By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
America’s largest intercollegiate rowing competition, the Dad Vail Regatta, is expected to relocate to Rumson in May, according to Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl.
“It is not official,” Ekdahl told rebankgreen on Saturday, the same day the regatta’s overseers were expected to choose from several competing locales a new site for the event, which has been run on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River for the past 56 years and draws some 3,000 rowers from 120 schools in the U.S. and Canada.
But “there’s a high probability that they’re going to have it in Rumson,” Ekdahl said. “Behind the scenes we’ve been assured it’s coming.”
Ekdahl’s comments came a day after the weekly Two River Times reported that Rumson officials had “announced” last Wednesday that the competition would relocate to the Navesink River town this year. No such announcement was made, Ekdahl said, though one is expected Tuesday.
“Did they jump the gun and take a kind of a ‘Dewey Wins’ shot at this? Yes, they probably did.”
Ekdahl said Rumson has been courted by regatta personnel over the last couple months as a potential site. The competition’s high cost, paired with the weak economy forced the regatta organizing committee to shop for a new location, according to news reports.
Ekdahl said Camden, Princeton, Tampa and Atlanta were all prospects to host the competition, but Rumson, which Ekdahl said hosted the competition in 1939, apparently seemed a choice location. Committee members visited the area at least three times, he added.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News, the cost of operating the 72-year-old regatta has more than doubled over the last five years, in part due to payments to various Philadelphia city departments. Corporate sponsorships have plummeted by some 60 percent because of the recession, the newspaper reported.
The positive effects the regatta would bring to Rumson and beyond, especially hotels and restaurants, would be significant to say the least. Ekdahl said it’s possible that up to 15,000 people would be in the area for the event. The race is named for Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, a rowing coach at the University of Wisconsin in the 1920s.
“This is an event that’s going to have a huge economic impact on the two rivers area,” Ekdahl said.
The competition, featuring some 150 races, is scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend, on May 7 and 8. That Friday will be qualifying rounds and semi-finals and finals will be held Saturday. Ekdahl said he was assured by Dad Vail officials that by Sunday that after the event, it would be hard to tell that anybody was ever there.
Contrary to the TRT report that the races feature crews from Ivy League schools, none of the Ivies participate; the event was founded for, and continues to be reserved for, what it calls “colleges with emerging crew programs.” Ekdahl said the race course span the area from Battin Road in Fair Haven to the Oceanic Bridge.
The TRT reported that its owner, Mickey Gooch, has provided an initial advance of $100,000 toward the $250,000 in financial guarantees required by the Dad Vail organization. In his weekly column for the newspaper, Gooch, who is a native of England, likened the event to the Henley Royal Regatta.
If and when Rumson is selected as the new site, Ekdahl said a committee will be formed and fundraising efforts will begin to raise the expected $500,000 to support the event. Ekdahl said several national and international companies have shown interest in being sponsors.