Joe Van Bergen

Sproat Lake Regatta enters its second year better than ever

Boats will race again at Sproat Lake from July 17–19, which is good news for former lake champion Joe Van Bergen.

Joe Van Bergen is, by his own admission, a little slower now. In his 80s, he is not quite as spry as he was in his 20s and 30s. His passion for drag boat racing, however, has never waned since he was a Canadian racing champion in the 1950s.

Van Bergen still lives at Sproat Lake, where he spent his childhood. When he was younger he used to attend all the Sproat Lake boating regattas, and in 1953 entered a boat with a friend. It was a 12-foot boat with a two-horsepower motor, and they entered a class where “anybody with a motor could race,” he said.

When the final regatta was run on the lake in 1963, Van Bergen held a Canadian speed record that still stands.

Now, Van Bergen spends his spare time enjoying life at the lake—and helping revive the regatta. He and the regatta committee are busy finalizing plans for the 2015 event, planned for July 17–19 at the provincial park boat launch.

Ray Nash was too young to race when the regatta was at its most popular, but he still caught the bug.

“I was at all the races out there,” he said.

“I found out a lot about racing from Joe because he was a local hero at the time.”

Nash bought his son Mike a 1.5 horsepower Elgin eight-foot hydroplane when he was five or six years old, and the young Nash raced that around Sproat Lake.

Sometime in the 1980s the record-breaking Miss British Columbia drag boat came to Sproat Lake to make a few passes. Her driver had broken the speed record at 202 miles per hour.

“When he fired that thing up they could hear it in the Alberni Valley,” Ray Nash said.

Mike Nash was 15 when Miss British Columbia came to town.

“He saw that boat and that finished him,” Ray said proudly. Mike Nash spent 20 years as president of the now-defunct Fraser Valley Drag Boat Association, serves on the Sproat Lake association and won the unlimited class at home last year. He now owns his own drag boat manufacturing company, Haulin Nass Racing.

(story continues below)

He will be back to defend his title in July.

One day, Van Bergen and Nass would like to see the regatta become as large as it was in the late 1950s.

“We used to get 200 entries in each category. We would get up to 5,000 spectators,” Van Bergen said.

Last year’s entries didn’t come close to the regatta’s heyday, but it was still a success.

Until then, the regatta is taking baby steps. In addition to the regatta itself in July, the association will host an outrigger canoe exchange race on the August long weekend.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

Septic truck rolls over without a spill west of Port Alberni

Single vehicle crash took place on Klekhoot Crescent

Vancouver Island partners sign hull design contract for floating LNG project

Steelhead LNG and partner Huu-ay-aht First Nations say the agreement was signed in Barcelona

RAISE A READER 2018: Port Alberni popup book event a success

First Book Canada brought 16,000 books for distribution in B.C.-wide event

ARTS AROUND: Port Alberni husband and wife team showcase their art

Art and Linda Campbell join the Rollin Art Centre until Oct. 12

Knacker’s Yard brings Celtic sound to Port Alberni

Eight-piece band will be returning to Alberni Valley for a west coast party

Sproat Lake hosts fall dragon boat regatta

Port Alberni’s Sproat Ness Dragons earn third place

Fresh-faced Flames fend off Canucks 4-1

Vancouver drops second straight NHL exhibition contest

Scheer pushes Trudeau to re-start Energy East pipeline talks

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer questioned the Prime Minister over Trans Mountain project

Mistaken identity: Missing dog claimed in Moose Jaw belongs to another family

Brennen Duncan was reunited with a white Kuvasz that was found in Saskatchewan

Abandoned kitten safe and sound thanks to B.C. homeless man

‘Jay’ found little black-and-white kitten in a carrier next to a dumpster by a Chilliwack pet store

Police chief defends controversial marijuana seizure

Advocates said cannabis was part of an opioid-substitution program in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

VIDEO: B.C. deer struggles with life-preserver caught in antlers

Campbell River resident captures entangled deer on camera

Trans Mountain completes Burrard Inlet spill exercise

Training required, some work continues on pipeline expansion

Supporters of B.C. man accused of murdering Belgian tourist pack courtoom

Family and friends of Sean McKenzie, 27, filled the gallery for brief court appearance in Chilliwack

Most Read