Get in a tub

Nanaimo’s first bathtub race was a publicity stunt – now it’s a challenging and internationally renowned sport.

Get in a tub

What better way for a city to put itself on the map than to invent its own sport?

Nanaimo’s first bathtub race was a publicity stunt – now it’s a challenging and internationally renowned sport.

From a mayor in pirate’s clothing and 212 bathtubs splashing across the Georgia Strait to sanctioned races with official rules, class restrictions and international notoriety, the bathtub races have come a long way in the past 45 years.

Originally a crazy idea to celebrate Canada’s Centennial and put Nanaimo on the map, the first bathtub races were held in 1967.

Now, Nanaimo is the bathtubbing capital of the world and host to the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race; with entrants from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the U.S.

On Sunday, July 24, at 11 a.m. sharp, tubbers will race out of Nanaimo Harbour, head up past Schooner Cove and circle Winchelsea Island. The 58-kilometre race ends back in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay where participants have to park their tubs, run up the beach and ring a silver bell.

Bathtub and driver combined must weigh a minimum of 350 pounds (158 kilograms) and the boat’s engine can be no more than eight horsepower. Minimum racer age is 14. Three classes run the race: stock, modified and unlimited.

Finish times range from just over one one hour to two hours, depending on the class of tub and the weather. Last year’s weather was particularly brutal, with only 13 out of 49 racers making it through the rough waters to complete the course.

The Great International World Championship Bathtub Race is part of the Nanaimo Marine Festival.

The four-day festival starts on Thursday, July 21 at Maffeo Sutton Park with a kids’ carnival, mainstage entertainment and beer gardens. On Saturday, the Sail Past On Wheels Parade will travel through the downtown core, starting at 10:30 a.m.; and at night the sky will light up with one of the biggest fireworks displays on Vancouver Island.