The sudden call to move the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, the largest high school rowing regatta in the world, from the Schuylkill in Philadelphia to the Cooper River in Camden County this weekend is “unprecedented” says a race organizer and has set off a massive logistical undertaking.
Bonnie Mueller, a director of the regatta, said the river was moving too fast with too much volume because of recent weather and rain to be able to guarantee fairness and safety at the famed course above Boathouse Row. By Tuesday morning, the forecast was for the river to crest at more than 7 and half feet.
Mueller was quick to note that the switch was not made because of what rowers say is a dire need to dredge the river.
But she said it means a massive logistical effort to reach out not only to rowing clubs across the country and their parents, but to all the vendors and sponsors that planned to setup along the banks of the Schuylkill.
The regatta took to social media to keep rowers and parents informed.
PARENT REGATTA ALERT: ALL TEAMS REPOST. We have confirmed that we will be able to stage all planned rented tents and the local “host/volunteer school” tents typically in front of Peters Island. @acmemarkets is going to deliver onsite. More to come. That’s all we know so far.
— Stotesbury Cup (@StotesRegatta) May 16, 2018
The race is a Philadelphia institution and economic driver that brings 6,000 rowers from across the nation and Canada, as well as 35,000 specatators, to the Schuylkill River’s banks. The 2018 event has 195 schools entered with 975 boats. The race was first held in 1927 as male-only. Girls began rowing in it in 1974 and now comprise more than half of the race’s participants.
The race is organized under the nonprofit Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia, which oversees Boathouse Row. Mueller is a vice commodore of the navy and a director of the Stotesbury. She said the race has only been moved only once before. That was in the late 80s when it switched to Delaware because of conditions. But the race was much smaller then.
“This is unprecedented in moving an event this size on this small of a notice,” Mueller said. That includes removing a large new dock that had just been installed on the Schuylkill for the race. It will be moved by crane to the Cooper.
The Cooper River in South Jersey, a relatively recent rowing attraction, has gained traction in recent years as a draw, especially since Camden County completed a $10.5 million dredging a year ago. It’s also made other improvements, such as a $2 million restoration of banks, and has improved connections between rowers and local hotels and restaurants.The course is bordered by four towns: Pennsauken and Cherry Hill on the north side and Camden, Collingswood and Haddon Township on the south.
Waterflow on the Cooper River can be adjusted better than on the Schuylkill, she said. So there are no worries of high water.
“A lot people don’t realize this is more than just giving people a new location,” Mueller said. “The good news is that it’s only 8 miles a part. So the volume of competitors from out of town, can still stay in the city and region. An eight mile shift is workable for most of the teams who are coming in from out of town.”
Still, she said, “there are thousands of parents who have questions about where their tents are going to go for tailgating. But we knew that if we didn’t make the call, then we would be looking at the weather and river everyday and wondering if it’s still safe to row.”