The ninth annual Home and Home Fishing Contest, or Inter-Island Fishing Tournament, depending on which year’s T shirt you go by, was hosted on the Vineyard this year, and the visitors from Nantucket won a decisive victory — 140 pounds, 18 ounces, of striped bass and bluefish, to 108 pounds, 9.9 ounces, for the home team. Vineyarders did weigh in the biggest fish; however: Jason Patterson landed a 15-pound striper and Stephen Pond muscled in an 11-pound bluefish.
Nantucket now leads the series five to four.
The unique format requires a Vineyarder and Nantucketer to pair off and fish together for the weekend. The visitor stays at his or her partner’s home, and they fish as hard as they want to between Friday at 7 pm and Sunday at 1 pm. Catch and release, flies and lures only, no live bait. Fishermen register their biggest bluefish and striped bass, after the weight is verified by their partner.
This year the fishing and the weather were uncooperative. The competition began Friday night in 30-mph winds, and fog and rain persisted through the weekend. But weather is incidental to fishermen of this ilk.
“The conditions were fine, but the fishing was the worst we’ve ever had,” tournament co-founder and Chappy resident Victor Colantonio said. “We had 20 of the top fishermen on the Island — Coop, Janet Messineo, Peter Sliwkowski, Matt Malowski, the Graves brothers — and we weren’t catching fish. It was strange; we had scup, sea robins, and even fluke hitting our lures. I’ve never seen that.”
Tammy King’s 13-pound striper was the biggest landed by Nantucketers. It was her first year fishing the tournament. She was anointed the team’s secret weapon, and made a team member for life. “I caught it on a pink and white pencil popper,” she said. “It’s old and nicked up, but it works.”
The visiting team hoisted the Hawkeye Jacobs trophy, which will sit in the Nantucket Anglers Club until next year, but the bonhomie and the beer flowed freely at the Sandbar on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the loss and the lackluster fishing, Victor was all smiles. It’s the format, not the fish, that’s the point of the weekend.
“This is awesome,” he said, surveying the gathering. “Two people relying on each other for their success is a very interesting proposition. The islands are competitive. We like that. It’s a complete mishmash of people. We have people in their 30s and in their 80s, men and women, and all different ethnicities. You have a paperhanger fishing with a physician. A Washington lobbyist, a former Pittsburgh Steeler … the friendships that have come out of this are extremely deep.”
With good friendships comes good smack-talking.
“We say they cast with their left hand because they’re holding their Chardonnay with their right hand,” Victor said, taking a healthy slug off his beer.
Victor and tournament co-founder Scott Whitlock embody their respective Islands — Victor is burly, bearded, and gregarious, and Scott, a dapper gent, is as tall as he is wry. “Scott and I couldn’t be more different,” Victor said. “His descendants probably got off the Mayflower; I’m first-generation American.”
The two men had known each other since the 1970s, when they were beginning what would become fabulously successful careers.
Their paths led them both to a meeting in downtown Manhattan on the morning of Sept. 11.
Watching the spirited celebration, it was hard to fathom that the seeds of the tournament were planted in the nation’s darkest day, when Victor and Scott were at Ground Zero.
The meeting was called for 10 am at 200 Liberty St., World Financial Center, across the street from the World Trade Center. It was the biggest meeting of Victor’s storied career; at stake was a multibillion-dollar deal. Scott, Victor’s banker and friend for 25 years, had just arrived from Nantucket. Victor was waiting for him at the top of the escalator in World Financial when the first jet hit.
“We found each other in the street; we didn’t know what happened. It was unimaginable,” he said. “In our dumbfoundedness, people were dying, jumping out of buildings; the whole street scene was absolutely horrible. We tried to figure a plan to get out. We were in the subway under the first building when it collapsed. We were under there for almost an hour. As we came out on the street, the second building collapsed. We were on our hands and knees in the street; eventually someone pulled us into a lobby. Scott had his lowest moment in the subway, and I had my lowest moment when the second building came down. If it weren’t for me things might have turned out differently in the subway, and if it weren’t for him I probably wouldn’t have crawled out of there.”
Victor retired after 9/11. “My psychiatrist told me to go home and write. So I went home to Chappy for three weeks.”
His account of the day is both poetic and horrific. A passage from it was carved into granite at the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum on the 10th anniversary of the attack.
“While we still looked up, a man jumped from the building to the ground … At that instant, the towering glass and metal mass of billowing smoke became human.”
At the center of the vivid imagery and descriptions of unthinkable carnage is a story of two friends depending on each other for survival.
“We survived that day because we relied on each other to pull through when the other person was at his lowest,” Victor said. “In that process, we depended on each other. We decided it would be just terrific if we could take that spirit of two people and figure out a way to get his Island and my adopted Island together in an event where two people spend some intensive time together, and build friendships across the channel. We’ll get ’em next year.”
The ordeal didn’t end for Victor on 9/11. His chronic cough lasted for almost two years. For many months, his sight and hearing were diminished, as was his sense of smell. He developed skin lesions, and in 2009 was diagnosed with bladder cancer, consistent with a “bloom” of bladder cancer diagnosed in first responders and other survivors, according to the World Trade Center Medical Program. On March 17 of last year, the day his granddaughter was born, he got a call from Beth Israel Hospital to inform him that seven years of treatments had been successful, and his cancer was no longer detected.