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Bathtub races return to Dyes Inlet
How fast can you go in your bathtub?
No, it’s not a trick question.
Rather, it’s a sport of passion for many as the United States-Canadien Bathtub Races returned to Dyes Inlet last Sunday.
In its 40th year, 15 racers took to their tubs on the waters of Dyes Inlet for the race that closes out the season for Loyal Naniamo Bathtub Society-sactioned races. Last Saturday, the tubbers competed in Keyport before moving on to Silverdale.
“That was a good race,” Silverdale’s Scott Turchin said. “I got rejuvenated. Saturday, I was a bit nervous at the start. It was pretty rough. I was being a little bit timid. But by Saturday, I was ready to race.”
Turchin, 42, who began racing the tubs with his stepdad at 15 years old, hadn’t been racing on the circuit this season, as rising fuel prices kept him from making the Canada trips.
Still, in finishing fifth Saturday and fourth on Sunday in the stock division, Turchin finished the season 11th overall.
“Next year I’ll be back on the circuit,” he said. “That was the fastest my boat’s ever run.”
The races are no joke, as stock boats reach up to 40 mph and modified boats can get up to 80.
“It’s hard to be serious when you’re going 40 mph in a bathtub,” Turchin said. “That’s the crazy aspect of it. It’s fun though.”
Racing began in the late 1960s when a group of Canadiens decided to race across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver Island to Vancouver itself, a race now known as The Great Race, a 36-mile endurance test.
“I’ll finish it one of these days,” Turchin, who last ran in The Great Race in 2006, said.
Eventually, the American Legion Post 149 in Bremerton (of which his stepdad belongs) sponsored a friendly race between the Canadien founders and the sports’ American counterparts. And while there are American participants, it’s still the Canadien’s forte, as Turchin classified three types of racers: Islanders (along Canada’s Pacific coast), Mainlanders (in Canada) and Americans.
“A lot come down here,” Turchin said of the Canadien racers. “A lot are making the effort of coming down here. We would have more races down here if we had more people.”
In order to make the bathtub boats, fiberglass casts are made of cast-iron tubs, modified to look like small outboard racers.
On Sunday, the boats weren’t slowed by the weather, as hail and heavy rain pelted competitors on and off throughout the race, which pits stock, modified and supermodified tubs against one another.
Belfair’s Tom Gray raced in the stock division as well, taking sixth.
Nanaimo’s Kevin Taylor was racing in front of Turchin when he got his propellor wrapped around an anchor line, ending his day.
“I was gaining on him and then that happened,” Turchin said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
But beyond the races themselves, the events have become a statement of goodwill between competitors from two countries.
“It’s really a tightly competitive sport, but on the other hand, the camaraderie is incredible,” Turchin said. “If somebody needs a part or something someone will hand it to them so they can race them.”
In order to be successful with tub racing, Turchin said “it’s all about positioning.”
“For me, you want to get to the inside of the corner before the next guy,” he said. “It’s all about positioning. And it’s about staying in the clean water. If you’re in the water behind the other tubs, you can actually slow down because it’s all flat.”
Too many boats to begin the race can also provide a challenge.
“The start is harder,” he said. “There’s more boats, churning up water more. It’s just too many starting out in my opinion.”
While the season, which began on June 1 in Oak Bay, British Columbia, is over, Turchin said it’s never too late to get interested or involved in the sport.
For more information on becoming a bathtub racer, visit www.tubbersinc.com or e-mail Turchin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re more than willing to help,” Turchin said.