GIVING IT THE OLD COLLEGE TRY, AGAIN

regatta2Race organizers are hoping for better conditions than last year, when several boats were swamped, leading to a cancellation. (Photo by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Give the Rumson rowing community credit: they keep putting their oars in the water.

Two years ago, they came tantalizingly close to landing one of collegiate rowing’s biggest events, the Dad Vail Regatta, but had their hearts broken when the event’s organizers decided to keep it where it had always been, in Philadelphia.

Then, a scaled-down collegiate regatta a year ago was scrapped during the second race, when wind-driven waves swamped several boats in the Navesink River, just off Victory Park.

But they’re back.

On Saturday, the 2011 Rumson Boat Race will take to the Navesink for four races on the Middletown side of the river, from the vicinity of a buoy opposite Bon Jovi’s mansion east toward the Oceanic Bridge.

Men’s and women’s varsity and junior varsity teams from Rutgers, Army, Drexel and Villanova will compete on a one-mile course in four “sweep” events, in which each rower in an eight-athlete vessel works a single oar. Varsity winners will claim the Governor’s Cup, and the JV winner will get the Mayor’s Cup.

“What’s wonderful is that the schools asked to come back” after last year’s disappointment, Dan Edwards, one of the event’s organizers, tells redbankgreen.

Edwards said the event reflects modest ambitions on the part of the rowing community in Rumson and Fair Haven.

The primary aim, he said, is to introduce high school athletes to big-time college rowing. But it’s also about bringing competitive rowing to the doorstep not only of donors who make the RFH rowing program possible, but local residents who are simply curious about the sport, which is the longest-running in American collegiate history, with pre-Civil War roots.

“We’re really not trying to ‘elevate’ rowing,” Edwards said. The RFH program, though it competes in races from Long Island to Delaware, hosts no ‘home’ events, and has no particular desire to do so, he said.

It’s “kind of hard to dislodge teams” from traditional racing schedules, he said.

But it is important for RFH rowers to rub elbows with college coaches and see college competition, he said.

“Now, there are more rowing programs than ever,” he said, reflecting on his own youth growing up along the Schuykill River in Philly, where 11 schools had boathouses. “But you don’t have that level of interaction.”

The event is to be preceded by a Friday night reception at the Salt Creek Grille, at which several Olympic rowers are expected. More info here.

Here’s a PDF with more detail about the race: 2011rumsonboatraceuscgdocs