Belgium’s bathtub regatta
The Régate de Baignoires races down the Meuse River in Dinant, Belgium. (lesbaignoires.be)
Who needs a boat when a bathtub will do?
That is the thought that one Belgian man had in 1982, when he started a bathtub race on the Meuse River in Dinant, Belgium, 100km southeast of Brussels. Inspired by a story he heard on the radio about a Frenchman sailing down the river in tub, Dinant’s famous moustached chef, Alberto Serpagli, found about 40 abandoned tubs in nearby Charleroi, and sold them at the local market as part of his grand idea.
On 15 August 1982, those brave enough to buy a tub revealed their seaworthy crafts and the first Régate de Baignoires was born. The regatta, held on the same day every year, has only grown since, as participants vie to create the most impressive bathtub-based craft to compete in the 1km race down Meuse. About 50 tubs compete each year, but no limit exists on how many people can ride on a single craft.
While a traditional bathtub must be incorporated somewhere in the flotation part of the craft, racers are at liberty to accessorise in creative ways around each year’s theme. This year, the makeshift-boats will be celebrating “Films, past and present”. All crafts must be self-propelled (no motors allowed) to qualify for the event.
In honour of this year’s 30th anniversary, all bathtub boats will parade through the streets before they hit the water. During the parade, each creation will be judged on creativity, originality, relation to the year’s theme and relation to the city of Dinant, known for its still-standing Medieval architecture and being home to the inventor of the saxophone. Those results, in combination with the results of the race itself, will be used to award the prize to the winning team: a new car (which the team must decide how to share).
Participation and attendance for the event is free, and is expected to draw more than 25,000 visitors, with an antique car show, an arts and crafts fair and flamiche tasting, the local take on quiche, to round out the weekend’s celebrations.