Lydenburger is part of the Protea team that wins the Ernest Hemingway in Cuba
The team came back with the gold medal. The other members were Mike Riley, Mark Beyl and Piet Nel. The men had already been chosen for the squad in February 2020, but the tournament was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
They were finally able to participate in the tournament from May 23 to 27. This tournament is the second oldest billfish tournament in the world, and it was the first time that a South African Protea team had been invited to this prestigious event. Botha said it was the most amazing experience of her life. It was a real honor to be chosen for the Proteas. Many deep-sea anglers spend years dreaming of such an opportunity.
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“The language barrier was the biggest hurdle to overcome. The crews mainly speak Spanish and broken English. The other teams were from Bulgaria, France entered two teams, Spain, Cuba entered three, America, Ireland, Mexico and Canada, Gibraltar, Mexico and Chile. We went to Cuba about a week in advance to experience some of the local cultures as well. We were welcomed on our boat, the Barbanera, by Captain Reniel, First Mate Joel and a local legend Alberto in the traditional Cuban tradition, with pure and cold Cuban rum,” Botha said.
“Cubans are very sociable. A local, known only as George, ended up being our right hand in Cuba. He is the proud owner of a 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe. Our team was also invited to attend the 30th anniversary of the Hemingway Yacht Club on May 21, where we had the privilege of meeting some of the tournament organizers, judges and Commodore Escrich,” Botha said. “It’s a tag and release contest. The fish can weigh between 60 and 200 kg. We spend about nine hours a day on the boat. We didn’t have a strike (catch) the first day, which was very disappointing. But the Bulgarian team hooked and released a blue marlin, the Spanish team released a white marlin and one of the Cuban teams a tuna. On the second day, despite a choppy serve, we managed to release a nice blue marlin and the only billfish of the day. After a day off on Thursday, Friday was day three and we got out with no waits at customs. With calmer waters, France reported a hook and release of a blue marlin. At 1:50 p.m. Mark Beyl from our team released another blue marlin. We were in the lead after day three and also day four,” Botha said.
The 70th Ernest Hemingway Billfish International Tournament ended with an awards ceremony and closing dinner at the Old Man and the Sea Hotel with South Africa as champions. The tournament was created by American author Ernest Hemingway in 1950. It is described as the culmination of the fishing year in Cuba. Hemingway won the first three editions of the tournament. Mina Hemingway, Hemingway’s granddaughter, has won the tournament twice. In 1960, Fidel Castro, former Cuban president, won the tournament.
The team would like to thank the Mpumalanga Deep Sea Angling Association (MDDA), the Nelspruit District Angling Club and the South African Deep Sea Angling Association (SADSAA) for their support and assistance.