Dad Vail Regatta kicks off on the Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Athletes from all over the country have once again descended on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park.

The 80th Dad Vail Regatta - the largest collegiate rowing event in the nation - kicked off Friday morning.

Thirty-five hundred rowers representing more than 100 schools from the U.S. and Canada take part each year.

"The big news this year is competition - very heated competition - between Drexel and St. Joe's," said Jim Hanna, president of the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee. "Drexel last year commanded the trophy for both women and men, so this year it is going to be a top-notch competition."

Drone 6 captured a breath-taking view of the starting line along the Schuylkill River, on a section of the river just north of the intersection of Kelly Drive and Hunting Park Avenue intersection.

The course is 2000 meters long, and at the finish line near the Columbia Avenue Bridge, teams and families and other spectators will be cheering in the grandstand.

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Dad Vail Regatta kicks off: Katherine Scott reports during Action News Mornings on May 11, 2018.

"It is completely different than anything you have ever been on, just because of the history that is associated with the river and Boat House Row and being here in general," said Mackenzie Schoenagrr, who rows for Ohio University. "It is almost impossible for me to put into words, but if you can think about flying and then putting it on the water that is what this river is."

It's a fun event for athletes and spectators alike.

"We're modeled after the Henley Royal Regatta, so the river bank is overloaded with banners, tents, color," said Hanna. "If you go to Rowers' Village - and anyone's welcome to go in and meet the rowers - it's like an Olympic Village. You meet the finest kids in the United States."

The two-day event wraps up Saturday, and the competitors will be putting all their training and hard work to the ultimate test, hoping to walk away champions.

While Drexel walked away on top last year, this is a new year. Veteran observers say anything could happen.

"I rowed with LaSalle and won this event in1957, so that is bit of time back," said regatta chairman Jack Galloway. "But I understand from my LaSalle friends they say they are coming back one of these years. I also heard that St. Joe's is doing very well."
Friday's races run from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday's events run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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