The Crum Regatta, one of Swarthmore’s most long-lived and notable traditions, returned to the Crum Creek after two years. In 2015 and 2016, due to the reconstruction of the train trestle, the Regatta as held in the Ware Pool. This year during Garnet Weekend, the area was finally free of the disruption of machinery and fencing.
At total of twenty-four students, split into five teams each with a homemade vessel, competed in the Regatta this year: Pub Nite Lime with the U.S.S. Keg Stand, Jaded and Faded with the HMS Fomo, the United Federal Reserve of Planets with the USS Free Enterprise, Facial Laceration with the The Transfer Trawler, and the Balloondry Basketeers with the Balloondry Basket.
“As a junior transfer student, Swarthmore traditions are novel to me. But as someone who hails from the Pacific Northwest and has a passion for the outdoors, the Crum Regatta immediately appealed to those sentiments,” said Jack Pokorny ’19.
Last year’s winning team, the Soviet Union of International Waters, returned this year as the United Federal Reserve of Planets and claimed first place again.
“They were the favorite heading into race day, but there was a question about their ability to make the transition from the relative calm of Ware Pool to the wild environs of the Crum. They built a kayak this year, with Rhys [Manley ’20] again as the pilot, and they won a close race. Second place went to the Jaded and Faded team, [sailing] an inflatable clamshell-type craft that relied on the overwhelming propulsion of swim team members,” said associate director of alumni and parent engagement Geoff Semenuk.
In fact, the regatta has technically never left the Crum Creek.
“Even though the 2015 and 2016 Regattas were in the Ware Pool, they were still technically in Crum Creek water owing to the fact that the college water supply comes from the Crum [and is] collected, filtered, sanitized and pumped from the Aqua facility several miles upstream from campus,” said Semenuk.
Semenuk has been in charge of organizing the Crum Regatta for 20 years. Until several years ago, the Regatta had always been in the spring semester.
“It […] was often postponed because of ice and snow. Several years ago there was an idea to hold it in the fall as part of Garnet Weekend. In my mind this was a great idea because the race time water temperature is about 25 or 30 degrees warmer in early October than it is in early April. The water level is lower in the fall, but the comfort level is much higher,” said Semenuk.
This year’s Regatta engendered bonding of team members as well as a fair share of excitement.
“I assisted in constructing a boat out of PVC piping, duck tape, and brooms. The boat fit two lanky underclassmen, John Kriney [’20] and Zachary Weiss [’20], with about two inches to spare above the water line. And while the construction did involve a speedy visit to the ER (huge thanks to Pub Safe!), the process brought us closer together. “I was holding [a PVC pipe] under pressure, accidentally let it go, [and] the end [hit] me right besides the nose,” said Pokorny from Team Facial Laceration.
There was also drama the morning of the competition, as one of teams could not find its vessel.
“The Pub Nite team strapped two empty half-kegs together [and] tested it out on the Crum on the night before the race, but when they went to collect the boat from its hiding place near the Little Falls, they found it had been taken. Luckily, after a tense 15 minutes of searching they found that it had been thrown into the Crum north of the meadow. They pulled it out and made it to the race in time,” said Semenuk.
While the competition had been fun, there were some drawbacks to this year’s Regatta. The Regatta traditionally has a mass start; every team starts together. This year, however, the water levels in the Crum — and in eastern Pennsylvania in general — are very low.
“The traditional racing format of every team starting at the same time had to give way to a time-trial format. This was to take advantage of the single track deep channel that was available,” said Semenuk.
“A longer course with a mass start would bolster the level of fun exponentially in my opinion,” said Pokorny.
Pokorny also brought up the need to preserve the Crum Creek’s cleanliness, especially after the Crum Regatta every year.
“I hope more emphasis could be placed on cleaning up the Crum watershed. It is not uncommon to see trash floating down the river. For a school that places heavy emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness, we have a messy backyard,” said Pokorny.
Featured image taken from the Swarthmore College Instagram account.