Dad Vail Regatta

  • Hosted By Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee
  • USRowing Registered

          The History of the Dad Vail Regatta

-excerpted from 'The Dad Vail Story' by U.T. Bradley, 
(c)1962 

The story of the Dad Vail Rowing Association must begin with mention of two men, 'Rusty' Callow, then coach at Pennsylvania,
who laid the foundation, and Lev Brett, the architect. 

                                                                   
                                                             Rusty Callow                  Lev Brett

'Rusty' furnished the idea of promoting competition among colleges struggling to found rowing. These fell into two classes: those
too small ever to hope to compete in the 'big time,' and those larger institutions not yet ready for such competition. To furnish the
incentive, 'Rusty' put into competition in 1934 a trophy which he named in honor of his friend Harry Emerson 'Dad' Vail, for years
coach at the University of Wisconsin. Hence our name. 
 
The name 'Dad' Vail has become synonymous with our Association. Lest. we forget, something about the man himself should go
into this record. Harry Emerson Vail was born in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada. Like his famous contemporaries, Charles
Courtney of Cornell, and Jim Ten Eyck of Syracuse, he learned his rowing as a successful professional sculler. His career is traced
 in his obituary, published in the Wisconsin StateJournal of October 8, 1928: 

'Mr. Vail, aged 69, was the oldest crew coach in the U. S. at the time of his death. Jim Ten Eyck of Syracuse
was the only one who exceeded 'Dad' in age. Coach Vail was 'Dad' to every boy who ever worked under
him, and he was one of the most beloved figures on the university campus.  
 
Coming to Wisconsin in 1911, Coach Vail almost won the Poughkeepsie title that year. Again in 1924, following
a ten-year period in which the University of Wisconsin authorities refused to send the crew east, 'Dad' took
second, and his praises were sung from one end of the country to the other. 
 
Deeply religious, 'Dad' Vail was one of the few coaches taking crews to Poughkeepsie who refused to do any
rowing on Sunday. Gradually, other coaches followed the lead of the Wisconsin mentor and until now it is quite
unusual to see an eight swinging down the Hudson on Sunday. 
 
Coach Vail was possessed of an inimitable sense of humor, and some of his stories will survive as long as eights
with the long sweeps are propelled over Lake Mendota. As long as rowing is discussed, there will be those to tell
of the feats of 'Dad' Vail when he was one of the greatest single scullers in the world, of his uncanny ability in
sizing up a crew, and of his flashes of biting sarcasm. 
 
Previous to his work at Wisconsin, Coach Vail had been coach at Georgetown Prep, Ariel Boat Club, and Harvard.
However, it was through his work at Wisconsin that Coach Vail became widely known.'

For more on the history of the Dad Vail regatta, visit our website.