Dad Vail moves to New Jersey for 2023 due to Schuylkill dredging

Rowing crews

File photo: Rowing crews compete in the first day of the Dad Vail Regatta on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, Friday, May 9, 2014. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

A Philadelphia tradition is moving to Pennsauken, New Jersey for 2023.

For the first time in its 84-year history, the annual Dad Vail Regatta will be held at Cooper River Park on May 12-13.

Moving the storied event to the Cooper was discussed for several years, according to Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash, who serves as the liaison to the county Parks Department.

“We have a very close relationship with PHL sports [and] we have a working relationship with Philadelphia crew venues and their organizing committee,” he said.

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The competition is moving to Camden County, due to the long-delayed dredging of the Schuylkill River that restarted in July. The Philadelphia District Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Philadelphia terminated their contract with Bridgeport, N.J.-based Atlantic Subsea last year. The company halted work in late 2020 because it encountered telephone poles, big trees, and other unusually large objects in the river.

Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee President Jim Hanna said in a news release that the unanimous decision to move the race from the Schuylkill River National Racecourse to the Cooper River – approximately five miles away – ensures a “successful production of the Regatta.”

According to its website, the Dad Vail Regatta has been held since 1934, with the exception of the World War II years and the 2020 COVID pandemic. It has been a fixture in Philadelphia since 1953. Nash said the competition coming to the Garden State is a “full circle” moment, with Rutgers being one of the first participants.

Nash said the county gets “no great pleasure in hosting over Philadelphia because it is a regional event.”

“They’re welcome to stay with us as long as they feel they need to,” he said. “If they go back to the Schuylkill after the dredging project is complete, we’ll cheer them on as well.”

The commissioner also points out that the Cooper is a top-ranked crew venue. Next year is no exception. Cooper River Park will play host to several collegiate rowing competitions, as well as the 2023 NCAA Women’s National Rowing Championship, which will take place two weeks after Dad Vail.

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Nash adds the county is excited to host the event, adding it’s an economic boom for the county.

“When we have these regattas, especially one as popular as the Dad Vail, it fills every hotel, every restaurant, all the shopping stores, the malls, [and] the places of commerce,” he said.

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