A lack of wind kept Allyson Donahue, 17, and Maddie Widmeier, 16, from racing Friday, but it couldn't stop them from celebrating their first US Sailing championship.
They teamed up to win the US Junior Women's Doublehanded Championship on Lake Minnetonka, Minn.
"It's very exciting," Donahue, of Brigantine, said. "We are thrilled to be able to finally achieve the goal of winning such a big race."
The pair finished second in last year's championship in Mantoloking, Ocean County.
Weather was a factor throughout this week's three-day competition. There was either too much wind, too little wind or the wind would change direction in mid-race.
Friday's three races were canceled, and Donahue, a rising senior at Holy Spirit High School, and Widmeier were named champions based on their scores from the previous two days of racing. Competitors raced a total of six times Wednesday and Thursday, and each team dropped its worst finish. Donahue and Widmeier dropped a 19th-place finish from Thursday.
"The conditions during the (19th-place) race weren't the best," Donahue said by telephone after learning of their victory. "The wind was everywhere during the race. It was tough."
Donahue said they were disappointed but not discouraged by that one bad race.
"We knew that we would drop that race," said Widmeier, who lives in Pipersville, Pa.. "We had to keep our head in the game."
Sailing on a lake put Donahue and Widmeier out of their element and forced them to adapt.
"On a regular basis, we sail on an ocean. Most of our competitions are on an ocean, which usually gave us the advantage," Donahue said. "It was difficult to account for the different factors that would change during the regatta."
Donahue and Widmeier finished seventh in their final race Thursday, ending Day 2 with a one-point overall lead.
"I had butterflies in my stomach all (Thursday night) and (Friday)." Widmeier said. "But we knew (going into the final day) we were going to have to sail our own race if we wanted to win."
On Friday morning, the sailing partners were up early to finish the regatta, but when they arrived, the lake was still and the wind absent.
An official at the regatta hinted to Donahue and Widmeier that there would be no sailing due to the lack of wind, but the two refused to get their hopes up that the championship was theirs.
"We just tried to keep the mind-set that we were going to race," Donahue said.
Around 12:45 p.m., the racing was called off.
Donahue and Widmeier were the champs.
"It was so surreal," Widmeier said. "We have worked so hard the last couple of years to win this."
While Donahue and Widmeier were happy they didn't have to race in terrible conditions (and risk losing their lead), their competitive nature and love of sailing still made them itch to be out on the water.
"We came here to race," Donahue and Widmeier each said in separate interviews.
"We wanted to race if the conditions were right," Widmeier added.
Donahue and Widmeier planned to hoist the Ida Lewis Perpetual Trophy at an awards banquet Friday night. Each will receive a US Sailing Championship medal, too.
The sailors hope to carry their momentum into the rest of the summer. They plan to compete in the Club 420 North Americans in Falmouth, Mass., the Buzzard's Bay Regatta in Marion, Mass., and the US Sailing Youth Championships at the Gorge in Oregon.
"We know now that we can do better at bigger events," Donahue said. "Our confidence level has definitely gone up."
Donahue and Widmeier will continue to train and prepare for their upcoming races but will soak in this moment.
"It is such an honor to win this," Widmeier said. "I am so excited for the next couple of races, but we can't slack off. We have to really prepare for each event."
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