When Brian Reiber rang the finishing bell on Departure Bay beach, it not only signified the end of his 36-mile long journey but the beginning of a lifelong dream of bathtub racing.
“I’ve been wanting to do this since I was 10 or 12 years old. I wanted to do it when they were actually still crossing the [Georgia] Strait and I thought that it would be incredible,” he said.
The Nanaimo Bathtub Races have long been a part of Nanaimo’s history since 1967 and bring in tubbers of all ages and backgrounds. This year’s race was held July 22. Competitors race in a fiberglass tub fastened onto a hull and a motor. The course starts out at Swy-a-lana Lagoon, out to south Protection Island, around Entrance and Winchelsea Islands and back to Departure Bay beach for the finish.
“The charge up to ring the bell is pretty neat,” Reiber said. “Everybody’s there welcoming you.”
The 37-year-old finished 12th overall and seventh in the stock class with a time of one hour, 39 minutes, 35 seconds.
While some may consider 12th a respectable finish for a first time, Reiber said technical difficulties prevented him from placing near the top five.
“We had a little pre-race ‘oops’ and put a small crack in the side of the boat while we were moving it,” he explained. “We tried covering it up with duct tape but I guess it didn’t hold and I broke it open around Entrance Island so I was carrying about an extra 30-40 pounds of water for the entire race.”
Aside from that glitch, Reiber said it was pretty smooth sailing for the tubbers.
“There was a little bit of chop going from Entrance Island to the Winchelseas, but the biggest challenge in that race was getting out of Nanaimo Harbour with all the escort boats and the bathtubs and everyone going every which way,” Reiber said.
Reiber’s race was made possible by Kent Knelson and the Trades and Applied Technology Department at Vancouver Island University, which granted him use of one of their spare tubs.
“I picked up the tub from them, and bought a motor off craigslist and away I went,” he said.
Reiber, who has spent a lifetime around the water, said it was an incredible experience.
“I was grinning from the start to the finish,” he said. “Now I’m hooked. I already can’t wait until next year.”
Reiber said he has big plans for next year’s race. Not only does he plan to build his own craft, he’d like to get his kids involved in the race as well and will soon be looking for sponsors.
“There’s something rewarding about building your own fiberglass tub and racing it out there for 36 miles,” he said.
He noted that compared to other racing sports, it’s economical enough for anyone to try.
“I was involved in car racing when Cassidy Speedway was around and used to spend tons of dollars trying to gain that second or two,” he said.
Reiber said he would also like to make a ‘public apology’ to his wife for the last three months of working on the bathtub for this year’s race.
“I’ve think I’ve thanked everyone but her,” he said. “The fiberglass residue smell has almost gone away from her garage.”
Ladysmith was also represented by other community members at the Nanaimo Bathtub Races. Cody Drzewiecki finished in 26th place with a time of two hours, 16 minutes and 43 seconds, and Stefan Schulson raced, but did not finish the course.