The Stotesbury Cup Regatta, sponsored by the Schuylkill Navy, is the world's oldest and one of the largest high school rowing competitions. It is held annually in mid-May over a two-day period along the Schuylkill River near Boathouse Row in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Competing crews come from schools all over North America, though most hail from the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.
The regatta has many different events (30 in 2011) in which high school crews compete for various cups and trophies. Events vary by sex, age, weight category, number of rowers, and style of rowing (whether sweeping with one oar per rower or sculling with two oars per rower). The regatta takes its name from the main event, the Men's Senior Eight race, in which crews of eight oarsmen and one coxswain compete for the Stotesbury Cup. The Stotesbury Cup in turn is named for Edward T. Stotesbury of Philadelphia, a prominent partner at J.P. Morgan & Co. and its Philadelphia affiliate, Drexel & Co. The Women's Senior Eights compete for the Robert Engman Trophy. The regatta has been running men's races since 1927; women's events were added in the mid-1970s. Powerhouse schools in men's events include E.L. Crossley Secondary School, Holy Spirit, St. Joseph's Prep, Thomas Jefferson, Winter Park, Gonzaga College High School, and Roman Catholic High School for Boys. Meanwhile, in women's events, Mount Saint Joeseph Academy has emerged in recent years with strong showings in the Lightweight Eight and Senior Eight categories and Bishop Eustace Preparatory School won the Senior Eight category for three consecutive years (2007-2009).
The Stotesbury racecourse is the standard high school length of 1500 meters. It begins a few hundred meters upstream from the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and finishes downstream just before the Columbia Railroad Bridge (see a map of the racecourse). It is a six-lane course, and as in most races the favored crews are positioned in the middle lanes. The river current is strongest in the final four hundred meters of the race as crews pass Peters Island on the west side of the course. Lane 6, closest to Peters Island, generally has the slowest water current, making it the least desirable lane in this downstream racecourse.
Stotesbury's unique racing format does not have heats, 6 boats across racing in the normal sprint fashion, as the opening event. Instead, each event goes in a time trial format, similar to a head race, but only covering 1500 meters. The starting order is based on the finish order from the previous year's regatta. The fastest crews in each time trial advance to the semi-final round. Semi-finals begin later on the first day and continue on the second day. Finals begin in the afternoon of the second day. Events are ordered so that small boats race before the larger ones, and the regatta culminates in either the Men's or Women's Senior Eight final race, alternating every year. After each final is finished, the best three boats dock at the grandstands next to the finish line to receive their medals.
The Stotesbury Cup Regatta continues to grow in its size and level of competition as high school rowing gains popularity. In 2000, about 3,500 athletes competed in the regatta. In 2010, 5,500 athletes from 194 schools competed in 933 boats to make it the largest Stotesbury yet. As the sport continues to grow, this trend will likely persist as more and more rowers carry on the Stotesbury tradition.
- Stotesbury Cup Regatta Official Site The winner of every Stotesbury Cup Regatta race since the first race in 1927 is listed here.
- Information on 2007 event
- Schuylkill Navy Home page
- Philadelphia Inquirer article about history May 8, 2009 about Stotesbury
- Facts and Figures about The Stotesbury Cup Regatta
- Map of the Schuylkill River racecourse