Allyson Donahue and her sailing partner Maddie Widmeier have never won a U.S. Sailing race together.
But the 17-year old Brigantine resident and her third-year partner Widmeier, a 16-year old Pipersville, Pa., resident, may get their best chance starting today at the 2012 U.S. Junior Women's Doublehanded Championships on Lake Minnetonka in Deephaven, Minn.
The pair placed second last year when the event took place in Mantoloking, and the team that finished first is not eligible for the Ida Lewis Trophy this year due to age restrictions.
Donahue and Widmeier, who is a summer resident of the Brant Beach section of Long Beach Township, are the only returning competitors who placed in the top five last year.
"We want to go out there and have fun because if your good enough you'll do well either way," said Donahue, a rising senior at Holy Spirit High School. "We're just going to try not to get too worked up if there are big shifts. With sailing you can't really tell what's going to happen. So we're just going to go out there and try not to over think anything, sail our on race and hope for the best."
But Donahue's father, Tom, said last year's results may not be a good judge of what's to come. This is the first time the championship will be held in Minnesota. Donahue, a former sailor who introduced his daughter to the sport when she was young, has enough experience to know that light and flat conditions allow for more boats to have a chance to win.
"Deep down I know that last year's event was in New Jersey, it was a relatively windy, wavy event, which are conditions they sail in and practice in all the time," he said. "Now they are sailing on a relatively small lake in the middle of Minnesota which is notoriously light air and flat water, so if I was doing the handicapping I wouldn't make them the favorite just because of the conditions."
The championships, which conclude Friday, are part of a series of races Donahue and her partner compete in. At the Club 420 Midwinter Championships in Jensen Beach, Fla., in February, the pair finished ninth overall and first among all-female pairings. The duo will also compete at the invitation-only U.S. Youth Sailing Championship from Aug. 14- 18 in Cascade Locks, Ore.
The success has helped bring Allyson attention from several top college sailing programs. Her older brother, Ian, just graduated from Boston College. He had a successful career there and was named captain his senior season.
Allyson plays field hockey and softball for the Spartans, but Tom said sailing gives Allyson more college exposure than those other sports.
"After I saw him go through his four years of college sailing and loving it, I wanted to have the same experience and that's what made me want to pursue it (at the next level)," Allyson said in a phone interview Tuesday from Minnesota.
But for now she'll focus on her current race.
"I just hope that everything goes the way we plan it to," she said. "We'd certainly be thrilled that we were finally able to achieve our goal of winning. Winning will help us in the long run as something extra to pat ourselves on the back for."
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