It has a black nose, four wheels and yellow feathers. Oh yes, and it used to go by the name “Batmobile.”

Camosun College's “canary-themed” soapbox derby car was just one of 13 stylish competitors (Carmanah Technologies also had a canary bird theme racer) at this year’s Canary Derby benefiting the B.C. Cancer Foundation. The race is organized by the Canary Foundation of Canada and challenges Victoria and Vancouver’s high-tech communities to design and build the fastest soapbox racer. (Carmanah Technologies also had a canary bird theme racer).

This year’s race, held Sunday afternoon at Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich, raised $129,000, organizers said.

“I glued every single one of those feathers on that thing myself,” said April Atkins of the mechanical engineering technology department at Camosun College, pointing to the faculty’s yellow derby car. The same soapbox was used in last year’s competition, minus feathers and painted black, hence the name “Batmobile.”

George Foldes, assistant engineer and co-chief of Vifor Pharma’s soapbox derby team, said the friendly but fierce competition at the race is part of the fun. His team’s car, jokingly referred to by his wife as “the mistress” — because of the amount of time the members spent away from their families to build it — had at least 100 hours of labour put into it.

Teams from Vancouver and Victoria are particularly competitive with each other, according to Peter Hudson, an engineer who works for Vancouver-based Aquatic Informatics. Immediately after his race, he joked that the reason Victoria cars tend to be better “speaks to the fact that some people maybe have too much time on their hands.”

“Last year, we built our derby car from a kit and didn’t do so well,” said Hudson. “Our CEO said: ‘Do faster next year or you’re all fired!’ ” So this year, the team spent more than 200 hours designing and building their electric-blue car, lovingly referred to as “the beast.”

Despite the fact that it’s a competition, all participants say there is a definite sense of community in soapbox racing.

This was demonstrated Sunday, when the other soapbox derby car designed by Camosun College swerved to avoid hitting a child who had stepped onto the track, flipped and crashed into an electrical box on the sidewalk.

“After I swerved, I saw a flash of a fire hydrant, the curb, and then I shut my eyes,” said the driver Jeff Stephens, who was unhurt but shaken.

Immediately, competitors from all of the teams ran toward the car, helping Stephens out. He was then given high-fives and hugs from his teammates and competitors alike, who all appear genuinely concerned.

“We really do look out for each other,” said Foldes. He points to previous year’s competitions, where teams have lent tools to one another for last-minute repairs, as evidence of this.

This year’s cars introduced a number of new technologies in soapbox racing, including the Camosun College vehicle that Stephens had been driving. The derby car was completely enclosed, had no windows, and small cameras attached to the exterior. Stephens wore special glasses inside the car, which allowed him to see what the cameras were recording in front.

This year was the fourth year that the Canary Foundation has held the race, which requires each team to raise donations in order to compete. The foundation organizes two races: one in Vancouver and one in Victoria. Last year, they raised more than $140,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation in Victoria alone. This year, they hope to raise $250,000 in the two cities combined.