LAKE WASHINGTON, Wash. - Boat races kick off this weekend for Seafair on Lake Washington, but one person will be noticeably absent during event.
Hydroplane racer Kayleigh Perkins-Mallory, 24, has been called the Danica Patrick of boat racing, and she is a defending Seafair champion in her class.
In 2011, Perkins flipped her hydroplane during the Seafair races.
KIRO 7 Eyewitness News anchor Angela Russell spoke with Perkins-Mallory on how she should be on Lake Washington this year and how she believes her gender is playing a role.
Hydroplane racers can reach speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and Perkins-Mallory knows the pressure of being in a male-dominated sport.
“The people high up keep offering me to come stand here and interview drivers. I’m not here to interview people. I want to be the one being interviewed,” Perkins-Mallory said.
Perkins-Mallory’s class of smaller hydroplanes isn’t racing this season because the class was disbanded.
“I’m not going to be a publicity stunt. I want to go out, and I want to be taken serious,” said Perkins-Mallory.
Adding to Perkins-Mallory’s frustrations, she hasn’t been tapped to drive one of the bigger boats, which will be out racing this weekend.
“If I were a guy with the racing stats that I have, I would have had a ride a couple of years ago,” Perkins-Mallory said.
Northwest broadcaster and KIRO 7 analyst Pat O’Day said he tried to convince owners to give Perkins-Mallory a shot to no avail.
“Maybe in time, some of the owners will, duh, wake up and realize they’re missing a chance to move their team ahead,” O’Day said.
KIRO 7 spoke with owners and they said they don’t believe her gender is a hindrance.
Boat sponsor Larry Oberto said Perkins-Mallory has always been on his shortlist, but money was an issue.
“A lot of it is business connections, and her ability to network with the business community, and tie that into a boat franchise,” said Oberto.
Another boat owner, Ted Porter of U-5 Graham Trucking, mentioned one potential issue specific to women.
“The steering is tougher than smaller boats. Takes more muscle. It doesn’t exclude women. It might be one of the things holding her back,” Porter said.
O’Day said the muscle strength is an excuse.
“They don’t give a woman an opportunity to prove them wrong,” Perkins-Mallory said. “They just say you haven’t done it, so you can’t do it.
Until Perkins-Mallory does get to ride, she says she will keep trying, but she admits Seafair weekend won’t be easy.
“It’s going to be really hard. This is what I’ve done for a long time,” said Perkins-Mallory.
Instead of Seafair, Perkins-Mallory will be at home celebrating her first wedding anniversary.