Sunny weather welcomes back the Dad Vail Regatta

Finishing first in their heat is the Temple Men's Varsity Heavyweight Eight, including (from left) Brian Reehill, Brendan Cunningham, Tom Masterson and John Masterson.
Finishing first in their heat is the Temple Men's Varsity Heavyweight Eight, including (from left) Brian Reehill, Brendan Cunningham, Tom Masterson and John Masterson.
Posted: May 08, 2010

It was smooth sailing under sunny skies on Day 1 of the 72d annual Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta. That pleased race directors and spectators almost as much as the event staying on the Schuylkill instead of being moved to North Jersey.

Last November, due to economic reasons, the largest collegiate rowing event in the country was set to move from Philadelphia to the Navesink River in Rumson, N.J. A month later, with the backing of Mayor Nutter, U.S. Rep. Bob Brady and local businessman Herb Lotman, Dad Vail organizers announced a decision to stay in Philadelphia.

Three weeks ago, Aberdeen Asset Management, a Scottish investment firm with North American headquarters at 17th and Market Streets, signed a four-year agreement and contributed "six figures" to become the title sponsor of the rowing competition.

"It's wonderful. It's exciting," said Jim Hanna, the Dad Vail president. "It's a new day for Philadelphia and what is probably the most historic rowing event in the United States. We now have world-class facilities."

Hanna said the city "committed $300,000 to improve the finish-line grandstand and build a world-class finish-line tower." He estimated that the regatta, which this year features more than 3,000 rowers and 100 colleges and universities, brings $16 million in revenue to the city.

Of Lotman, who brokered a deal between the regatta and city to keep the event on the Schuylkill for the 57th year, Hanna said, "He's the Henry Kissinger of Philadelphia."

Weather-wise, Day 1 was a major success. Last year, high water, a swift current and debris from wind and heavy rain earlier in the week forced organizers to change the format of the races to timed events, instead of head-to-head heats, and shorten the distance from 2,000 meters to 1,500 meters.

Lindsay Welch, a four-year member of Purdue's varsity heavyweight eight crew, is a native of Newtown, Bucks County. The graduate of Stuart Country Day School in Princeton never rowed before college.

"One of the coaches came up to me on freshman orientation day and encouraged me to attend the call-out meeting and first practice," said Welch, a 6-foot-2 senior and No. 6 seat. "It's been great. I love the workouts, the competitive atmosphere, the team aspect of the sport."

Since Purdue's team is a club squad, not an intercollegiate program, Welch said she has one year of eligibility remaining. The 22-year-old, who competed in horse jumping while growing up, plans to attend graduate school for exercise physiology at Virginia and row for the Cavaliers.

Welch, a history major, and the top-seeded Boilermakers won their morning heat in 6 minutes, 44.85 seconds, and advanced to Saturday's semifinal.

Joining Purdue in a six-boat semifinal heat is sixth-seeded St. Joseph's, which posted a Day 1 qualifying time of 6:44.68. Fifth-seeded Drexel (6:47.95) and seventh-seeded Temple (6:49.27) also have a shot at winning the Evelyn Bergman Trophy.

"We had a great race," St. Joseph's women's coach Gerry Quinlan said. "It was the end of our final exams, so, with the fatigue factor, you never know what the times are going to be."

In the men's varsity heavyweight eight, second-seeded Temple, eighth-seeded La Salle, Drexel and St. Joseph's are still alive in the hunt for the Richard O'Brien Trophy.

The Hawks notched a qualifying heat mark of 6:22.81. "We need to build on the success we had in the first 600 or 700 meters of this race and do it for 2,000," St. Joseph's men's coach Drew Hill said.

Alex Pugh, the No. 3 seat on the Hawks' varsity eight, returned to the boat after suffering a broken collarbone in a fall five weeks ago. The freshman was given medical clearance last week.

Temple reached the men's varsity eight semis with a repechage clocking of 6:19.53. In a Saturday morning semifinal, the Owls will be positioned in Lane 1 and matched against La Salle, Delaware, Grand Valley and Florida. The top two crews from each semifinal heat advance to the final.


For complete results of the first day's events, go to www.dadvail.org.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien

at 610-313-8019 or robrien@phillynews.com.

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