Forty-nine years after Brazil’s last team victory at a CMAS world competition, Team Flamengo put the samba country back on the top of the podium at the II° CMAS Spearfishing World Cup for Clubs. Top international spearfishing teams met in Rio de Janeiro to compete in extremely challenging sea conditions for the title of World Club Champions. The competition was held at Rio’s traditional and beautiful Yacht club, the ICRJ, which graciously welcomed a constellation of spearfishing stars like world champions Stefano Bellani (Cressi) and George Vasiliou (XT Diving PRO), vice-world champion Maurizio Ramacciotti, and World Cup defending champions Raul Astorga (Beuchat) and Guillermo Natera from Spanish Club Trafalgar. Naturally, Brazil’s most accomplished spearfishermen like Pan American champion Paulo Pacheco, Diego Santiago, and former USA captain Francisco Loffredi (Cressi) were also present, hoping to keep the first-place trophy in Brazil.

Team C.R. Flamengo, yes, the same one from the powerhouse football club, took first place with wins on both days of the competition and a 200% score. Young forces Kevin Sansao (XT Diving PRO) and Raphael Ambrosio (Cressi), alongside experienced Francisco Loffredi, put Flamengo on the spearfishing history world map.

Francisco Loffredi, Raphael Ambrosio and Kevin Sansao

There is no doubt that the difficult diving conditions made diving hard for all competitors, but they certainly favored divers used to waves. Kevin Sansao from Flamengo says his team was not affected: “We are all surfers, so we’re comfortable diving in shallow rocks with big waves over our heads.”

The conditions in the competition zones on both days were very harsh and challenging

Europeans on the podium

Spearos in black-red had nice catches both days, totaling 24 fish. But two Italian legends, Stefano Bellani and Maurizio Ramacciotti (Ci.Ca.Sub.), showed once again that experience and knowledge mean a lot even with just a few days of scouting. They fished on the second day at the most challenging place, the same as Flamengo, and secured second place of the CMAS Spearfishing World Cup for Clubs for the European team on the podium with a total of 14 fish.

Stefano Bellani and Maurizio Ramacciotti with their catch on the second day

“We had a magnificent competition. I didn’t expect to be so competitive after so many years. The competition zones were very difficult, especially the second day, which was incredibly hard, but we found a good spot with fish, and we stayed there. We were only two, as Marco Paggini went back home due to sickness, so it was more demanding for us. We are very tired because two days of six hours, with only two divers in the sea, and those two old divers… very tired. In the end, we are very happy with the result, and big compliments to the boys who won; they were incredible,” said ex-world champion Stefano Bellani.

“Organization was great! Thanks to all who made it happen,” added Bellani’s teammate, Maurizio Ramacciotti.

Second place on the podium for the Italian legends

Team ACPS with Thiago Barbi, Jose Carlos Jr., Aristides Tufi and Humberto Pftzer from Santa Catarina, a Brazilian state 1100 km from Rio de Janeiro, finished in third place with a total of 10 fish.

Team ACPS finished at the third place

Extreme conditions

Hard conditions were challenging even for Brazilian teams, not just Europeans.

“Spearfishing conditions were extreme, with big waves and cold water in limited visibility. If this were a local competition, it certainly would have been postponed, but with all the international athletes here training for the past two weeks, the competition was maintained,” said Diego Santiago (Team APPS 2), the most victorious Brazilian competitor of the 2000s. His team APPS 2 finished the competition in the 9th place.

Fight for every fish
Team APPS 2

An interesting thing was that Flamengo’s team caught all their fish at the same place on both days. On day 1, they changed spots but returned shortly as they found nothing at the second spot. On day 2, they did not make the same mistake; they stayed at the same spot all day. After the first half of the competition, Flamengo had the same number of fish as the Italian team, but then the Italian spearos changed the place as it was very difficult to spearfish there because of the conditions, and Italians did not have a third athlete for replacement. Everyone visited the spots where Flamengo was fishing on both days, but they moved. After winning, it became clear how important scouting, preparation, and knowledge are, and Flamengo spent two weeks preparing themselves for the WCC.

