The HOSR Story
Competitors in the 2018 Head of the Schuylkill Regatta® continue a tradition of exceptional fall racing that began more than four decades ago. While the expansive scope of the two-day Regatta today bears little resemblance to its 1970 roots, the spirit of the Regatta endures: a fall race showcasing high-caliber crews as well as those new to the sport. An estimated 180 competitors participated in the first race. Last year, more than 8,900 athletes crossed the finish line of the 2.5-mile scenic course.
In 1971, three members of University Barge Club, located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Boathouse Row, launched the idea for a new fall race, transforming the 1000 meter Graduate Sculls race into a head racing format. The aim of 1960 Olympian Lyman Perry, Jay Pattison III, and the late Raul Betancourt, was to offer rowers of all ages congenial autumn competition. In head races, competitors race the clock over a course that is typically two to three miles long, often toward the river’s headwaters – a quest to find the perfect balance of power and endurance to optimize speed.
At a time when only elite, college and junior athletes competed in “head” or distance races, the newly established Head of the Schuylkill Regatta emphasized graduate oarsmen and opened racing to newly emerging masters’ and women’s teams. Twelve women entered the first regatta; in 2013, more than 3,200 females competed, and for the first time outnumbered male competitors. The Regatta’s spirit of inclusion grew along with its size and scope. Early Regattas hosted dozens of college, high school and masters rowers. The Regatta soon welcomed recreational and adaptive athletes. The first point, or team, trophy was presented to Vesper Boat Club in 2010.
The name change to The Thomas Eakins Head of the Schuylkill Regatta occurred in 1975. Born in 1844, Thomas Eakins was a Philadelphia painter, whose iconic works include scullers on the Schuylkill River. The Regatta emerged as the world’s largest one-day rowing competition. Its popularity, however, soon exceeded the river’s capacity. In 2008, the format changed to a two-day event. This step expanded racing opportunities for rowers and significantly increased the ability to promote Philadelphia as a destination. With the new format the regatta became a 501©3 non-profit organization with an 11-member board of directors and a volunteer corps that exceeds 350 people, many of whom work year-round.
The new two-day format, college crews race on Saturday along with the majority of elite and masters rowers, while high schools, and other elite, masters and veteran rowers reign on Sunday. Elite and Masters events are spread throughout the weekend. Other recent scheduling enhancements include high school and college alumni events and the allowance of competitors to row multiple races. More than 250 clubs, high schools and colleges participated, hailing from New Hampshire to Florida, California and Canada, Europe and Australia, with suburban Philadelphia and New Jersey schools notably represented.
For the fifth year, the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta will partner with The Gold Challenge Cup Foundation to bring the top male and female scullers from around the world for the most storied race in Philadelphia’s rich rowing history, and one of the most exciting rowing competitions outside of the Olympic Games. In 2018, The Gold Cup expands as the first international rowing series that offers prize money of $50,000 to any rower, who places first in three 2018 single scull championship events – the Henley Royal Regatta, World Rowing Championships and Philadelphia Gold Cup. Further, in partnership with USRowing, the Head Of The Charles Regatta and the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta, in 2017 The Gold Cup Foundation created the Herb Lotman U.S. Challenge to further promote and develop single sculling in the United States. Prize money will be awarded to the top American men and women scullers accumulating the most points over the three-race series.
In addition to hosting thousands of competitors, the 2018 Regatta, on Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28, will again welcome an additional 30,000 – 40,000 spectators building on the Regatta’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier events at a historic location regarded as the home of American Rowing. Parents, family and friends will line the course to cheer competitors of all skill levels and age, and enjoy the Three Angels Statues Festival Area, named for the Carl Milles sculpture punctuating the river’s east bank. Crews slicing down the course to the finish line are forever embedded in the legendary tradition of Philadelphia’s Fall Festival of Rowing, the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta.