Bathtub racers Kurt Henderson, left, and Brad Davis strap down Henderson’s tub on a trailer as he prepares to leave the Archie Johnstone Plumbing and Heating company lot Wednesday. Both racing teams had tub motors stolen. The Davis’ team managed to retrieve their motors, but Henderson had to start from scratch by modifying and testing a used Yamaha motor. (CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin)

Thieves can’t steal Nanaimo’s tubbing spirit

Thieves pilfer motors, but good friends and hard work get tubbers back on course

Nanaimo’s bathtub race contenders are back on the tillers in spite of dastardly deeds by thieves in the night.

Brad Davis and his nephew Tyler Lucente discovered their motors were missing from Archie Johnstone Plumbing and Heating’s lot in May. In spite of it being a locked and fenced property, but two culprits were caught on security camera video transferring the motors from a pallet to wheelbarrows and wheeling them away.

Davis, who works at Archie Johnstone, said the thefts won’t be keeping the racing team from tackling the waves in this year’s Great International World Championship Bathtub Race, to be held Sunday, July 22.

“We actually got our motors back … so we’ll be there for sure,” Davis said.

But in this case it wasn’t the police who retrieved the motors.

“No, it was, basically, somebody else saw them and recognized them as ours and we recovered them ourselves,” Davis said, declining to expand on how the motor recovery operation was carried out.

“Yeah, that one’s not going in the news,” he said.

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Davis said the team is ready to go for this year’s race and will compete again in the stock class with plans to, hopefully, move one of the tubs up into the super-modified class for the 2019 race.

Tubber Kurt Henderson was not so lucky. His super-modified Suzuki bathtub motor was stolen from his property in early May and there’s been no sign of it since.

Henderson has since purchased a used Yamaha motor and after running a crash program to bring the motor up to super-modified performance specifications, he said the motor is ready for this year’s race.

“Cash layout is about $1,500 to $3,000, but it takes dozens of hours to tear it down, put it back together, test it, tear it down again and test it, you know,” Henderson said. “They’re finely tuned. I mean, they’re running at six- seven-thousand RPM continuously, so they have to be able to really take the abuse.”

Compounding the rebuild difficulties, Henderson said, is the learning curve that comes with modifying a different brand of motor that came with the switch from a Suzuki to a Yamaha.

“Which was a bit more of a challenge because it’s not the same as a Suzuki,” Henderson said. “A lot of things don’t line up, don’t work and other tricks and things you’ve learned over the years are no longer any good. You’ve got to learn new ones now because it’s a whole different beast.”

In total, Henderson said, there are about 12 people on his bathtub team and he relies heavily on an “engineer-mechanic that helps me oversee and build my motor.”

The team is running two super-modified tubs in this year’s race and Henderson expects there will be strong winds and big waves on the course as was the case in 2017.

“Sea-trialled it last week, I raced it July 1 and, yeah, it’s good to go. It’s ready. It’s tough as nails and I think it will do well … if I didn’t have a supportive girlfriend and some really good, tight friends that were good with this stuff, it wouldn’t have come together, but everybody’s been great and helped me out a lot,” he said.

Henderson’s team is sponsored by C-Tow and Vic Prop of Nanaimo.

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The great race starts at 11 a.m. and both the start and finish line will be set up next to the statue of Frank Ney at Maffeo Sutton Park.

The race is the culmination of a busy weekend of activities. On Friday there will be a Bathtub Days Street Fair from noon-5 p.m.on Commercial Street and a Gord Bamford concert from 4-10 p.m. Saturday sees the Sailpast on Wheels Fun Parade at 10:30 a.m. downtown. Quality Foods Festival of Lights fireworks are 10 p.m.

RELATED: Bathtub collector coins freshly minted

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