Oak Bluffs Challenge is the new tournament in town

Oak Bluffs Challenge is the new tournament in town

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The 2012 Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Following the recommendation of the Oak Bluffs harbor management committee, the Oak Bluffs selectmen voted 4-1 Tuesday to give a special permit to the organizers of the “Oak Bluffs Challenge,” described as a multi-species fishing tournament, to be held July 24 to July 26.

The Oak Bluffs selectmen's meeting Tuesday attracted a standing room only crowd.
The Oak Bluffs selectmen’s meeting Tuesday attracted a standing room only crowd.

Selectmen took no action on a competing request from Matthew Kriedel of Edgartown and Newington, Connecticut. Mr. Kriedel had applied for a special permit to hold a shark tournament the weekend of July 17 to July 20. Following remarks from John Breckenridge, chairman of the harbor management advisory committee, Mr. Kriedel withdrew his application “without prejudice.”

Both organizers stepped into the void left by the untimely death of Steven James in a duck hunting accident last month. For the past 27 years, Mr. James ran the Oak Bluffs Monster Shark Tournament, defending and modifying it over the years in the face of growing opposition from Islanders and others.

Mr. Breckenridge reiterated the committee’s endorsement of the Oak Bluffs Challenge and Mr. Sacco in no uncertain terms. “We recommended Mr. Sacco because he has the experience and the web presence to make this a successful tournament that can also benefit this town,” said Mr. Breckenridge. “Mr. Kriedel’s proposal would likely bring us down the same road as the past [shark tournament]. We were particularly disappointed that Mr. Kriedel referred to shark tournament opponents as ‘tree huggers.’”

Christian Giardani of Falmouth, one of the organizers of the Falmouth Grand Prix fishing tournament, spoke on behalf of the Oak Bluffs Challenge.
Christian Giardani of Falmouth, one of the organizers of the Falmouth Grand Prix fishing tournament, spoke on behalf of the Oak Bluffs Challenge.

Damon Sacco of Bourne, owner and operator of Castafari Sport Fishing and organizer of the Hyannis Tuna Fest, is the organizer of the Oak Bluffs Challenge. He will be assisted by Christian Giardani of Falmouth, one of the organizers of the Falmouth Grand Prix fishing tournament. Ted Rosbeck of Edgartown, who presented the application to the harbor committee last week, said he will act as an informal advisor to the Oak Bluffs Challenge.

Since Mr. Sacco was away on a previously planned vacation, Mr. Giardani spoke to selectmen on his behalf. He said the tournament will be sanctioned by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) and will operate on a points system.  “Sharks are off the menu,” said Mr. Giardini. “Marlin will be catch and release, and swordfish will go by federal guidelines.”

The species that will accrue points are bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi, and marlin. Sharks will have no point value.

Although selectman Gail Barmakian reiterated her support for a catch-and-release tournament, Mr. Giardini said there would still be a weigh-in at the harbor.

“It’s very difficult to make a profit on a tournament without weigh-ins,” he said. “It can enable cheating. With a weigh-in, it’s hard for anyone to dispute.”

Selectman Gail Barmakian voted against allowing the tournament because it is not catch and release.
Selectman Gail Barmakian voted against allowing the tournament because it is not catch and release.

Ms. Barmakian, who voted against the tournament because, she said, it was not catch and release, also raised concerns about creating a spectacle at the harbor, especially by hanging the fish after the weigh-in. “We’re not in the business of promoting irresponsibility. These are professional crews we’re bringing in,” said Mr. Giardani. “This is more of a celebration of the fish. It’s all fish you can get in the market, that are taken on a daily basis anyway. You don’t want them hanging on display for long.”

“We have a fishing derby that displays bass and bluefish. I don’t want to get into limiting all sportfishing,” said selectman Michael Santoro. “I look at this as a win-win. Coming into December with no tourney, we now have the economic value of a tournament, and we have satisfied the shark amendment. I see it as being progressive.”

