The 92nd annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, has been moved from the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia to the Cooper River in Camden County.
The forecast of rain for several upcoming days prompted the move to South Jersey for safety reasons.
Dennis Smith Sr., of Egg Harbor Township, is the president of the Scholastic Rowing Association of America and the chief referee of the Stotesbury Cup. He said the main concern is that the rain would make the river run too fast.
"We knew from the weather reports that there will be lots of rain," Smith said. "We're worried about fair racing for the kids, and if the rain makes the river run too fast, it might not be safe for some of the smaller classes to go. It's also a concern that all that rain could put debris on the race course."
Smith said the Cooper River would be safer, and that the Stotesbury officials still plan to have a full slate of racing Friday and Saturday.
"The Cooper River doesn't have the flow problem of the Schuylkill because it has a dam at one end, so it's more like a lake," Smith said. "
The Stotesbury Cup Regatta is the largest sprint regatta in Philadelphia and bills itself as largest scholastic regatta in the world.
Held continuously since 1927, the event is organized by The Schuylkill Navy of Philadelphia, the nonprofit organization that governs Boathouse Row and the rowing community in the Philadelphia region. The Schuylkill Navy committee made the decision to move the regatta Tuesday and announced it at 1:45 p.m.
About 6,000 high school student-athletes from nearly 200 high schools will compete in the regatta, cheered by more than 35,000 spectators, according to the event's website.
The area's high school crew teams always point towards the Stotesbury Cup as one of the two top events of the season. The other is the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Regatta, which will be held on the Cooper River the following week, May 25 and 26 on the Cooper River.
The Stotesbury Cup is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. both Friday and Saturday. Heats and semifinals continue Friday until 6:15 p.m. Semifinals continue Saturday until noon, and finals in 31 divisions will start at 12:45 p.m.
The Holy Spirit girls second eight and the Ocean City girls freshman eight both placed second in last year's Stotesbury Cup to lead area boats.
"I'm glad they made the decision (to move the regatta) early," Holy Spirit girls crew coach Joe Welsh said. "It they waited till later, it would have hurt people. The Schuylkill feeds from all the tributaries around the Poconos, and the rain makes the river too fast and dangerous. It's a safety concern for the smaller boats."
But Welsh also said that the Cooper River is a smaller venue.
"Things will be a little tighter. and the coaches will have to work together and cooperate."
Smith said that the Stotesbury Cup Regatta was moved one other time, to Middletown, Delaware, more than 20 years ago.
Founded in 1858, the Schuylkill Navy bills itself as the oldest amateur sporting association in the country and is chartered by its member clubs on Boathouse Row and upriver “to secure collective action and promote amateurism on the Schuylkill.” The Schuylkill Navy has staged more than 600 events, some dating to the mid-19th century.