DAD VAIL DUMPS RUMSON; EKDAHL MIFFED

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Dad Vail Regatta won’t be coming to Rumson next year after all, officials announced Thursday, much to the shock and disappointment of Rumson leaders who were assured the popular intercollegiate race would be taking place on the Navesink River.

“That is unfortunately true,” Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said, just a half-hour after he received the news via telephone from Dad Vail committee member Jim Hanna. “I’m not sure what happened.”

According to Philadelphia news reports, committee members met Thursday morning at a press conference at Philadelphia City Hall to make the announcement. Details at the press conference were few, the report said.

Even Ekdahl wasn’t fully involved in what was going on in Philly, saying that the reason organizers chose to retain the regatta, which has taken place on the Schuylkill River since the 1950s, were political.

“(Hanna) said, ‘you guys did nothing wrong.’ He said it was a political problem in Philly, whatever that means,” Ekdahl said.

Rumson officials, he said, weren’t even invited to discuss what was happening in Philadelphia and hadn’t talked to committee members in two weeks, when they last visited Rumson to talk about the details of the event.

“We were never given any indication of it moving back to Philly. In fact, we were told Rumson was the choice,” he said.

Ekdahl said he and other local organizers recently submitted a letter of understanding to Dad Vail officials outlining the financing goals to support the event, which was expected to draw more than 100 colleges and upwards of 15,000 collegiate rowers and spectators to the shore town. There were four deadlines to be met in order to raise the $250,000 goal set. Two River Times owner Mickey Gooch fronted the initial $100,00, and the following payments of about $50,000 each, were to be gained through local fundraising, Ekdahl said. However, Rumson made no guarantee in the letter of understanding that the goal would be met within the short time frame the committee set forth.

“I think we could’ve hit that goal, possibly exceeded it, but there was no guarantee,” Ekdahl said, adding that Rumson was courted by local and national advertisers . “They had to have an out. They had to have an excuse, and I think they’re using that.”

The $100,000 Gooch put up to lure organizers to bring Dad Vail to Rumson will be repaid, Ekdahl added.

Considering the manner in which Rumson was seemingly spurned by Thursday’s announcement, Ekdahl said the likelihood of the borough pursuing the regatta’s return to the area are slim to none.

“I would say no chance. An awful lot of effort went into the planning and working with the Dad Vail people, and then to have it end in this fashion, without being told they had reopened negotiations, under the circumstances, I don’t think we will become involved with them again,” he said. “Even being such a great event, it ended on a real sour note.”

Ekdahl said that there’s still a desire to host some sort of rowing event on the Navesink, possible a high school race. But at the moment, the sting of losing Dad Vail in 2010 is still fresh.

“It would’ve been great fun for everybody and I know that we would’ve done a great job hosting it,” he said.