it, I was hooked,” she said. According to Linda, local captains enjoy fishing this tournament. “Women are open to listen and learn,” she said.
COSTUMES, TROPHIES & FUN
The 12th annual Wine, Women & Fishing Tournament will be held August 17 from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Blue and white marlins score top points with trophies awarded to first through third place. All billfish will be caught and released. Boats catching the top tuna, dolphin, and wahoo also earn trophies.
As the boats return to the Southside Marina in Virginia Beach, preparations begin for the Crazy Crew contest, culminating in prizes for the crews’ costumes, generally themed in the fight against breast cancer. A dock party, which is open to the public, runs from 5-7 p.m. Dinner follows the dock party and fish weigh-in. This year’s chef is Jimmy Hagood from Charleston’s Food for the Southern Soul. Guava Jam will headline.
The week before the fishing tournament, Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation (CBWCF) will hold two wine dinners. Last year, the dinners raised $16,000 for EVMS. A dinner on August 14 occurs at a private home in Norfolk. On August 15 Terrapin Restaurant hosts a wine dinner featuring Vivian Howard of A Chef’s Life on PBS. Tickets for the wine dinners are not available online, but may be purchased through Jennie Capps, CBWCF’s executive director. Tickets are limited and typically sell out prior to the events.
Chesapeake Bay Wine Classic Foundation is a non-profit charitable organization that funds its mission of affording greater access to higher education for South Hampton Roads youth through a variety of events including Wine, Women & Fishing, The Grand Auction, and several wine tasting and education dinners. The primary beneficiary of the CBWCF is the Access College Foundation.
For more information on the CBWCF and the Wine, Women & Fishing Tournament, go to www.cbwc.org. Pre-registration for the tournament ends July 15, but teams can register until the Captains’ Meeting on Saturday, August 16. The registration fee is $700 for a team of up to six anglers. Tickets for the Dock Party, which is open to the public, are available at www.cbwc.org.