Tea Party tradition of clean fun

Oak Bay Tea Party celebrates 50 years, and 44 of bathtub racing

Oak Bay Public Works Department employee Joe Achadinha

Oak Bay Public Works Department employee Joe Achadinha



Get out your bathtubs and start your engines.

This weekend’s 50th anniversary of the Oak Bay Tea Party continues a longtime tradition of good clean fun on Sunday, June 3.

Bathtub racing has been a part of the Tea Party festivities for 44 years.

“Despite how disorganized some of these tubbers look, there is a bit of skill involved in winding your way (through the course),” said Bob McLeod, a former tub racer, who organizes the event along with Russ Malcolm.

“It’s nowhere close to being a cult, but there’s people who do the circuit.”

What started as an event to celebrate Nanaimo’s centennial in 1967, continues its reputation as “a good clean sport” to tub racing enthusiasts throughout B.C. The race attracts participants from as far away as Australia.

The Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society hosts races in different cities throughout the year, with the Oak Bay race being just one of them.

“It’s one of the (society’s) most popular races,” Margaret Johnson, vice commodore of the society, said.

This year, in honour of the Tea Party’s 50th anniversary, the LNBS has developed a collectable trade dollar.

“It’s always been a successful race and we thought we would like to salute them,” Johnson said.

Every year, since 1979, the society has produced a coin saluting various organizations or celebrating significant anniversaries, Johnson said.

Some of the previous trade dollars produced were in honour of the Royal Canadian Navy’s 100th anniversary, the RCMP’s 125th, and the 100th anniversary of St. John’s Ambulance in Nanaimo.

“It was just an idea somebody had and it’s the longest continuously running trade dollar in Canada,” Johnson said, noting that she has a list of keen collectors who have been collecting the coins since the beginning.

The coin will display a LNBS logo on one side, and a logo honouring the Oak Bay Tea Party Society on the other.

Also as part of the Tea Party’s 50th, the LNBS has entered the world’s largest bathtub, which calls Nanaimo home, in the Tea Party parade for the first time.

Bathtub racing is all about having fun and earning bragging rights, McLeod said.

“It’s basically boat racing,” Malcolm explained. “It has a little bit of adventure to it as well.”

The race consists of three categories: supermodified, modified, and stock.

While some racers tend so go all out with their tub designs – with high horsepower engines – that doesn’t mean tubs designed simply, known as stock, don’t have a chance winning for their category.

“You’ll see maybe four to six rockets, and then the rest are just there for a good time, they lumber along,” McLeod said with a laugh.

His advice: go slowly, and don’t swamp the tub.

Last year’s race saw about 24 racers, and the same is expected this year. Racers can register at Willows Beach on Sunday (June 3) between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m.

The bathtub race runs from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday.

For more information about bathtub racing, see www.bathtubbing.com. Click here for more details on the Oak Bay Tea Party.