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May 6, 2011

The 73rd Annual Dad Vail Regatta, The Largest Collegiate Rowing Competition In the Country, Returns To The Schuylkill River May 13-14

3,500 athletes from more than 100 colleges and universities in North America compete in the event, the largest of its kind in the country. (Photo courtesy Dad Vail)

The 73rd annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta sails onto the Schuylkill from May 13-14.

The Regatta has been a mainstay in Philadelphia for nearly every year since its inception, making Kelly Drive one of the most famous and scenic racecourses in rowing. About 3,500 athletes from more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada compete in the event.

The Dad Vail Regatta was named after famous rowing coach Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, a long-time coach at the University of Wisconsin. Vail’s strong beliefs and passion for the sport ushered in the modern day Dad Vail Regatta and inspires the hundreds of colleges and universities that come to compete.

Even if everything you know about rowing comes from The Social Network, the Regatta is a fantastic time, with crowds of more than 10,000 spectators coming out to cheer on their hometown heroes (the Temple Men’s team has won the most Varsity Eight events!)

Here’s our handy guide:

How to Get There: The event takes place about five miles northwest of Center City and two miles north of boathouse row. Kelly Drive is closed during regatta days. Traffic is routed through Fairmount Park and directed to remote parking areas. There, shuttle buses (good news for tailgaters) provide free rides for regatta fans and spectators down to the race course area, running about every 15 to 20 minutes. There usually is a nominal fee for parking.

The Race Course: The 2,000-meters-long race course start line is just north of the Kelly Drive-Hunting Park Avenue intersection. The course ends at the Grand Stand finish line just above the Columbia Avenue Bridge. The course has six lanes and is of Olympic Length. Click here for a map.

Best Place to Catch the Action: The Grand Stand is hands down the best place to see the excitement, centrally located right by the finish line, near the Jack Kelly Statue.

More tips and useful information, below.

The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta
When: May 13-14
Where: Kelly Drive
Cost: Free
More info: www.dadvail.org

Where to Chow Down: The Food Court is fully stocked with Philly classics, bringing cheesesteaks and hoagies to the masses. Alcoholic beverages will be available, and feel free to pack a picnic!

How to Meet the Athletes: When they’re not in the heat of competition, rowers weigh in, relax, and wait for their turn to race at Rowers Village and Launch Area. Vendors will also on hand to sell rowing-related goods.

Race Not to Miss: The finals kick off at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

What to Bring: Bring a beach chair, walking shoes, plenty of sunscreen, and pets (on leashes!).

Insider Knowledge: The race schedule, complete with information about which schools are competing and in what lane, is called a Heat Sheet. Plus, this year marks the return of the Philadelphia Challenge Gold Cup, which honors “the undisputed champion in the sport of single scull rowing,” a type of rowing with one person propelling the boat with two oars.

How to Get Involved: Volunteer spots are still open for various crews from Athletes’ Food Tent Crew to Race Timing Crew; information is available online.

Making a weekend out of it? Click here for info on great hotel packages. And whether visiting or local, click here for nearby restaurant specials for Dad Vail participants and spectators!

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