The defending champion Margate Beach Patrol and 14 other teams meet at 6:30 p.m. today in the 44th annual Dutch Hoffman Memorial Lifeguard Championships at the Lincoln Avenue beach in Wildwood.

The Hoffman Memorials is one of the great traditions of the beach patrol competition season. It has changed formats several times over the years but last year returned to its 1998 slate of the mile doubles row, the half-mile swim, the two-mile beach run, and the 1,000-foot singles row. The distances are approximations.

"It's the time of the year for the beginning of the big races, leading up to the South Jersey Championships," Wildwood Beach Patrol chief Steve Stocks said Thursday. "It gives you an idea of how things will be (at the South Jersey event, on Aug. 9 in Margate). They have some great crews in Atlantic County and we have some great crews here in Cape May County. The only way to find out (who's the best) is to bring them here and race."

Margate easily won the Atlantic City Lifeguard Classic last Friday as the patrols from the two counties met for the first time this season. Margate's Ashton Funk and Chuck Gowdy took the doubles race by about 50 yards. Teammate Pat Flynn was first in the swim by a second, and Gowdy won by three seconds in the singles row. All return to Margate's lineup today.

"You never know from one race to another what's going to happen," Margate Beach Patrol captain Mike Cincotta said. "That's what makes it exciting. Everybody's getting warmed up, since we're closer to the South Jersey Championships. We're confident and looking forward to a good race. There's a lot of good competition. Our guys are working hard and looking to keep up our momentum."

Margate won a highly competitive Dutch Hoffman event last year with no wins and just nine points. Longport and Atlantic City each had seven points, and Cape May and North Wildwood both had six.

Cape May's Chris Vittese and Anthony Onimus won the Hoffman doubles race in 2012. Avalon's Erich Wolf and Craig Whitehead should challenge.

Wolf and Ventnor's David Funk are contenders in the singles. Brigantine's Shane McKenzie, Upper Township's Kevin Gill and Ocean City's Anthony Czar were second, third and fourth, respectively, in the A.C. Classic swim.

The Hoffman event's unique event is the two-mile beach run. The race was won by Upper Township's Ford Palmer by six seconds last year over Wildwood's Mike Syrnick. Cape May Point's Sam Weintraub was third. All return today.

The event honors the late Frank "Dutch" Hoffman, a former Wildwood Beach Patrol captain.

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