Mr. Giardini said there would be seminars and education booths at the harbor to engage the general public while the boats are on the water.  He also said the contest will donate 10 percent of entry fees to Island charities, which will be determined with input from the harbor committee.

Mr. Giardini estimated a modest turnout, 15 to 25 boats, for the first year of the Oak Bluffs Challenge. Mr. Breckenridge said that number might be considerably higher.

“I think he’s being bashful, there’s excitement in the field,” said Mr. Breckenridge. “There’s recognition that we’re an incredible destination, with a new beginning and an experienced promoter. I think we’ll have a sizable number of participants.”


  1. Maybe we should have a debate about a real threatened fish and the irresponsible tournament that impacts a fish important to the island-the striped bass and the derby.

  2. The most belligerent postings here are from the people who have baseless opinions. With the Woods Hole facilities so close you would think more of their professionals would be sought for comments. You have a right to embarrass yourself as much as inform people with free speech. It would be quite appropriate for the opinions of people who actually accumulate the real info findings were given any sort of a legit presence.

  3. Good work by the Harbor Advisory and the Selectman. Not only did they deny Mr Kriedel due process in both Hearings but they Bring in a tournament that’s essentially the same venue as the Kriedel proposal, less the sharks. But their greatest achievement is in sending 3 to 4 million dollars in revenue for local Business owners as well as a few Hundred thousand in Town revenue to another Town. The new venue, which is essentially the old venue, will bring in maybe 20 Boats as it is the weekend before the Tristate Tourney at Block Island and The Big Players go there. Although The Oak Bluffs Challenge is a great Concept and it has some appealing aspects unfortunately it wont have the big draw needed to generate any significant income for Oak Bluffs. I must say I am completely Amazed that a Town that is so reliant on tourism income can allow the Likes of John Breckenridge who is as transparent as glass to push His own Agendas through the Board of Selectman which in effect is the same format as the Shark tournament But completely sugar coated with feel good adjectives about fresh starts and more desirable types of fisherman, etc. The Citizens of Oak Bluffs need to look at how that Harbor Advisory Committee operates and Who runs it and make it a more Fair process that allows any Applicant a fair and unbiased opportunity to address concerns that are brought up after the Applicant is closed out of the discussion, What really amazed Me was the Board of Selectman not allowing Mr Kriedel to address the issues raised by Mr Breckenridge at the hearing Mr Kriedel never had a chance to at least be heard. A clear violation of due process and His rights under any Town Rule. I have to applaud Gail Barmakian as the only Selectman who saw through the smoke and mirrors and realized this is the same venue as the shark tournament, just a different hat.

    1. I was at the hearings. I am a fisherman. I am in support of shark tournaments. I am in support of economic opportunities for Oak bluffs. In Mr. Kriedels own words, i am not a “tree hugger”. After watching the scattered and unprofessional presentation at best by Mr. Kriedel I could do nothing more than feel embarrassed for him. I was also thankful the town chose to protect its citizens by denying his proposal.

      1. Mr Kriedels proposal was adequate for the harbor committee and He seemed to get a fairly decent proposal across. The committee limited Him on time to present. He had planned to unveil his full blown proposal at the selectmans meeting with his event manager and a Fisheries Technician he had hired to be part of the tournament as well as another promoter He had joined up with who had over 40 years of tournament experience, I learned this from Kriedel at the Selectmans meeting. He had a really complete package to present to the Selectman but was Denied Due process by the Selectman. I look at it as missed chance for Oak Bluffs to work with a new Promoter who was willing to do so and was very interested in making the tournament a positive thing for the island. Those missed tourist dollars will bite hard in July

        1. Seriously? The harbor committee expressed how inadequate it was. Which was exactly my feeling. I didn’t feel they cut him off he just kept repeating the same baseless information. It was in random order and appeared as though he was making it up as he went along. It’s pretty arrogant at best to assume you would only give the Harbor advisory board a “overview” and give a full blown proposal to the Selectmen. It’s a busy week anyway, although I’m sure you will see a few with numbers down. Again there is no one to blame, but Mr. Kriedel. Not to mention his actions and statements here and publicly reinforce his mindset. Once again Thank you to the Harbor Advisory and the Harbor master for protecting Oak bluffs. Perhaps in the future we will see a binaries proposal from a qualified party.