Team Flamengo with the catch from the second day

Francisco Loffredi, who in the previous World Cup held in the Mediterranean in Tunisia, won the Big Fish Trophy with a 27kg Amberjack, was not only very happy for his victory but also relieved. “It is very fortunate that all went well and nobody got hurt, as the risk of divers and boats being pounded against the rocks by the waves was very real! Flamengo and other divers were diving at the limit of safety, after fish that were all very shallow, near the rocks. At many moments, we were diving to survive and not after a fish.”, said Loffredi.

The Winners in Tunisia 2018

Champions from the first edition, held in Tunis in 2018, included Raul Astorga, Guillermo Natera, and Ismael Gijon from the Spanish Club Trafalgar. Despite their good preparation, they finished in 15th place.

Ismael Gijon, Raul Astorga and Guillermo Natera from the Club Trafalgar

“The idea we had for preparing for the championship was to spend as many days as possible to acclimatize ourselves to its waters and to get to know the species well, and where they moved. The idea was to score as many points as possible in areas where fishing was not usually done. But the conditions were very bad from the beginning and got worse every day. The day with the best visibility we had was barely 5m, and when you went down more than 14m the visibility was almost nul and very cold, so you couldn’t see any fish. You could only see some fish in shallow waters, where the temperature was warmer. In the Tijucas area, we had a crack with many white seabreams, but on the day of the competition, they were not of significant weight. We also had a good area with quite good mullets, but on this day, due to the storm that came in the day before, there was almost no visibility, only 1m of visibility and a big swell, so we could only catch one. On the second day, the swell was incredible, and there was a current in some areas of more than 2 knots of speed, colder water, and visibility of barely 1m. We had a couple of rocks where we had seen quite large white seabreams, but on the competition day, there were only small ones. Fishing in the surf seemed dangerous, especially when there were many participants and so little visibility. You could only look more towards the shelter of the islands, but there were many participants there, and it was a matter of luck that some fish would pass by while waiting. The biggest problem was not having good conditions in the previous days to be able to mark keyholes of large white seabreams, which were crucial due to their large size”, said Raul Astorga.

The biggest catches

George Vasiliou, the 2016 Individual World Champion, despite facing the opposite diving conditions from the Mediterranean that made him a star, was able to win the Biggest Pelagic fish trophy with a 3.475kg Bermuda Chub. The biggest bottom fish was speared by APPS2 diver Victor Ribeiro Pereira, a 6.150kg Black Margate.

George Vasiliou (Xt Diving PRO Team) with the biggest pelagic fish
Victor Ribeiro Pereira with the biggest bottom fish

All the fish were donated

The event was organized by the Associacao Paulista de Pesca Submarina and hosted by the Yacht Club Rio de Janeiro, which provided logistics and a venue. Organizers, together with volunteers and friends of spearfishing, made a big effort to ensure everything went well and that every team felt welcome in Rio de Janeiro.

All fish caught during the second edition of the World Cup for Clubs, totaling 180 fish weighing 235.8kg, were donated to the non-governmental organization Gastromotiva, funded by David Hertz. Among other activities, Gastromotiva provides gastronomic education to the socially disadvantaged and serves daily free dinners to those in need, prepared by chefs who have graduated from the Gastromotiva school. Numerous top chefs have also been guests at Gastromotiva, preparing food for those in need, and one such dinner was organized after the conclusion of the World Cup for Clubs in Rio de Janeiro. Two top chefs, who are also spearfishermen, Patrick San and Narbal Correa, prepared three courses at Gastromotiva for those in need, served by those who purchased tickets for the charity dinner. The socially disadvantaged had the opportunity to eat expertly prepared dishes several times during the week by Brazilian and Gastromotiva chefs from the diverse fish caught during the competition.

Top chefs prepared fish for the socially disadvantaged