The historic Philadelphia Challenge Cup race will return to the city on May 14 as part of the 2011 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, Mayor Nutter announced Tuesday.

The cup, also, known as the Gold Cup, gained prominence in the rowing world after the Schuylkill Navy commissioned it in 1920 to honor the world champion of single-scull rowing. The first winner was gold medalist and Philadelphian John B. Kelly, and the event has been compared to the Davis Cup in tennis and the America's Cup in yachting.

The race has not been held since 1966 and not in Philadelphia since 1962. In the mid- 1960s, single-scull rowing faded from popularity, and the trophy disappeared. It was rediscovered in 1996 in a Philadelphia antiques shop.

The 2011 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Coca-Cola, also will be the first to include a women's competition.

The announcement at City Hall was filled with nostalgia. Jack Kelly, grandson of the gold-medal rower of the same name, and Don Spero, the last person whose name was inscribed on the cup, were in the audience. Spero won the race in 1966, and the cup disappeared after that.

"I get a little emotional every time I see this cup," said Bill McNabb, chairman and chief executive officer of Vanguard, the Malvern mutual-fund company. "I don't know about all of you, but I cannot wait for this to happen."

McNabb, a varsity heavyweight oarsman at Dartmouth, also rowed for Undine Barge club in Philadelphia. He is one of several people who make up the Philadelphia Gold Challenge Cup Foundation, which is chaired by Herb Lotman, who made a fortune developing mass-production systems for making frozen hamburgers.

Each Cup champion will earn $10,000, and second- and third-place finishers will be awarded $5,000 and $2,500, respectively.

"The storied history of the Gold Cup Challenge is uniquely Philadelphian, and I am looking forward to watching elite athletes compete for it again in our city," Nutter said.

Contact staff writer Miriam Hill

at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.