Hot on the heels of city sporting extravaganzas the Penn Relays and Broad Street Run, another well-attended competition draws world-class athletes to Philadelphia.
On May 10-11, the 75th annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta sails on the scenic Schuylkill River. The two-day event is the largest collegiate regatta in the United States with representation from 125 universities and colleges, 3,500 racers and more than 10,000 spectators. Plus, admission is completely free to all who want to take in the games.
The rowing races take place on the Schuylkill in sight of historic Boathouse Row on Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park, and the race itself is named for Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, a long-time coach at the University of Wisconsin with a passion for crew that’s inspired generations of rowers.
A record 127 universities and colleges from across North America participated in 2012, and for its 75th anniversary “diamond jubilee” year, the regatta promises to be bigger and better than ever.
Whether you’re a crew enthusiast or a novice, the regatta represents a chance to enjoy the spring season and see top-notch athletics for free.
Read on for our guide to this festive sporting event.
• Getting There: The races occur roughly two miles north of Boathouse Row, about five miles northwest of Center City. Those coming on foot or by public transportation can pick up a free shuttle bus from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at 25th Street and Kelly Drive, just outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art (near the statue of St. Joan of Arc).
Those driving should head towards Kelly Drive in Fairmount Park. The road will be closed for the event, but cars will be directed through the park and to remote lots (which charge a nominal parking fee), where free shuttles will pick up and drop off every 15-20 minutes. The event is also easily accessible by bike. For updates on parking and security, check here.
• The Course: The Dad Vail races take place on a six-lane, Olympic-length course. They begin just north of where Kelly Drive intersects Hunting Park Avenue, and end 2,000 meters later at the Grand Stand, just above the Columbia Avenue Bridge. Check out the complete course map below and here.
• Best Views: The ideal place to catch the action is the Grand Stand near the Jack Kelly statue, where the races will conclude. But shuttle buses will also stop at Rowers Village, near the start of the course, the Canoe Club (mid-course) or the 500 meter mark (final quarter).
• The Races: Pick up a program and Heat Sheets, which have the race schedule and map of which schools are racing in which lanes. Then after each race, listen to the PA system by the finish line for finalized results.
• The Food: The event features a Food Court with Philly favorites like cheesesteaks and hoagies, plus many other menu items and even alcoholic beverages. And attendees are welcome to pack a picnic.
• Meet the Athletes: The Rowers Village by the launch area is where racers relax and recharge when they’re not in the heat of competition. Some vendors even set up shop to sell rowing-related goods.
The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta
When: May 10-11
Where: Kelly Drive
More info: www.dadvail.org
For the 2013 course map, see below.