81st Dad Vail Regatta kicks off on the Schuylkill River

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The 81st annual Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta, presented by Independence Blue Cross, Coca Cola, and PECO, kicked off Friday on the Schuylkill River.

The Friday races run from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday's races begin at 7 a.m. and end at 5 p.m.

More than 100 colleges with 3,000 rowers from the United States and Canada take part in the prestigious regatta.

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Jefferson senior rowers receive diplomas early to compete in Dad Vail Regatta. Gray Hall reports during Action News at 6 p.m. on May 9, 2019.

Liliya Fisher from Fordham University told Action News, "For me, this is the biggest race I've done."

Rower Ethan Laver from Ohio State added, "I love this race because it's so historic. People have been rowing on this river since before the Civil War."

The course is 2,000 meters long finishing at the Grand Stand by Columbia Avenue Bridge. It's a competition for which these athletes train hard.

Jim Hanna, President of the Dad Vail Organizing Committee said, "This is something that kids literally cross the days off the calendar to be here."

This race is particularly significant to Mary Clay from Duquesne University.

"I'm from Philadelphia originally. My dad has been rowing since he was in college. So I've been coming down here since I was 10 years old, so getting to race here myself is a very big deal."
The regatta is a boon for Philadelphia's tourism industry. That's why Mayor Jim Kenney said it was essential to get private and public partners to fund the river dredging. The project now has the green light. Silt build-up has led to uneven lanes, and officials didn't want regattas like this to move somewhere else.

Mayor Kenney explained, "3,000 rowers, all the hotel rooms, all the spending that goes on. 3-4 major regattas on this river, and we had to keep it silt-free in order to continue."

This year the field of para rowers has expanded from one last year to around a dozen athletes. Taylor Roberts, who is now the Para Rowing Coordinator for the regatta, explains the hope is to include them in the point system for this prestigious regatta as early as next year.

"It's been around forever, so the fact that they are kind of, I don't want to say breaking tradition, but molding it in a sense to have para athletes involved is really the biggest deal to me," he said.

Keep in mind, there are race-related detours. Kelly Drive between
Strawberry Mansion Drive and Fountain Green will stay closed until Saturday at 8 p.m.

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Dad Vail Regatta detours in effect. Brian Taff reports during Action News at 4 p.m. on May 9, 2019.

There are free shuttles to and from the event parking lots and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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