Brandon Leigh is bracing to defend his title at the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race on Sunday (July 27).
Leigh won last year’s race in both the super-modified class and overall with a time of 1:30:42 and it wasn’t an easy ride.
“Basically, it’s an endurance race, it’s trying to keep the tub up, out of the water and that’s all it was the whole way, was pin the throttle and try and not get sucked under,” Leigh said.
Fatigue is a factor and Leigh said amongst sore body parts sustained during the race were his back, hip and knees.
“It’s a huge mental race. You get an hour and 45 minutes in, you’re kind of, ‘Why am I out here?’ and you have to remind yourself, because it’s fun,” said Leigh. “It’s a fun race and there are times when you feel a little lonely out there, you’re in a [2.7-metre] boat in the middle of the strait.”
The annual Bathtub race is part of Nanaimo Marine Festival, which runs today through Sunday (July 24-27) and features entertainment and activities in addition to the Great Race.
Bill McGuire, Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society commodore, said the organization is hoping for 35-40 tubs. Registration occurs between Thursday and Saturday, with a mandatory safety meeting for tubbers and escort boat drivers at the Coast Bastion Hotel Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
McGuire said the race starts at 11 a.m. at Nanaimo’s harbour and will follow a route around Entrance Island (off Gabriola Island) and north and around the Winchelsea Islands.
Participants then head back toward Nanaimo, coming into Departure Bay Beach. The tubber must come ashore, run up to the finish line at Kin Park and ring a bell.
“Every so often, this happens to be one of those years, the tide is way out, so all of a sudden, if there are two tubs close together, it becomes not only a tub race but also a foot race,” McGuire said.
Related festivities will take place, including the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association’s Bathtub Days Street Fair on Commercial Street. Leigh has seen a decrease in tubbers and wants to see more people out there and it’s first place or bust.
“Everybody wants to win and you put a lot of work into it leading up and it’s a good feeling so third would be hard to accept,” he said.