Nanaimo has a tradition, one might say, of long-running traditions and the Nanaimo Marine Festival and the World Championship Bathtub Race is working its way up to being one of the longest.
2013 marks the 47th running of the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race, which started out back in 1967 as a way to draw tourists to Nanaimo and, as a side benefit, promote real estate sales on Protection Island.
Young tubbers coming into the sport help maintain the sport’s popularity and inject new ideas.
Brayden Pedersen was 14 and the youngest tubber when he ran his first championship race in the 2012.
Unfortunately, his tub’s hull broke apart as he rounded Entrance Island, knocking him out of the race.
He’s back at the tiller for another crack at the course this year.
“I have a faster tub and a faster engine,” Pedersen said. “My tub won’t crap out this year.”
In June, Pedersen managed third spot in a circuit race in Departure Bay while racing with a fractured arm.
One thing he doesn’t know is how well his craft will perform in rough weather, since all his time in the new tub, so far, has been on calm water.
With a new tub and renewed confidence he’s set to take on this year’s competition – if he can find a pilot boat.
“I need a pilot boat really bad,” Pedersen said.
Pedersen is hoping someone will hear pleas he has made for a pilot boat through the media, so he can take on rival Ashley Martin, 17, who will run her fourth championship race this year.
“I beat her every time,” Pedersen said. “I lap her every time we get in the tubs.”
While rounding Entrance Island in the 2012 race, the tiller cable on Martin’s tub broke, leaving her dead in the water, not far from Pedersen.
“I still made it farther than him – to be exact – and I continue to bug him about it,” Martin said.
Martin, 17, ran her first race in 2009 when she was just 13. Tubbing is a family affair. Her father has raced for 17 years and in 2010 Martin finished first in the women’s category and was the youngest tubber to finish that year.
“I’ve grown up in it,” Martin said. “In December I got a bathtub tattoo on my shoulder, so I’m kind of addicted to it and the adrenaline rush.”
This year’s race happens Sunday (July 28), but there’s a lot happening in the days leading up to the big event.
One of the great things the great race spawned is the Nanaimo Marine Festival, which each year takes over Commercial Street and Maffeo Sutton Park with three days of games, competitions and music.
The festival officially kicks off Thursday morning (July 25) at 10:30 a.m. with a cake cutting ceremony at Quality Foods in North Ridge Village.
Vendors, the main entertainment stage and beer gardens open Friday (July 25) at Maffeo Sutton Park where festival goers can top up on food and entertainment and information displays.
Bill McGuire, Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society commodore, said this year Nanaimo wood carver Dan Richey will be giving demonstrations of his chain saw art at Maffeo Sutton Park, the Aurora antisubmarine warfare aircraft will do a flypast and a 442 Squadron Cormorant rescue helicopter will do a demonstration over Nanaimo Harbour.
The crew of HMCS Nanaimo, the city’s namesake Kingston class maritime coastal defence vessel will host an open house at the Visiting Vessel Pier and the S.S. Minnow, of TV series Gilligan’s Island fame, will welcome visitors at the downtown boat basin.
The Sailpast on Wheels Fun Parade starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday (July 27). The parade route takes floats and performers down Fitzwilliam and Bastion streets to Front Street and finishes at Maffeo Sutton Park.
“This year we’re saluting the 50th anniversary of Nanaimo Regional General Hospital,” McGuire said.
Two days of festivities culminate in the Quality Foods Festival of Lights and Music fireworks show. This year it’s billed as Vancouver Island’s biggest-ever fireworks display.
On Sunday, the great race launches at 11 a.m. from Nanaimo Harbour. Once the tubs have left the harbour, action for spectators moves to Departure Bay for the race finish. McGuire said numbers of racers turning out to tub from Nanaimo Harbour to the Winchelsea Islands and back to Departure Bay have held fairly steady between 35 to 45 entrants in recent years and he expects a similar number of entrants for 2013.
Martin and Pedersen both stay active with the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society, attending meetings and volunteering where they can.
“It’s not just the one weekend,” McGuire said. “It encompasses a lot. Yes, we’re asking for volunteers on a year-round basis.”
For her part, Martin has no plans to ever quitting tubbing.
“I’ll do it ‘til I’m dead,” Martin said. “That’s what I tell my dad and my grandma. Once you’re in it you can’t really get out of it.”
For a schedule of events and times, please visit http://bathtubbing.com.