The biggest university rowing regatta in the US
The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta celebrated its 75th anniversary with a record number of entries in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States.
The 128 participating universities made it the largest collegiate race in North America, boasting more than 3,700 rowing athletes with more than 30,000 fans lining the banks of the Schuylkill River.
Inclement weather, debris on the course and rough water conditions caused changes to the racing schedule, but that did not stop Drexel University from stealing the show. Drexel University(in Philadelphia) won four gold medals, one bronze, one silver, the men’s point title and the overall team title. Most notably, their fifth-seeded men’s varsity eight captured the gold medal over Michigan State University and the Florida Institute of Technology. On the women's side, Grand Valley State University won the women’s point title and the women’s varsity eight event, beating the University of Massachusetts and Bucknell University.
The regatta is held on the Schuylkill River which is home to some of the oldest boathouses in the nation. “For anybody who knows the history of rowing, Philadelphia is a very special place,” says Drexel Athletic Director, Eric Zillmer who acknowledged the home-water advantage that his team had. “I’ve always felt that rowing, Drexel and Philadelphia were really chemistry made in heaven.”
Drexel senior and stroke of the men’s eight, Kurt Linton, called the race extremely memorable. “We were able to have an eye on the field and drive it home through the grandstands where hundreds and hundreds of people were as loud as I have ever heard at any racing event,” he says.
Senior Lorenzo Albala describes the final saying, “When we first pulled out of the pack, and each rower starting from bow sequentially calls ‘I'm out!’ As well as the feeling, with 400 metres to go, that we still had the lead, there was no way I was letting go.”
Winning at the Dad Vail Regatta can give up-and-coming university rowing programmes, like Drexel, a push in the right direction. “Finally being able to win the V8 at [Dad] Vails was huge for our programme in moving to higher levels,” Linton says. Drexel will now look toward the IRA National Championship, held 31 May to 2 June 2013.
The Dad Vail regatta began in 1937 to commemorate Coach Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail. Founders Rusty Callow and Lev Brett wanted to create a regatta for young university rowing programmes. “It caters to smaller, fledgling crews,” says Jim Hanna, President of the Dad Vail Organising Committee, “but it has grown into the largest collegiate regatta in North America … There are kids that become so enamoured with rowing and winning at the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, their entire life really is focused upon it.”
As the regatta has grown it has also become more and more expensive to host. Four years ago Aberdeen Asset Management signed on as the title sponsor of the event. Gary Marshall, Chief Executive at Aberdeen, recently announced a three year sponsorship extension. "We've had such a great experience with the regatta for the last four years that we felt it was the right thing to do. I think for us to be involved in something that is so deeply embedded in the community is really important and we see our association continuing with that."
Rower and Senior Relationship Manager at Aberdeen, Toby Wallace believes that young rowers cultivate the ability to work as a team and, "the skills [learned] in a rowing boat are definitely transferrable into the corporate world."
Zillmer also recognises the importance of university rowing. "I think it's an amazing collegiate sport. Everything that we have put into our rowing programme has come back moreover. It’s a great investment.”