In explaining why the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta continues to prepare for its annual two-day competition in May on the Schuylkill River despite increasing odds that it won’t happen, Jim Hanna looked for some humor in the situation.

“There’s only nine in a boat,” Hanna, the president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee, said Tuesday. “So following the federal recommendation, you don’t concentrate groups of more than 10. There’s only nine in a racing shell,” consisting of eight rowers and a coxswain.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing a number of sports events to be either postponed or canceled, but the Dad Vail Regatta continues to plan for its 82nd competition on May 8 and 9. Hanna said the event’s primary commitment is to the rowers, about 3,500 of whom representing more than 100 teams raced last year.

“The health and safety of all our constituencies comes first," he said, "but we still believe we have time. We are in the business of planning a race. We’re not in a race to terminate our regatta. That’s all too easy. We want to give people hope. We realize right now that the governors of the states are doing everything they can to try to ascertain whether symptomatic carriers are spreading COVID-19.

“But we still have time on our side. We’re not quite two months out. If we find there’s any way at all that we can schedule this regatta, we’re geared up. We’re hoping there will be a turn of events that will be positive."

Because of the pandemic, collegiate varsity crews, most of them women’s crews, have seen their season suspended. Hanna is encouraged that many men’s crews that compete at the Dad Vail are club teams that continue to sponsor fund-raisers to obtain the money needed to get to Philadelphia.

Hanna said more than 30 schools have registered, but he understands that some may have a change of heart about traveling.

Jim Hanna said he may reschedule the races for a date in the summer or the fall if he has to.
AKIRA SUWA / Staff
Jim Hanna said he may reschedule the races for a date in the summer or the fall if he has to.

“This is an ever-evolving, rapidly changing landscape,” he said, “so we want to maintain flexibility. We don’t have to announce that we’re not having a Dad Vail, not at this time. We’re announcing we’re going forward.”

The regatta draws thousands of fans annually to the banks of the Schuylkill, something that would be discouraged by the City of Philadelphia, which is trying to practice “social distancing.” Hanna said he would consider putting on an event with no crowds, that regatta officials would remain “flexible and open-minded.”

Should the regatta not be held as scheduled, Hanna said all alternatives would be evaluated, including the rescheduling of the competition for a date in the summer or the fall.

“It might be a smaller event,” he said. “It might be a one-day event, or only in the morning or the afternoon. We’re keeping all options open. We haven’t yet begun to explore all the avenues, but we’re all about staging a regatta. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we fulfill the dreams of these kids.”

The first Dad Vail Regatta took place in 1934. It was not held from 1942 to 1945 because of World War II.

Hanna said the regatta would post a coronavirus update on its web site, www.dadvail.org, on Tuesdays and Fridays.