Bring your sea legs — Vancouver’s first bathtub races in a generation happen on Saturday

Bathtub races return to Vancouver shores for the first time in two decades

Broken ribs, smashed faces, shattered bones and the odd white flag — Brian Stoochnow and Chris Glenn have had a first-hand view of some serious recreational carnage over the last three decades.

With that kind of C.V., you’d think the pair are mixed martial artists or hockey players.

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Not so.

Instead, the two wily gents saw that silliness from the vantage point of a bathtub.

Experienced tubbers who made the trek across Georgia Strait in the ’80s and ’90s, both men were at Kits Beach Friday to welcome bathtubs back to Vancouver for the first time since 1996.

“I’ve been waiting for something like this to come back to Kitsilano for years,” Glenn said. “We were bugging people and bugging people trying to get it back. Finally, it’s here.”

Running all weekend and featuring sporting events out the ying yang, the crown jewel of this year’s KitsFest is the bathtub races.

Three heats consisting of 10 tubs a piece begin at 2:30, with the finals slated for 5:30. The boats will travel around an L shaped loop just off Kits Beach that stretches out for 1.5 kilometres.

That’s a far cry from the races Glenn and Stoochnow cut their teeth on. Now in their early 60s, the boating buds got their sea legs more than 30 years ago when the race originated in Nanaimo and ended in Vancouver. That loop stopped in 1996, and the race in Nanaimo now stretches along the eastern waters off Vancouver Island.

“It was sad because we didn’t really know why,” Stoochnow said. “When I heard it was coming back, I was like ‘right on.’”

Stoochnow’s best finish was fifth in the both the Vancouver to Nanaimo race and the current Nanaimo to Winchelsea Islands loop. Glenn, meanwhile, has won the current iteration of the bathtub race twice.

“I’ve built probably 30 boats in the years I’ve been doing this,” he said. “Once I got into tub racing, I went crazy.”

The original tub trek happened in Nanaimo in 1967 and stopped coming to Vancouver largely due to safety concerns and financial reasons.

Come Saturday, participants will be vetted for safety protocols and motors will be confined to kicking out 10 horsepower’s worth of pep or less.

Both Glenn and Stoochnow are among the 30-plus entrants who will give it the old college try.

“As far as driving goes, you have to know the water. And of course the boat setup is very important too,” Stoochnow said.

A licensed beer garden with a 1,200-person capacity will open by noon Saturday. Otherwise, basketball, yoga, football, tennis and every other manner of activity will be offered along the water.

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