The outcome at this year’s great race couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“It means a lot, especially with Tom passing away and us being the Harris Auto Group tubbing team and my family being close to theirs,” Leigh said.
Leigh is a past winner of the great race, so he knew he could win, and he allowed himself to envision that sort of outcome.
“I was thinking about it the whole time…” said Leigh. “I told Tom’s son Tony yesterday at the ceremony for Tom that I was going to win and he said, ‘Yeah, you’d better.’”
The race became a battle of wills and endurance as the rough waters sunk most of the tubs early on.
“Coming around Entrance [Island], it literally looked like a wall of water,” said Leigh. “Every time you went into the swell you couldn’t see the mountains in the distance; it was totally blocked out … I’d say probably about 15-20 times during the race I thought I was toast.”
He was behind Nathan Barlow on the way out to Maude Island, but passed the former multiple-time champ and knew he was in the top three. At a Nanoose Bay checkpoint, Leigh got the signal he was leading, and was able to bring it home, finishing at Maffeo Sutton Park with an unofficial time of two hours, 24 minutes, six seconds in the super-modified division.
Shawn Nadeau was the winner of the stock class and runner-up overall with a time of 2:42:36.
Tyler Lucente finished third and Kyle Boyd was fourth. Both were after the three-hour planned cutoff time, but organizers decided to allow the results to stand.
Bill McGuire, commodore of the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society, called this year’s race an epic saga.
“These tubbers, they won’t give up and that’s great,” he said. “Even those that didn’t finish said, ‘hey, it was great.’”
He was happy with the weekend as a whole, saying he saw nothing but smiles downtown these past few days.
“We could have used a little better weather for our kickoff on Friday and Saturday, but all in all, I think we’re pretty happy with what’s transpired, and today certainly culminates a good marine festival,” said McGuire.
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) July 24, 2017