The 74th Annual Dad Vail Regatta, The Country’s Largest Collegiate Rowing Competition, Returns To The Schuylkill May 11-12

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)

Just as the city cools down from Penn Relays and Broad Street Run fever, it’s time for another record-breaking competition, bringing world-class athletes to Philadelphia.

On May 11-12, the 74th annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta sails onto the scenic Schuylkill River. The two-day event is the largest collegiate regatta in the U.S., with 3,500 racers and more than 10,000 spectators. Admission is completely free!

More than 100 colleges and universities from all over North America will be represented at the races, which are 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. The races take place in beautiful Fairmount Park, known as one of the most famous and scenic rowing routes in the world.

So whether you’re a crew enthusiast or a novice, the regatta represents a great chance to enjoy the outdoors and see some top-notch athletics for free. Here’s our guide to the activities:

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 at 25th Street and Kelly Drive, just outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 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.

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.

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).

More information and useful tips, below.

The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta
When: May 11-12
Where: Kelly Drive
Cost: Free
More info:

Food Options: 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. Bonus: food trucks like Gozen Yogurt and Zsa’s Gourmet Ice Cream will serve up sweet treats.

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.

What to Bring: Walking shoes, sunscreen and pets (on leashes!). Plus the Dad Vail is a perfect picnic destination; packed lunches and even beach chairs are welcome.

Follow Along: Pick up a program and Heat Sheets, which have the race schedule and map of which schools are racing in which lanes. They’re available for purchase on the regatta grounds. Then after each race, listen to the PA system by the finish line for finalized results.

Help Out: This free event thrives on the help of a large volunteer staff. Spaces are still open on every crew, from set up to parking to race timing.

Make a Weekend Out of It: There are plenty of great hotel packages for Dad Vail participants and spectators, and local restaurant specials as well.


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