|The Bathtub Admiral of the World|
You don't have to come from a big city to think big. Frank Ney, a successful real estate developer and former longtime Mayor of Nanaimo, B.C., proved just that in 1967. That's the year he came up with the wild idea of holding a bathtub race from Vancouver Island, across 35 miles of choppy Georgia Strait to Vancouver.
In 1967, Nanaimo had a population of 25 thousand. Frank was Centennial Committee Chairman. He wanted to do something that would reflect Canada's rugged pioneer spirit, and at the same time put Nanaimo on the map.
Like every unusual idea, Frank's ran into unbelievable opposition. Who had ever heard of a bathtub race, using real bathtubs with outboard motors? The more they resisted, the more he persisted. The idea caught on and caught fire. 243 bathtubs entered. Here's how Frank Ney described to me what happened when the cannon was fired July 1st, 1967 in Nanaimo Harbor signalling the start of the world's first Nanaimo to Vancouver Bathtub Race ... "Bathtubs were sinking everywhere. That day 142 bathtubs sunk in the first 12 1/2 minutes. It indeed was as the news media reported. .. 'A Saga of Raw Courage and True Bathtub Seamanship.' Once again we proved conclusively and incontrovertibly that Canada leads the way in bathtub technology.
"And that on holiday occasions Canadians seem to prefer corn to culture. The race was publicized allover the world. In fact, I got a medal from the Queen for it."
Every year since, the Annual Bathtub Race attracts thousands of people
to Nanaimo. It's become an international event attracting entrants from as far away as Australia. What started as a wild idea has become a major promotion event for Nanaimo. Having generated untold millions of dollars in free publicity and tourist dollars.
As Frank Ney says, "If you have an idea, try it. It's better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all. "
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