PHILADELPHIA --The Dad Vail Regatta, North America's largest and best-known collegiate rowing competition, is now under way.
The first oars hit the water around 7 a.m. along the Schuylkill River.
Over the next two days there will 3,000 athletes competing, along with plenty of fans, family, and spectators gathering to watch the races.
"It's the biggest race of season, everyone's pumped up for it," said Keba Camara of Fordham University.
The event draws student athletes from more than 100 colleges in the United States and Canada. Many rowers have raced this course before, but in the Dad Vail, the stakes are even higher.
"All our training goes towards this event peaking at this time. So in some ways guys know all year long this is the time of year that's most important," said St. Joseph's head coach Mike Irwin.
"We've raced this a couple of times before, so we definitely know the course. We're just trying to keep heads our heads in the boat and stay focused," said Rutgers-Camden senior Melissa Price.
The finish line is by the Columbia Avenue Bridge, and that's where you'll find the grand stand packed with spectators cheering as the boats glide by.
While the sport is what draws the crowds, the city has plenty to offer during the down time.
"Everyone is so friendly here in Philly, we just can't say enough about the city," said
Bill Reis, parent of a Marquette student.
"They're staying in hotels and eating at our restaurants. It's a good group of folks, easy to take care of, to supervise and police. Great bunch of folks," said Mayor Jim Kenney.
Organizing Committee President Jim Hanna calls the Dad Vail a jewel in the crown of Philadelphia. And while rain is in the forecast, he says that won't intimidate the rowers on this 2,000 meter course.
"Rowers row through all sorts of weather. Rain is nothing. As a matter of fact, there's more oxygen in the air and they row even faster when it's raining," Hanna said.
The big race also means detours near the rowing site.
Kelly Drive will be detoured between Strawberry Mansion Drive and Fountain Green Drive.
The Drive will remain closed until Saturday at approximately 8 p.m.
Entrance into the regatta zone is by permit only.
There will be pay gates for the entrance of spectators into the parking areas adjacent to Reservoir Drive.
Inbound (toward center city):
South up the Strawberry Mansion Drive ramp to Reservoir Drive, south on Reservoir Drive to Fountain Green Drive, west on Fountain Green Drive back to the Kelly Drive.
Outbound (toward Roxborough):
East on Fountain Green Drive to Reservoir Drive, north on Reservoir Drive to Strawberry Mansion Drive, north on the Strawberry Mansion Drive ramp back to the Kelly Drive.
Detour signs will be posted throughout the detour.