This weekend, more than 100 colleges and universities from coast to coast will converge on Philadelphia for one of the city’s signature events. And at the center will be Drexel, aiming to defend its title at the nation’s largest intercollegiate rowing event.
The Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, which will be held on the Schuylkill River on Friday and Saturday, has been circled on the calendar of Drexel’s crew teams since their season began in the fall, Director of Rowing Paul Savell said. But the event is more than the rowers’ biggest two days of the year. It’s also a quintessential Philadelphia experience that brings the Drexel community together for two days of spirit and fun.
“It’s just a great atmosphere,” Savell said. “It’s alive. There’s a lot of energy down there.” Both days, the action will begin around 7 a.m. and continue until about 5 p.m. More details on the schedule will be available later in the week at DrexelDragons.com.
This year’s regatta is different in one way: Drexel enters as the defending champion. The Dragons won the overall team championship for the first time in program history in 2013, winning a record six medals among its 12 boats entered.
And this year, the women’s and men’s teams are coming off their third straight team victories at the Kelly and Bergen Cups, respectively, late last month. The winners of those two events, the Philadelphia city championships, tend to perform well at the Dad Vail on the same river two weeks later, Savell said.
“They’ve got a lot of enthusiasm,” Savell said of this year’s team. “They’re just really positive. It just makes it so much more fun to work with them.”
The squad is riding high after a steady climb over the past several years, bringing the program to unprecedented heights of success.
“The success that our team has been having has really built on itself and is kind of snowballing with each class,” Savell said. “The team just keeps getting faster, better and more competitive.”
The men’s and women’s squads combine to total about 100 members, and they’ve bonded together over several months’ worth of “brutal” early-morning practices, Savell said — five or six days per week, usually starting at 6 a.m.
“Everybody on our team knows that the rest of the team is counting on each and every boat,” Savell said. “That’s a little bit of pressure, but it’s also a lot of support.”
The team will get a good deal of support from a strong Drexel contingent, too. Fans can congregate under the Drexel tents set up near the finish line, where they can eat and cheer on the Dragons together. It’s a charged environment, Savell said, and a must for anyone wishing to truly experience Philadelphia.
“It just takes over the town,” Savell said.