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In a function room at the Beauport Hotel, Warren Waugh asked the attendees how many of them have had a family member or friend affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Almost everyone raised a hand.

“There is no cure right now,” said Waugh, the founder of the Lyon-Waugh Auto Group. “That’s something to think about this weekend.”

Photo credit: Jen Bolitho

Waugh, whose late wife suffered from Alzheimer’s, was speaking at a reception ushering in the week of the Bluefin Blowout, an annual fishing tournament to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, organized by the auto group. The gathering was a celebration of the competing captains and crews, and the event sponsors, including local businesses Tonno restaurant, Engel and Völkers By the Sea real estate, Cape Ann Savings Bank, Long’s Jewelers, and Northshore magazine.

Photo credit: Jen Bolitho

The event goes into full swing on July 24 with the sold-out Bluefin Bash, a night of dinner, dancing, and live auctions. The 62 competing teams will leave the docks at 10 p.m. Thursday and spend the next two days plying the waters around Gloucester, trying to hook the biggest tuna.

Photo from the 2019 Bluefin Bash at Cape Ann Marina. Credit: Elise Sinagra

The largest tuna ever caught in the tournament was over 900 pounds, Waugh said. Last year’s winner was the crew of the Dog House, which hooked a 680-pounder. Though the tournament has never seen a repeat winner, captain Sean Cranston, who has fished in seven of the eight events, is optimistic.

“I like my chances,” he said.

While the competitors are at sea, supporters on land can enjoy festivities at the Cape Ann’s Marina resort, the host of the event. Exhibitors will offer their wares on Friday and Saturday, and on Saturday kids activities and games will be offered. As boats cruise in with their catch, spectators gather to watch the tuna weigh-ins.

“I love the camaraderie, I love the competition,” said Scott Fabyan, an Ipswich resident who competed in the first tournament and several since. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

The Bluefin Blowout was founded in 2012 as the project of businessmen and amateur fishermen Drew Hale and Rob Bouley. The event grew steadily every year until, in 2017, longtime sponsor Lyon-Waugh took over coordinating the event.

“They took it to another level and it’s really an honor for us,” Hale told the crowd.

Today the tournament draws some of the best professional and amateur tuna fishermen on the East coast, all competing for their share of $40,000 in cash and prizes.

In the lead-up to the main event this year, the fundraising got a headstart with activities including a 5K run, a cornhole tournament, and a night of painting buoys. At the Monday night reception, a live auction of three items — a necklace, use of a new BMW for the weekend, and two cases of wine — raised $5,000 in just a few minutes of bidding.

Photo from 2018 festivities and courtesy of Bluefin Blowout.

Last year, event organizers were hoping to raise more than $100,000; the final take was $155,000. This year, Waugh hopes to match last year’s collections. But Cidalia Schwartz, marketing director for Lyon-Waugh Auto Group and the main coordinator of the event, had loftier goals.

“I want to double that,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re going to do it.