Search This Blog

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Dad Vail Regatta

This weekend Philadelphia hosted the Dad Vail Regatta, an annual rowing event offering competitions for colleges, high schools and corporate teams.  The event is named after Henry Emerson "Dad" Vail, a famous Canadian-born rowing coach for the University of Wisconsin.  The event is run on the Schuylkill River about 2 miles north of Boathouse Row, a series of historic boathouses used for team rowing since before 1860:

("Boathouse Row-wide" by Jeffrey M. Vinocur - Own work. Licensed under 
CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

We wandered up Kelly Drive to the festivities on Saturday, the day of the final races.  However, we had other plans for the afternoon, so we just watched the preliminary races in the morning.

Here, David stands in the special "picture postcard" frame set up by the race sponsors:

Each race is run in heats of six boats.  Races are rowed by boats of 8, 4 and 2 ("pairs").  Over 80 colleges competed this year - among them Vassar and William & Mary.  We didn't see the Vassar team, which may have only competed on Friday; but we did see both the men's and women's rowers for William & Mary.

The races finish in front of a modern grandstand:

The race organizers post cameras at strategic spots along the course, to record and televise each heat as it progresses:

We chose to wander up through the festivities from the south, or Center City, end.  Strolling up the Fairmount Park path along Kelly Drive, we saw row after row of boat trailers, where the colleges had them parked while the boats were being raced:

As each heat was called, the teams would grab a boat and their oars and march up to the piers where they put in to row up the river to the starting line:

We spotted the William & Mary crew hanging out at their boat trailer.  There weren't many boats or crew members because both the men's and women's boats were getting ready to race:

Here, the William & Mary women's crew is putting its boat in the water...

...pushing off from the dock...

...and making haste to turn upriver as the Philadelphia Zoo hot air balloon rises in salute in the background:

We posted ourselves at the finish line to watch the William & Mary crews finish their heats.  Most of the observers were in the grandstand or on the banks of the river, but there was one observer who insisted on getting closer.  He did keep a respectful distance away from Lane 1, so no races were impeded.

Here, the William & Mary men's fours put up a gallant fight and cross the finish line:

We strolled on up the river past all the alumni tents and corporate tents, past clothing and gear vendors, past food trucks, through a mass of humanity including crew members, cameramen, reporters, family members, college alumni, mere spectators like ourselves, and many, many dogs. Bicycles were mainly a nuisance, and anyone who tried to bike through the crowds should have regretted trying.  Overall, it was a festive crowd, and periodically the entire population of an alumni tent would stand up and cheer as its favorite daughters and sons pulled through the water in competition past their tent.

Once the preliminary heats were ending and the racers took a lunch break before the final collegiate heats in the afternoon, we started our walk down to Center City.  Along the way, we saw the beautiful remains of blossoms just past their bloom:

Our destination:  The Belgian Cafe, on 21st and Green Streets, one of our all-time favorite restaurants, known for stocking a seemingly unlimited assortment of Belgian style beers from all over the world.  Kathy had a Brussels mixed greens salad topped with chicken, and David a veggie burger. Of course we also each sampled a brew:  Kathy tried a 'T Gaverhopke Extra and David scored a Nogne O Sunturnbrew.  We loved them both, and, together with a Weierbacher Insanity we didn't have room to order, we've got our list started for a visit to Oliver's, our go-to international beer distributor when we're next in Albany, New York!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.