In it to win it: how Atlantic Canada’s sports tourism competes on the world stage

In it to win it: how Atlantic Canada’s sports tourism competes on the world stage
Chester Race Week (Photo: Tim Wilkes Photography)

Sport tourism (events that attract competitors from around the world) is a $6.8 billion business in Canada, and it’s trending upward every year. The four easternmost provinces account for almost $500 million of that total—a figure that is growing as quickly as fan appreciation. Here’s a few of the local events that draw international competitors to Atlantic Canada each year

Chester Race Week
Canada’s largest keelboat regatta is also one of North America’s oldest—dedicated and determined volunteers have kept a version of this event going for more than 160 years. With accommodations and restaurants fully booked for the week, the event adds over $1 million to the local economy.
What: Sailing regatta
When: Third week of August
Where: Mahone Bay/Municipality of Chester, N.S.
Who: 120+ boats with over 1,000 sailors, from Nova Scotia to the Caribbean
Registration: $1,600 per team

Cabot Trail Relay Race
One of the most scenic drives in the country is also one of its toughest races: 17-person teams run 275 gorgeous but extremely hilly kilometres. Held every May since 1989, the relay is a $500,000 boost to the economy of the area, and also a boost to community spirit: the event contributes to the three hospitals along the route, and funds bursaries at each of the four high schools along the Cabot Trail.
What: Relay running race
When: Late May
Where: Cape Breton, N.S.
Who: 70 teams, each with 17 runners; most from Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, and Maine
Registration: $1,600 per team

Cabot Trail Relay Race (Photo: Ralph Saulnier)

Cain’s Quest
Billed as the world’s longest and toughest snowmobile race, Cain’s Quest covers 3,500 km of Labrador wilderness—land most people never get to see. Teams race day and night, guided by GPS, reporting in at community and remote checkpoints along the way. The race takes four to five days (or more) to complete, depending on weather and land conditions.
What: Snowmobile endurance race
When: March
Where: Labrador—pretty much all of it
Who: Maximum of 50 teams, from Canada, the US and Europe.
Registration: $7,000 per team

Cain’s Quest (Photo: Josh Bingle)

Targa Newfoundland
Since its inception in 2002, Targa Newfoundland has introduced about 5,800 rally car enthusiasts—competitors, crew, and officials—to 1,600 km of winding coastal roads, 30% of which are closed for competitive (read: high-speed) sections. Organizers estimate the event contributes over $1 million per year to the provincial economy.
What: Week-long tarmac car rally
When: Mid-September
Where: Central and eastern N.L.
Who: 40 teams per year; teams have come from 23 countries, including Australia, Japan, Colombia and the UK.
Registration: $3,995–$8,295, depending on division

Targa Newfoundland

Tely 10
The Tely 10 is believed to be the third-oldest road race in Canada, running almost every year since 1922—with the exception of the 1940-1945 war years.
What: 10-mile road race, with running/walking and wheelchair divisions
When: Fourth Sunday in July
Where: Paradise, Mount Pearl, and St. John’s, N.L.
Who: 5,000 participants; about 10% from outside of the province
Registration: $75 per person, regular registration

Tely 10

GranFondo PEI
Gran Fondo, Italian for “big ride” or “grand tour,” is a road cycling series that started in Europe. P.E.I. hosted Atlantic Canada’s first GranFondo in 2013, and it’s become a summer staple, offering three days of riding, culture and cuisine. The main event is the 150 km coast-to-coast GranFondo (and 100 km Medio Fondo) timed ride. Events are designed to showcase the island, and welcome cyclists of a range of abilities and training levels.
What: Road cycling series
When: Late August
Where: All rides start and end in Charlottetown, P.E.I.
Who: 300 riders, 75% or more from outside of P.E.I.
Registration: $360 for the three-day event

GranFondo PEI

Spud Minor Hockey Tournament
Perhaps some of the most important and consistent sport-tourism dollars come from kids’ and youth sports tournaments. P.E.I.’s Spud Minor Hockey Tournament, gearing up for its 45th year in 2020, is a perfect example. Spud brings about 1,100 players (plus families) to Charlottetown in February, filling hotels and restaurants and multiple rinks. Organizers estimate the tournament has a $1.5 million impact locally.
What: Four-day AAA minor hockey tournament
When: Early February
Where: Charlottetown and surrounding area, P.E.I.
Who: 67 teams; 45 from off-island (2019)
Registration: $760–$850 per team, depending on division

Spud Minor Hockey Tournament (Photo: The Guardian)

Foshay International
One of only two international equestrian events in Canada, Foshay International’s inaugural year was 2018; organizers have made a minimum 20-year commitment. Athletes and their horses compete in three phases over three days: dressage, cross-country and show jumping. Foshay is free for spectators, and includes a farm market as well as the equestrian spectacle. The mission is to inspire young equestrians, paving the way for Maritime riders to compete locally and internationally.
What: Equestrian event
When: Labour Day weekend
Where: Lower Jemseg, N.B.
Who: 100 athletes, from Canada and New England
Registration: $250 entry fee + $250 stabling fee

Foshay International

Marathon by the Sea
Although the 42.2 km marathon is the headline event, Marathon by the Sea is a weekend-long, citywide celebration of summertime fitness. Saturday includes a kids’ run, a night-time fun run, and fireworks. Sunday brings the competitive races: 5 km, 10 km, half-marathon and marathon. All profit goes to local charities.
What: Running races, from 200 m to 42.2 km
When: Second weekend of August
Where: Saint John, N.B.
Who: 2,600+ runners from across Canada and beyond
Registration: Free (kids run)–$100 (marathon, late entry)

Marathon by the Sea

Stephanie Porter
About Stephanie Porter

Stephanie Porter is a freelance writer and editor living in St. John’s. In 2003, she helped launch The Independent, a spirited weekly newspaper distributed across Newfoundland and Labrador, known for its investigative news and features. Stephanie was managing editor of the paper until its untimely demise in 2008. She has also worked as a reporter and writer for Downhome magazine, the Express (also now defunct), The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star, picking up Atlantic Journalism Awards for her feature and news writing. Stephanie is delighted to be a regular contributor to Atlantic Business Magazine. Photo Credit: Paul Daly.

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