What is a Bathtub race?

A Bathtub race? Can you imagine what that must be like? Here are some fun facts about one of Nanaimo’s fun events.

When Bathtub Racing Started?

Bathtub racing started right here in Nanaimo. It involves the use of a Bathtub Boat. Nanaimo residents wanted to showcase this beautiful city to the world and organized the first race, beginning with the Nanaimo to Vancouver Great International World Championship Bathtub Race which was held in 1967.

As the City of Nanaimo’s “Centennial Event” more than 200 tubbers in every type of watercraft imaginable entered the fun competition and amazingly, 47 completed the 36-mile course to Vancouver’s Fisherman’s Cove across the Strait of Georgia. The race continued crossing the Strait of Georgia (finish line is at Kitsilano Beach) until 1996. However, in 1997, the finish line was changed to Departure Bay in Nanaimo covering a very grueling course that starts in Nanaimo Harbor and goes around Entrance Island, northwest to Islands, around a naval ship, past Schooner Cove and then back to the Departure Bay beach.

In the early days it was indeed a challenge to just get past the starting line in the choppy confusion caused by an extra 785 small and large observation and escort boats in Nanaimo harbor. From the confusion of the first race in 1967, the “Great” International World Championship Bathtub Race & 4-day Marine Festival has evolved. Where once a select band of tubbers were the highlight they now share the spotlight with many other land and water events which are interesting and often spectacular to watch. This year, for the first time, the course will be altered slightly so that all bathtubs end up in Downtown Nanaimo, at the base of the Frank Ney statue in Maffeo Sutton Park. The length of the course remains unchanged, the route itself is just modified slightly. This historic change makes sense for many reasons and will help ensure the sustainability of this wacky sport and the Marine Festival that has grown around it.

And here’s a bathtub race trivia for you ;

  • The first race was held in 1967 as a Centennial project. It was supposed to be a onetime event but we are now coming up to the 44th race.
  • 6 hp Motors were used until the late 70’s when engine size went to 7½ hp. In 1991, because of the difficulty of purchasing the 7 ½ hp engine it was changed to maximum 8 hp.
  • In 1967 there was only one class, then in 1991 it was changed to Stock and Modified. Stock being a motor as it comes from the manufacturer and Modified meant you could run a racing propeller. In 2007 a third class was added – Super Modified.
  • In 1980 the Sanctioned racing circuit started and some year’s there were as many as 13 races in various locations.
  • In 1987 a minimum weight rule was introduced, The Tub, motor, pilot and all equipment must weigh at least 350lbs.
  • 1989 was the roughest race on record and only 6 Tubs finished.
  • In 1997 the race changed from going to Vancouver to finishing in Departure Bay.
  • 2010 was the roughest race on the new course and only 13 out of 35 Tubs finished.
  • The Bathtub coins have been minted since 1969 and are the longest running trade dollar in Canada. Each year they depict the current Salute.
  • An official souvenir program has been produced each year since 1980 which incorporate the yearly salute.
  • A parade is held the day before the race as well as fireworks with music in the evening.