The Great International World Championship Bathtub Race is worthy of all those superlatives.
This year’s great race was one of the best yet, and it’s all thanks to a simple change in direction. Starting and ending the race in the same place – the city’s premier downtown waterfront park – was a sensible move that has reinvigorated the Nanaimo Marine Festival. The bathtub race belongs downtown.
Departure Bay Beach had its appeal as a finish line, as it has plenty of sandy shoreline for spectators to catch the action. Maffeo Sutton Park had to pack people in, but it’s still a superior venue, for a few reasons. The park is better suited for a festival feel, with the Lions Pavilion stage for music and capacity for food trucks, vendors and the like.
It takes a little over an hour for the fastest tubbers to make it around the buoys and back. There was lots to see and do at the park during that hour, but it was also just enough time for the crowd to stroll around the downtown, check out the car show and sidewalk sales, have a coffee and a Nanaimo bar, and then return for the finish-line fun.
Downtown isn’t always a happening place on a Sunday morning, but this past weekend, it was, and it continued the momentum of festival season. The merchants deserve those sort of days, and it’s a reminder that as a community we can always do more to organize, support and enjoy these kinds of events.
The great race can be better still, in time for next year’s 50th-anniversary bash. There should be space for spectators to line the shore on both sides of the finish line, if possible. Organizers expect even more tubs, and the long-range forecast is calling for a sunny day.
We’ve hosted the bathtub world championship for a lot of years, and it’s closer, now, to becoming world-class.