So now Rumson feels the sting of rejection, with officials of the northern New Jersey town saying they were blindsided by today's announcement that the Dad Vail Regatta would remain in Philadelphia.

"Certainly, it is a disappointment," Mayor John Ekdahl said. "I'm frankly shocked at the turn of events."

Ekdahl learned of the regatta's abrupt change in course from an Inquirer reporter as Dad Vail organizers and Philadelphia city officials held a noon news conference to proclaim the historic collegiate rowing race would remain on the Schuylkill, where it has been held for 56 years.

"It would have been nicer if I had heard from someone associated with Dad Vail," Ekdahl said.

Ekdahl, in a subsequent interview, said he later received a call from Jim Hanna, president of the regatta.

"We had a discussion about it," Ekdahl said. "But after the discussion, I'm still really not sure where it broke down."

Of their conversation, Hanna said: "Rumson could not have been more courteous. They were a class act."

Last month, Dad Vail organizers jilted Philadelphia and told Rumson officials that the exclusive enclave - home to billionaire brokers, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen Latifah - was their final choice for the 2010 regatta, Ekdahl said.

The only condition was that Rumson would have to raise $100,000 in escrow for the event in four weeks. The town raised it in three.

The site appeared to be a perfect match for the regatta, said Dan Edwards, Rumson's liaison to the Dad Vail.

The proposed course on the Navesink River is straight, doesn't flood, and doesn't require racers to pass under any bridges, which channel the current, Edwards said.

Hanna visited Rumson last weekend to inspect "the land side of things," said Edwards.

"He seemed pretty happy when he left," Edwards said. "Whatever happened between Saturday night and this morning is, well . . . I don't know what happened."

The mayor said that despite Dad Vail's assurances, he still had suspicions something might be afoot. Last week, he saw Philadelphia still had the date penciled in for the regatta but "didn't think much of it," Ekdahl said.

"In all our dealings with Dad Vail, never once did they mention that Philadelphia was still an option," Ekdahl said. "Quite the opposite. They said we were the choice 'no matter what you hear out there.' "

On Wednesday, Ekdahl said it was "a bit ominous" when Dad Vail committee members left Rumson on Tuesday without a signed agreement sealing the deal.

Despite today's surprise, Ekdahl said Rumson would not file suit for breach of contract.

"From a technical standpoint, we only had a handshake," Ekdahl said. "We're not litigious. There's no way this is going near a courtroom.

"My thought was that we will remain friends after this," Ekdahl said.

Steve Bidgood, regional operating partner for Salt Creek Grilles on the Navesink, said he was "very shocked" by the decision.

"I thought it was a done deal. But you know what? I was pretty happy with the town getting together and getting ready for it. Maybe down the road we'll get some other regatta like that."

Bidgood said he would have opened for breakfast and lunch to accommodate the racers and spectators, but he won't really miss the extra business. The proposed regatta dates were the week before Mother's Day.

"That in itself is a very, very busy week. Mother's Day weekend is one of the busiest of the year in the restaurant business," Bidgood said.

Mickey Gooch, who put up the $100,000 to transplant the event to the Navesink, said that he, too, was disappointed but wasn't harboring any grudges.

"If any good comes out of this, the relationship between Dad Vail and Philadelphia will be renewed and it will be good for the sport," said Gooch, CEO of the GFI Group, a brokerage company in New York. "If it's good for the sport, it's good for everyone."

Contact staff writer Sam Wood 215-854-2796 or samwood@phillynews.com.