What: The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta is the largest collegiate regatta (rowing or crew competition, for you newbies) in the U.S. Over 100 colleges and universities and thousands of athletes compete the weekend of the second Saturday in May each year.

When: Friday, May 9th & Saturday, May 10th

Where: The regatta takes place on the Schuylkill River, about two miles north of Boathouse Row. The course is an Olympic length 2000 meters, and races begin near the Kelly Drive-Hunting Park Avenue intersection. The finish line is just above the Columbia Avenue Bridge. Spectators usually line the grassy area along Kelly Drive, which is closed to traffic during the event. The Grand Stand is located at 2200 Kelly Drive, and race programs will be sold there. Police will direct thru traffic through Fairmount Park, and spectators will be led to lots.


Harry Emerson, or “Dad,” was one of the first crew coaches during his time at the University of Wisconsin from 1911 to the late 1920s. Though there were few venues for rowing at the time, Emerson heavily promoted the sport, and he apparently had a fantastic personality, a great sense of humor and a deep respect for hard work. When he died at the age of 69, “Dad” was the oldest crew coach in the country.

Want to read more about the race and the “Dad” behind it all? Click here.


“Heat Sheets” will be sold at the regatta, along with programs. Heat Sheets give a rundown of the race schedule and let the reader know what schools are competing when and in which of the six lanes. You can view the proposed schedule of events for both Friday, May 9 and Saturday, May 10 a day or two before the races here.


Tickets: Dad Vail is FREE to watch. Enjoy!

Parking: Those who come for the regatta will be directed to off-site parking (like the Mt. Pleasant parking area in Fairmount Park). Free shuttle buses will run every 15-20 minutes to transport spectators to the race area and will be available between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Shuttles have four stops: Canoe Club, Grand Stand (The Finish Line), Rowers’ Village (where crews assemble) and the Art Museum for the trip back. They’ll be easily identifiable double-decker or trolley-style buses marked with “Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta.”


What is there to eat? The Dad Vail Regatta offers a Food Court stocked with snacks and refreshments like cheesesteaks, hoagies and beverages. There are also a number of restaurants nearby.

Related: Top BYOBs in Fairmount

Where can I stay? If you plan to stay overnight in Philadelphia, numerous area hotels have special packages and deals. Click here for more info.

What if the weather is bad? Luckily, the race website provides detailed info in case of inclement weather.

I still have questions! HELP! The Dad Vail website also has a FAQ section; click here to view it.