So now Rumson feels the sting of rejection, with officials of the northern New Jersey town saying they were blindsided by yesterday's announcement that the Dad Vail Regatta will 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 officials proclaimed at a noon news conference that 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.

In a subsequent interview, he 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 bankers, Bruce Springsteen, and Queen Latifah - was their final choice for the 2010 regatta, Ekdahl said.

The only condition was that Rumson raise $100,000 in escrow for the event in four weeks. The town raised it in three, and eagerly awaited 3,000 rowers and 35,000 spectators.

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

"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."

Ekdahl said that despite Dad Vail's assurances, he suspected 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," he 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 met Tuesday and left without a signed agreement sealing the deal.

Despite yesterday's surprise, Ekdahl said Rumson would not sue for breach of contract.

"From a technical standpoint, we only had a handshake," he 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."

Steve Bidgood, regional operating partner for Salt Creek Grilles, which has a restaurant 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 racers and spectators, but won't really miss the extra business. The 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.

Michael "Mickey" Gooch, who put up the $100,000 to transplant the event to the Navesink, said he, too, was disappointed but wasn't harboring a grudge.

"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, chief executive officer of the GFI Group, a brokerage company in New York. "If it's good for the sport, it's good for everyone."

Gooch, a British-born billionaire, was in no hurry to get his $100,000 back.

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