The Old No. 7 may have been around for three years, but Capt. Jamie Ralph and many of the men on board have a tight-knit history that spans more than a decade. For starters, there’s Jamie’s brother and first mate Dane Ralph, who primarily mans the right kite. The Ralph brothers are joined by second mate Chris Hayward, mate Nick Cardella, who can usually be found on the left kite and managing the flatline, and cameraman Travis McMillan.
For the next half of the season they’re joined by freelancer Andrew Kennedy who will most likely be on board when they head to Central America. John Duval, Bill Bryan and Austin
Musselman, the Old No. 7’s owner, make up the Old No. 7’s table of tournament anglers. It’s usually this same group that fishes together tournament to tournament.
Their close camaraderie plays a major role in the crew’s tournament success. Then there is the hard work, grit and determination. Jamie estimates that together they put in a solid seven or eight days of hard work for every one day of fishing.
“There’s a lot of effort being put into it, from bait fishing, to tackle, to pre-fishing,” Jamie explains. “We’re just doing as much preparation as possible for the actual day. We’re usually pretty spent after that one day, but fishing together helps for good vibes and happy overall morale.”
“Everything needs to be dialed in a couple weeks before the tournament,” Jamie says. “There’s a lot of remedial work that can be done and accomplished ahead of time.”
Six to eight weeks before a tournament, Jamie and the crew head out for bait fishing. The bait, pinned up and fed in the lead up to tournament time, can range from sardines to
cigar minnow to tinker mackerel, a favorite of Jamie’s when kite fishing. Jamie and his crew like to get in as much fishing time in and around the area of the tournament as possible. This includes ensuring everyone knows their roles and is ready for any situation that may occur while out on the water. This approach, and the work that the team puts in to getting things dialed paid off in a special way this year.
The Silver Sailfish Derby became a particularly memorable tournament for Jamie. Not only did winning this tournament provide validation to their hard work and dedication, but there is the event’s history. The Silver Sailfish Derby is the world’s oldest billfishing tournament. Through the years, it has been graced by many a famous participant—even one Ernest Hemingway.
It’s an event that’s become special for the whole team and winning meant a lot to Ralph and company.
Fresh off the heels of a meaningful victory, not to mention an early lead in the Captain of the Year race, the team has stayed busy on the water. Late summer means back to the boatyard to work on Old No 7. Then it’s time to get ready for the first week of sailfishing as winter approaches. It’s a cycle that continues to bring Jamie back, year after year. For someone who, as a teen, once saved his allowance to fish out of Boynton Beach on weekends, these tournaments are what shaped him into the captain he is today.
“Tournaments taught me about the overall grind so to speak, putting your head down and continuing to go through it, never say no to a charter and if you want it that bad, you make it happen. I feel very fortunate to be where I am today.