          1. the reality is the Harbor Committee gave him around 10 minutes to present his plan which seemed to be unreasonable at best for an issue of this caliber. He should have been able to present a full blown presentation to address the Committees concerns. It should have been a question and answer session not a quick rundown and a round table discussion with Mr Kriedel sitting there unable to respond. Anyone who was at that meeting knows the decision was made prior to the Meeting and a presentation by the Pope wouldn’t have changed a thing! Ive dealt with hundreds of town committees over 20 years and have never seen such a blatent disregard for a process in all those years. But apparently the public tolerates it there which surprises Me given the economic impact this has or at this point had.

          2. You discuss the financial impact. The impact is based on the previous tournament. There is not a single tournament that will bring what the old one bought in its best day. I watched as Mr. Kriedel attempted to sort his papers he was shaking so bad he could barely speak. I think they helped him limit his exposure if they in fact cut him short. Honestly the bulk of the business owners, of which I am one are really not concerned. The harbor bars see a big pop as does the Wesley. After that its minor as in maybe a grand a day, all the way to other business at the far end of the street take a loss. We thank you though for having such concern for our well being and our savior Mr. Kriedel. If the concerns are so great you definitely should contact the state ethics commission.

          3. @strikesagain:disqus I don’t know why you feel the need to attack me in your comments.

            My intent in organizing this event was to preserve a great event for the fishermen, and the Island. I had pledged a 10% donation to Island charities, Educational area for spectators, and a very toned down weigh in to try to alleviate some concerns. It is unfortunate that I was not even given a chance, But I am pleased that the other tournament did incorporate some of my ideas for charity, and education into their tournament. I hope it works out well for the town.

            It must be easy to make personal attacks while you hide behind a screen name, If you had any substance, if you had nothing to hide and wanted to be taken seriously. you would post under your own name. BTW da, the ethics thing might go there.

          4. First off I have not attacked you. I have spoken my personal experience with your presentation. You have looked high and low for people to blame. I think portions of your intent were well intended. You made it clear in your presentations and extremely clear in your comments here on the Times that you are not capable of pulling this off and the second you were questioned its somebody else’s fault. Although, I did get a chuckle when you stumbled all over yourself and called the conservationists “tree huggers”. I knew it was over for you when you were shaking like a leaf and couldn’t even get your paperwork handed out. I had great hope for your concept. I went to the meeting to support you and not the OBC. I left with a complete reversal of opinion.

            As for the screen name it’s been debated oh I don’t know 10,000 or so times on here by frustrated folks who can’t debate with facts that it’s unfair or not right or better yet unethical.

          5. I was there for the harbor committee meeting I thought Mr Kriedel did fine, yes He was a bit nervous as would be expected but he got his points across. The problem was when the committee started Their discussion they basically tore Him apart and didn’t allow Him to respond to any of the arguments which was a very unfair process. I really believe His intent was to work with the Town and make it a respected Tournament and I think He would have done fine. Its mute now anyway as Oak Bluffs has lost the Monster Shark tournament and the 3 to 4 million dollars that goes with.

          6. The 3-4 million is a fallacy. It is not documented and many of the dollars earned would be anyway. I’m a supporter of the shark tournament and am sad to see it go. The primary reasons have nothing to do with revenue. I hope a qualified applicant (perhaps Mr. Kriedel can find some associates to help him) comes to town with a solid proposal. I only saw one in the room at both meetings. I experienced the Harbor advisory committee differently than you did. I guess we can both agree perspective is reality.