Fishing News

Manhattan Cup Reborn

Posted 8/9/2018

Yamaha Marine helps a legendary charity striped bass tournament return to prominence

The morning of Friday, June 8, 2018, dawned crystal clear, with New York City’s skyscrapers just across the Hudson River providing a beautiful and inspiring view. On the docks at Liberty Landing Marina, the Manhattan Cup experienced a rebirth after a three-year hiatus.
Capt. Frank Crescitelli and his volunteers were once again called upon to lead the tournament, raising money and awareness for fisheries and conservation pertaining to the waters around New York City. In addition, the tournament provided an opportunity to give back to first responders, military personal and wounded warriors. Some of New York and New Jersey’s best captains participated to show their gratitude and appreciation for those who have suffered mental and physical wounds as a result of their service.
“After the last tournament ended in 2015, I realized putting on the Manhattan Cup had become much more difficult, and we no longer had the support needed to keep it going,” said Crescitelli. “But then my good friend, Gary Caputi, started urging me not to let it fade away when it did so much good. He set up meetings with Jim Donofrio and John DePersenaire at the Recreational Fishing Alliance and, after a good deal of discussion, they agreed to underwrite the event through their non-profit Fisheries Conservation Trust. Gary and John also promised to work closely with me to help share the work load -  so we hit the pavement to bring the Manhattan Cup back to life.”
“The Manhattan Cup is a totally different kind of tournament,” Caputi explained. “Dozens of top captains and light tackle guides from the New York-New Jersey area donate their boats and services for the day. The tournament offers the services provided by these guys up for bid from potential anglers. The guides can purchase the boat and compete with their own team or donate it back to the tournament for one of the warrior teams to fish. Any remaining profits are donated to the chosen conservation organization, which going forward, will be the Fisheries Conservation Trust.”
The goal of the Manhattan Cup has always been raising money for fisheries conservation and highlighting the amazing fishery found in the waters surrounding New York City. After 9/11, tournament organizers decided to invite groups of first responders involved in rescue and recovery work of the Twin Towers to fish in the event. First responders participated in the tournament for almost ten years, and over time the event grew to include wounded warrior participants.  Some carried physical wounds, others the psychological scars of war. Many struggle with TBI and PTSD. The inclusion of wounded warriors continued during the 2018 with the Catch 22 Program– a commitment to bring at least 22 at-risk warriors and introduce them to the healing benefits of fishing.
“When the tournament got the green light, the first person I called was Martin Peters, Senior Manager of Communications and Government Relations at Yamaha Marine,” said Caputi. “Martin, along with Yamaha Sponsorship and Pro Staff Manager, David Ittner, came through with a significant financial contribution, and took the lead as the presenting sponsor of the 2018 Manhattan Cup Charity Striped Bass Tournament. We couldn’t have been more pleased, and were humbled by Yamaha’s generous support.”
The morning of the tournament, weather was bright and sunny as the 30 boats prepared to leave the mouth of the Morris Canal in two rows symbolizing the fallen Twin Towers. They moved out into the glow of the light bouncing off the glass skyscrapers of lower Manhattan for the shotgun start. Aboard some of the boats were the 22 warriors assembled by Robert Gil, the tournament’s outstanding warrior liaison. Gil is a combat veteran, and was a cavalry scout during the Iraq war. He fished for the first time in the 2012 Manhattan Cup after suffering TBI from an encounter with an improvised explosive device during his tours. He returned with severe PTSD, and had attempted to take his life not long before he was brought to fish the Manhattan Cup.  
In 2015 Gil told his story to tournament participants at the awards dinner stating the Manhattan Cup saved his life. He went on to become an avid angler who works with Project Healing Waters to teach other vets the joy and serenity of fishing. Many of the warriors he assembled for the 2018 tournament also battle depression and PTSD and, like Robert, had never fished before. The Manhattan Cup provided them with the opportunity to enjoy the day, catch some fish, and be among a large crowd of anglers who deeply appreciated their sacrifice.
The fishing was a little slow during the heat of the day, but an impressive number of striped bass - some in the 25-pound plus range - were caught and released. A strictly catch-and-release tournament, the winners of the Manhattan Cup are determined by the length and girth measurements of each fish caught.  Participants take a photo of the tape marks indicating the measurements along with a time stamp.
Frank Crescitelli took center stage as the master of ceremonies at the awards dinner, telling jokes, reeling off touching stories of Manhattan Cups of past, honoring the warriors, and coaxing and cajoling higher bids on raffle and auction items donated by dozens of companies that followed Yamaha’s lead as tournament sponsors. Celebrity angler and astronaut Bruce Melnick—two-time space shuttle veteran and Coast Guard rescue helicopter pilot—also addressed the crowd and auctioned off autographed replicas of the Shuttles Discovery and Endeavor.
“Many companies stepped up to help us put on the 18th Manhattan Cup,” said Caputi.  “We can’t begin to express our gratitude and appreciation of our warrior heroes who fished with us. A special thanks to Yamaha Marine for taking on the top sponsor roll recognizing the importance of this very special event.”
Additional 2018 Manhattan Cup sponsors included Liberty Landing Marina, Costa del Mar, Gray Taxidermy, Yeti, D&R Boat World, Raymarine, Mojo Sportswear, Maui Jim,, AFW/Hi-Seas, Pettit, Tony Maja Tackle, Tsunami Tackle, The Fisherman magazine, Princeton Tec, Interlux, the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Guides Secret Fishing Gear, Fin Chasers TV and Mustad.
The winners of the 18th FCT Manhattan Cup are as follows:
Manhattan Cup Champion
Largest Striped Bass Overall– Steve Liesman fishing with Capt. Howard Owens
Bluefish Categories:
Largest Bluefish Private Boat – Al Ristori fishing with Guy Talarico
Largest Bluefish on Artificial – Bruce Melnick fishing with Capt. Frank Crescitelli
Largest Bluefish on Bait – Rick Dunn fishing with Capt. Vince Trapani
Largest Bluefish on Fly – Steve Liesman fishing with Capt. Howard Owens
Striped Bass Categories:
Largest Striped Bass on Private Boat – Marc Kennis fishing with Dave Rooney
Largest Striped Bass on Artificial – Karl Anderson fishing with Capt. Howard Owens
Largest Striped Bass on Bait – Steve Liesman fishing with Capt. Howard Owens
Largest Striped Bass on Artificial – Robert Gil fishing with Capt. Frank Crescitelli
Smallest Striped Bass -  Alex Folmar fishing with Capt. Pete Santero
Warrior Division:
Largest Bluefish – Robert Gil fishing with Capt. Frank Crescitelli
Largest Striped Bass – Roger Totten fishing with Capt. Ted White
Celebrity Division:
Largest Bluefish – Bruce Melnick fishing with Capt. Frank Crescitelli
Largest Striped Bass – Kim Melnick fishing with Capt. Frank Crescitelli