Established in the 1980s, the Marlin World Cup, organized and sponsored by the La Pirogue-Sugar Beach hotels, Air Mauritius, and the now-defunct White Sand Tours remains the oldest big-game fishing competition in the region. This prestigious competition reached a high point in the early 2000s, when it drew around forty teams from all over the world. While the boats allocated to the different teams were initially drawn by lot, in the last ten years of the competition, each team was allowed to choose its own boat and crew for the four days of the Marlin World Cup. Fishermen came from all over the world to try their luck with the famous marlin, both blue and black, and with several other types of fish including yellow fin tuna, dorado, whaoo and becune, all under the aegis of the regulations of the International Game Fish Association. In a fierce, four-day battle to see which team would score the most points, victory went to the boat that brought back or released the most fish, with Marlin counting for more points than other fish species.
In 2008, as the winners of a local competition, Hervé de Baize and his sons qualified automatically to take part, representing Mauritius in the Marlin World Cup for the first time, it would also be the first time Hervé de Baize and sons, under the name ‘Les Copains d’à Bord’, had taken part in a competition of this magnitude. In a field of thirty teams, the de Baize family were not shy about pursuing victory, and their years of experience and know-how resulted in a total of five blue marlin released over the four days, well ahead of the second-placed ‘The Essex Boys’, with a mere three marlin to their credit.
In 2009, following the global financial crisis, the number of teams for the Marlin World Cup fell sharply and only twenty or so teams competed. Nevertheless, ‘Les Copains d’à Bord’ were ready to defend their championship title. The principle remained the same – four days of fishing under the rules of the IGFA, but marlin were rare and catches were small. However, yellow fin tuna, dorado, and whaoo still gave the fishermen their fun. On the third day, the boats returned to the harbour with yellow fin tuna, dorado, and whaoo, with just one boat flying a triangular red flag from its boom, representing the capture and release of a marlin. It was not until the last day that the title holders took the top of the podium with one released blue marlin and dorado. Patience is one of a fisherman’s greatest allies, as ‘Les Copains d’à Bord’ proved.
Luck did not smile on ‘Les Copains d’à Bord’ in 2010; Hervé de Baize and his sons made several catches that year, but not enough to retain their title, finishing in fifth place. Nonetheless, it is undoubtedly a great achievement to have won the Indian Ocean’s most prestigious fishing competition two years in a row!
Sadly, with the economic demise of one of the main sponsors, the last Marlin World Cup was held in 2012. It was replaced in the following year by the South Indian Ocean Billfish Competition (SIOBC), established in 2002. The ‘SIOBC’, organised by Le Morne Anglers Club, which took advantage of the enthusiasm of international fishermen for the Marlin World Cup in its early days, has become the region’s flagship big-game competition.