Only in Australia would you find such a peculiar activity on a Wednesday night tucked down a little side street in Glebe. A group of us went along to the Friend in Hand pub, apprehensive but enticed by the signs proclaiming ‘Crab Racing Here!’. We paid our money to enter ($3 per race – bargain!) and named our crabs with our best crustacean pseudonyms (‘Snappy McCrabface’, ‘Pincy Scuttlebutt’ and ‘Dave’).
As we waited in anticipation, the lights dimmed, the “Rocky” theme song came on and low and behold: a man dressed in a full head-to-toe crab costume scuttled through the crowd. The bartenders started spraying the place in water (white was a bad clothing choice) before the race began. Hermit crabs (all with brightly painted shells) were upturned from their bowl onto the circular game board, and then they were off! Some had obviously been training, immediately scurrying off towards the outer ring of the table only to veer off just at the last minute. Others scuttled round in circles, clearly not taking this very seriously despite their ‘owners’ frenzied shouts of encouragement. (Please note, it’s pot luck which crab you get. And there are signs threatening that ‘BYO crabs is strictly forbidden’. This says to me that competitive crab racing is clearly a serious sport).
Eventually 6 crabs reached the outside of the circle and the race was over. For the crabs at least. For their human counterparts it was only the beginning of that evening’s games, first up; who could eat 2 chocolate and salt covered doughnuts the fastest? The mood got serious, there was not only pride at stake here, but more importantly a crab racing t shirt was up for grabs.
And so the evening continued. Winning a t shirt became the most important thing in the world to everyone in the pub (well to me anyway), and there were a variety of other competitions to test all manner of useless, but evidently essential, skills: quickest person to blow up a balloon to explosion point, a hula hooping competition and of course another crab race, where the owners of the top finishers had to whistle whilst eating a cracker. Every non participant that was sprayed with flecks of chewed up biscuits can testify that this is clearly easier said than done.
Overall, it was a fantastic evening, and one of my best in Sydney so far. It’s definitely becoming a prerequisite for anyone visiting me. Don’t say you haven’t been warned…
Words by – GS, Ruth Hatch