Dorothy Dennis – Early Local Hydroplane Racer

by John MacFarlane 2015

Dorothy Dennis

Hydroplane racing champion Dorothy Dennis(Photo with permission from the Hynek Family collection.)

In a recent conversation with Ken Hynek (a prominent Pacific Northwest restorer of vintage steam railway locomotives) the subject of outboard motorboat racing came up. He mentioned attending races in his youth and I was startled to learn that Ken’s father George Hynek (1910–1979) was a championship racer in the 1930s into the 1950s. The article "Early Outboard Motor Boat Racing in British Columbia" I am indebted to Ken and Barbara Hynek for providing this additional information.

The original article contained pictures which we captioned as "unidentified female racer" because at the time we had no records on which to go further. After an internet query concerning the identity of the woman Ken and Barbara Hynek researched the issue further and found that the woman was a celebrated boat driver from Seattle Washington – Dorothy Dennis. Because female drivers are so uncommon, even today, we are sharing this information for the historical record. The names of the early participants, their race records and information on the racing circuit appears, for the moment, to be lost to history. This sheds a tiny light on that activity in the past.

The two photographs apparently appeared in the two major Vancouver newspapers and the Hyneks found the captions which were published in 1935.

Dorothy Dennis

A confident Dorothy Dennis relaxing in the cockpit of her boat in 1935. (Photo with permission from the Hynek Family collection.)

DOROTHY DENNIS STEALS SHOW AT HARRISON LAKEThe Vancouver Sun August 26, 1935 by Hal Straight. "A beautiful curly blonde head flashing over the emerald health waters of Harrison, which has Mother Nature’s best mountainous work for its surroundings, stood out above the colorful Pacific Northwest Outboard Regatta here the way the ringing applause for her efforts stood out above the tumultous roaring explosions of the peanut–shell perambulators. Dorothy Dennis, a perfect ratio of petiteness to a five foot putt putt, won the amateur division for the Class "A" hydroplanes here with a fastest time of some 36 odd miles per hour, and stole the show the way Shirley Temple used to before she became a star. She won two firsts and a third in the three heats of this class. Both her firsts were resultant of skillful starts and clever work on the turns, which proved that in this case the woman’s place isn’t in the home but in a bouncing outboard."

Dorothy Dennis

A rare picture of champion female driver Dorothy Dennis from 1935. She is wearing the regulation life jacket – no safety helmet was required at the time. (Photo with permission from the Hynek Family collection.)

WOMAN DRIVER WINS "A" HYDROPLANE RACEThe Province August 26, 1935 by Stu Keate. "Commanding considerable attention throughout was petite Dorothy Dennis of Seattle, only woman entrant in the regatta. Crouched low in the cockpit of her little "A" class hydroplane, blonde hair streaking in the wind, the tiny speedster presented a striking picture as she defeated both Dave Hall and Jim Harland, expert Seattle drivers, in the first two heats of her class Sunday morning. Just before the third heat she had engine troubles and had to be content with a close third place, but won on the aggregate."

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2015) Dorothy Dennis – Early Local Hydroplane Racer. 2015.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: March2nd, 2019

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,584 vessel histories (with 5,550 images) and 58,184 mariner biographies (with 3,673 images).

© 2002-2019