Thousands of rowers descend on the banks of the Schuylkill every year to participate in the Dad Vail Regatta - the country's largest college regatta, which has been held in Philadelphia since 1953.

But in 2010, rowers might find themselves competing in Rumson, N.J., on the Navesink River.

Increased operating costs and the weak economy's impact on the regatta's corporate sponsors mean that last May's regatta may have been its last in Philadelphia.

"The regatta, due to several unforeseeable contributing factors, is facing discontinuation as a Philadelphia-based event," warned a Nov. 2 letter from the Dad Vail Regatta Organizing Committee (DVROC) to Mayor Nutter, Gov. Rendell and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

DVROC Chairman Jack Galloway declined to discuss the letter because it was supposed to be confidential.

"We're really trying to allow the dialogue with the city to take place," he said. Calls by the Daily News to several other DVROC officers were not returned.

The cost of operating the regatta has more than doubled over the last five years, in particular due to payments to various Philadelphia city departments.

DVROC President Jim Hanna had alluded to the difficult financial situation in a statement prepared for the media before this year's race.

"This year will be different from other years because of the record-setting recession we find ourselves in, the fact that we are a nonprofit and that we operate within the business climate of the city of Philadelphia."

The situation became more clear with the Nov. 2 letter.

"During this time, Dad Vail funds disbursed and contributed to Philadelphia amount to over $250,000," according to the letter.

Corporate contributions to the event had fallen by more than 60 percent, according to the letter.

"Realistically, without an infusion of new, reliable, sustainable funds now, for the 2010 regatta . . . Dad Vail will not have the resources necessary to stage a 2011 edition of the regatta . . ." the letter said, while suggesting a "reduction and capping" of city costs.

But because organizers believed a cost-reduction to be "unlikely," it had begun "evaluating alternative, less-costly venues for staging the event."

A source said that backers from Rumson have already delivered a check for $100,000 to regatta organizers to show their interest in moving the event.

"I'm not going to confirm or deny that," Galloway said, regarding the Rumson check.

City Representative Melanie Johnson said, "That's the first I've heard of that," speaking of the Rumson offer, adding that city officials would be meeting with the regatta's organizers later this week.

"We moved as quickly as possible to set up a meeting. . . . We are going to meet with them Friday about the memo, and we'll go from there," she said.

Attempts to reach Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl and other officials were not successful.