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B.C. videographer shares 1971 Nanaimo bathtub race

VIDEO: Races shore up in Vancouver, people watching Kits Beach, and sailing in English Bay

Francois Arseneault

Reel Life

Today we’re going back to the summer of 1971: WAC Bennet was still B.C.’s premier entering his 20th and final year in that role. The Montreal Canadiens had defeated the Chicago Blackhawks to win their 17th Stanley Cup, the BC Lions were starting training for their season, and Canada’s population was 21.5 million people.

You may recognize the deHaviland Beaver float plane in the opening scene, delivered new in 1949, is still flying around Vancouver today but with Harbour Air. This was the fifth running of the Nanaimo bathtub race, first held in 1967. Bill Rathlef from Nanaimo won this race with a time of 2 hours 6 minutes.

What began as a one-time fun event in 1967 celebrating Canada’s centennial has grown into a popular annual festival. The gruelling 36-mile race started in Nanaimo crossing the Strait of Georgia and finished at Kitsilano Beach. Six-horsepower motors were used until the late ’70s when engine size went to 7.5 hp. In 1991, because of the difficulty of purchasing the 7.5 hp engine, it was changed to maximum eight.

In 1997 the finish line was changed to Departure Bay in Nanaimo covering a very grueling course that starts in Nanaimo Harbour, goes around Entrance Island, northwest to Winchelsea Islands, around a naval ship, past Schooner Cove and then back to Departure Bay beach.

Kitsilano beach is a popular sight anytime, people watching for some is a pastime. You can almost hear Carole King singing It’s Too Late on someone’s transistor radio. Fashions come and go. Vancouver’s skyline was much more modest 52 years ago.

Sailing around English Bay can be quite satisfying, the views are stellar. Enjoy

Reel Life now features vintage film footage and contemporary video of all varieties including motorsports, 30+ countries, historical events and more. 16mm amateur film footage from 1923 to 1983.

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About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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