When Marian Stewart climbs into a Bathtub race boat and fires up the engine, she gets a feeling like no other.
“You can have a headache, you can be sick, you can be aching, but as soon as you get in that boat, the adrenaline kicks in,” she said.
Stewart, an avid boater, has been a Bathtub racer for more than a decade and will be competing in the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race, which takes place tomorrow (July 24) as part of Nanaimo Marine Festival.
“All you think about is finishing the race,” Stewart said. “The waves can be three feet to five feet; you can be pounding into the waves and all you’re focused on is finishing that race.”
Being a Bathtub racer is something that requires a combination of skill and athletic ability. All participants in the Great Race are required to have their boater’s licence and it’s ideal to have some previous boating experience before getting into the sport.
Jaime Garcia, a veteran Bathtub racer and participant in the upcoming race, said anything can happen out on the water.
“There are a lot of different things that can happen out at sea, especially because it is a 36-mile endurance race out in the open ocean. You’re battling not only Mother Nature, but you’re battling yourself,” Garcia said.
Weather plays a huge factor in any race and a good racer will have the ability to read the water.
“There are a lot of currents out there, especially at Entrance Island where the currents meet and there is water going every which way, so you gotta pick a line and hammer through it,” he said.
Another important skill for any racer is fuel management.
“You gotta know how much gas you have,” Garcia said. “Usually your boat has extra fuel, but if it is gnarly out then it is hard because the boats don’t float very well.”
Garcia said being a Bathtub racer is no walk in the park and requires physical and mental strength.
“It takes a special kind of person to get in one of these. You have to have time and willpower,” he said.
“You have to be a little bit of an athlete, too, because you get thrown around and you get beat up. You’re bouncing around and you’re flying over three- to six-foot chop.”
Getting knocked around is something that Stewart knows all too well as a racer. Five years ago, she participated in a race where only 13 of 54 contestants ended up finishing. Stewart managed to finish, but not without hurting herself.
“I flipped out of my tub three times,” Stewart said. “The air vent was spewing out gas because I was hitting the water so hard and all my leg along my wetsuit was burning. It was like I had ants in my pants. I was on fire. I had chemical gas burns.”
Stewart said ringing the bell at the end of every race is a feeling she’ll never get tired of.
“The best memories are always ringing the bell,” she said.
“That’s really the best feeling … it’s emotional. It’s pure adrenaline. You really feel nothing but static.”
For more information on the marine festival and Bathtub racing, please visit www.bathtubbing.com.