Ready, set, row!
The Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta returns to the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia this weekend with fans expected to pack the grandstand and riverbank along Kelly Drive again.
"The Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta will be back at full strength," Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee president Jim Hanna told NBC10.
The races on Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14, are FREE to watch for anyone lining the riverbank.
On its website, the Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta bills itself as "a premier collegiate rowing championship, providing a unique experience for all athletes, coaches, spectators, sponsors, the sport of rowing and our community."
The annual race, also known as "the largest collegiate regatta in North America," brings hundreds of athletes, many spectators and detours in Fairmount Park with the closure of Kelly Drive.
When Do the Races Take Place?
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The first of more than 175 races for this year's competition launched around 7 a.m. Friday. Races are scheduled from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Dad Vail posted the full racing schedule (weather permitting).
Going to the Regatta?
You can access parking areas adjacent to Reservoir Drive then take free shuttle buses down to the river. And, you can watch the action for free. The Grandstand is located at 2200 Kelly Drive.
How Can I Take Public Transit to the Regatta?
SEPTA's route 32 and 38 buses will drop passengers off near the Philadelphia Museum of Art where shuttle buses will be available, race organizers said.
Can't Make It to the Regatta and Don't Want to Miss the Action?
The Dad Vail Regatta has teamed up with Five Tribes Cinema Productions to livestream the races on Friday and Saturday.
What Are the Road Closures?
Kelly Drive was closed at the Strawberry Mansion Bridge starting at 10 a.m. Thursday until around 6:30 p.m. Saturday when the event ends, race organizers said
Inbound drivers were forced off just past the Robin Hood Dell east and were detoured onto Reservoir Drive. Outbound drivers were forced off the road near Boathouse Row.
The Kelly Drive closure allows crews to get boats and other equipment to the river's edge.
How Do I Avoid the Regatta?
Any detours from Kelly Drive will be posted, but you can plan to avoid the area entirely.
You can use the Schuylkill Expressway (Interstate 76) as an alternate route. Martin Luther King Drive, on the other side of the river, can be used Thursday and Friday, but is closed south of Sweetbriar Drive due to construction. (The entire stretch of MLK Drive is closed for recreational use during the day Saturday.)
With MLK Drive closed for a mix of construction and recreation, expect plenty of extra volume on I-76.
What's the Weather Looking Like for the Regatta?
We start with fog and some mist Friday morning. Scattered light showers are then possible for Friday morning and midday, but expect it to be mostly cloudy in the afternoon.
Despite of the clouds and chance of rain, it will still be a mild day with temps in the mid 70s. Good news for rowers, the wind will be light.
Saturday, winds start to shift to more of a southerly flow bringing in morning fog and more humid temps.
Expect a mostly cloudy day with a chance for scattered showers. The chance for showers and a few thunderstorms is more likely during the afternoon. Temps should push toward the upper 70s.
Thankfully, it won't be an all-day washout on Saturday. Winds should stay below 10 mph.
How Much Do You Know About the Dad Vail Regatta?
The regatta, established in 1934, is the largest collegiate rowing event in North America, drawing thousands of athletes from more than 100 colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada, organizers said.
"The Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta was started by two men with ties to rowing at the University of Pennsylvania. The individuals were ‘Rusty’ Callow and Lev Brett," race organizers said on the event's website. "Callow was then coach at Penn and laid the foundation. Brett was credited with being the architect. Their goal was to have a college regatta for developing crew programs."
The race course used in the dozens of races in the Olympic length of 2,000 meters and poses "unique" challenges to the crews, Hanna said.
Looking for the full Dad Vail experience? Rowers Village is the place to be, Hanna said.