The return of single sculling to the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta last year after a 45-year absence was so well-received that officials had to cut off the number of entries in the men's division for this weekend's competition.
"We were oversubscribed," said Jim Hanna, president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee.
The 74th Dad Vail, the largest collegiate rowing event in the United States with a record 127 schools this year, begins Friday on the Schuylkill. Of the 167 races scheduled through Saturday afternoon, 10 will consist of qualifying and finals in the college men's and women's single sculls.
Hanna said Tuesday the single sculls present "a very exciting element" to the regatta, which is the only gathering of this magnitude that "sponsors singles competition in North America."
The sculls returned to the Dad Vail for the first time since 1966 last year in conjunction with the Philadelphia Challenge Cup, which brought together international-caliber rowers. The contestants in the Challenge Cup race competed for the gold cup, which was first presented to Philadelphian John B. Kelly Sr., who in 1920 became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in rowing.
Hanna said the Challenge Cup will not be raced this year because it is an Olympic year. The event will be competed "every three or four years," he said.
The men's college competition features 30 rowers who will first compete in six heats of five boats each on Friday. The men's and women's semifinals take place early Saturday, with the championship races set for the afternoon. There are 12 contestants in the women's competition.
Hanna said the idea for single sculls came from long-time Haverford School coach and former Undine Barge Club competitor Jim Barker.
"Jim said that the United States suffers a deficit at the Olympics because we don't really promote single sculling," Hanna said. "He said that we needed a major regatta like the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta to support sculling."
Hanna said the DVROC wanted a day to think about it because of the concern that extra races would stretch the dedicated staff of more than 200 regatta volunteers. But after one day of consideration, he ruled the event a go.
Scullers from Oklahoma City University won last year's college races - Edgars Boitmanis on the men's side and Kathryn Schiro on the women's - and both are scheduled to return this season. Oklahoma City has another sculler, Jane Imfeld, who finished third last year at the Dad Vail and later rowed in the under-23 World Rowing Championships for the United States with Schiro.
Hanna said he has seen a renewed interest by college crew programs in adding single sculls and is pleased with the role that the Dad Vail Regatta plays in giving rowers in the discipline somewhere to compete.
He also likes the fact that the sculls might produce a future Olympic gold medalist. He said two current members of the DVROC board - Bill Stowe (1964) and Pete Cipollone (2004) - own gold medals.