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D.O.A becomes L.A.D. - Jason Belben's recent find, do up and rediscovery of sailing a Europe

by Andre Ozanne 6 Feb 14:32 GMT
Jason Belben's latest purchase, Europe GBR 235, called 'DOA' © Jason Belben

DOA, Dead On Arrival, becomes LAD, Life After Death

The UK Europe fleet participation in the last few years - thanks to a very active committee coinciding with a singlehander which has quite a broad weight range with the various masts and sail cuts - is attracting sailors back to a classic.

It's a gorgeous design and you can pop down to your local mate who's a sailmaker and get him to make you a sail or your local builder for some foils just suited to you. You get an attachment to the boat it gets personal.

It has a bit of tweaking to do and Jason comments on this later on, comparing to an International Moth shows the boat has an attraction to the more technically minded, the boat is certainly getting popular again. European fleets in youth and adults since the Olympic classes hey day has remained very buoyant. The UK is now catching back up.

Andre Ozanne spoke to Jason recently with a Q&A on his re-adventure with a Europe!

21 questions! Hold on to the stick, here we go!

1. When and where did you first sail a Europe?
1988 K189 Stokes Bay.

2. Can you remember the best result in that boat?
I think fourth at the Hoo Freezer back in the day. Louise took the boat to the Moth Worlds in 1990 in Germany and won the Women's Category, using the quirk that a Europe measures as a Moth.

3. Europe 'Moth' or International Moth, which and when?
I'll pick the Europe up to 10knots, then Moth if it's 10 to 20knots, finally Europe when 20 knots plus.

4. What did you listen to when you last sailed the Europe?
Greta Van Fleet and a random playlist. Mellow when its light, pumping when its breezy.

5. What's your new love affair called?
D.O.A. - it relates to the state she was in when I picked her up.

6. What events this year?
First off Chichester, Hayling, Plymouth Nationals (10 days before the Moth Worlds great prep). Stokes Bay open late August and various club races at Stokes.

7. How did you find D.O.A.?
Posted on Facebook. Rosie and Emma have been looking out for a boat for me and so we picked her up in Aylesbury, colour did it for me. Funnily I had to float her across a pond in order to get from its stored place to the trailer and it started to sink.

8. What's made you come back to a Europe?
K189 was mainly Louise's boat and I sailed it some, but mainly at the time Moth Low riding. Moving out from the Optimist lots of my peers on the continent were moving into Europes and I thought how beautiful the boat was but I went into crewing for my brother in a Mirror and then onto 420s so I missed the boat so to say! I like having the Europe and the Moth gives options to get out what ever the breeze, 35 years on its still a beautiful boat.

9. How long did the refurb take?
3 ish months over last summer during sunny days on the lawn.

10. As director at Sail Tek and distributor of Ronstan hardware what's the sexiest bit of kit you put on DOA?
The traveller I put the lighter weight series 14 traveller which back in the day we developed for the Olympic gold medallist's boat. Also I put the Anderson bailers in with the lift and drop lines and repositioned them. I have just made a carbon stock and a carbon vang lever. (I guess you can take the boy out of a moth but the moth will not come out of the boy)!

11. How do you decide who's sailing DOA between you, your wife or your daughter?
With my new Aerocet turning up soon I will be head down with this so that opens the ops for Louise and Zoe.

12. First time at an Open meeting in GBR235 and you were second to Steve Cockerill with a boat 32 years older, What's your secret?
Nose out at the start, also its helped it was Stokes Bay, shows with a good rig you can make an older boat go, I spent some time making it get close to weight with updated Ronstan hardware.

13. With the Nationals at Plymouth this year, then at Hayling in 2024, then the Masters and Youth Europeans at Hayling in 2025, with the hint that the Worlds will be at Hayling in 2026, will any of those be on your radar?
Yes for sure, Steve mentioned to me about the Masters coming to the UK a while ago and that flicked a switch in my head. I love the boat so much and can see me sticking with it for a long time; may even go for an upgrade sometime.

14. What's most fun: up, down or across?
For me down atm as you know we were due to chat earlier today but Jeremy shouted out for late Friday pm sail and so we were downwinding, experimenting with standing up steering with our feet, when its blowing and you are as far back as you can get, you are being soaked and no fear of going over the front, cleaving yourself with a shroud, you just keep pushing harder absolutely love it.

15. How do you find your weight with the rig you have against the micro sailors in the light?
Yes it's a test for sure, Emma's really quick and its great to keep tweaking the boat to get those little edges, I invested in a new Ceilah mast and sail from Rooster and the range is great, Another sail cut I have and the difference is a lot,so what's great is that you can configure the boat to your weight range and be competitive through the wind ranges.

16. As the Youth Europeans are coming to HISC will Zoe be tempted?
I'll ask her, luckily the Masters and the Youths run on different dates so the boat will be available, otherwise drawing straws would have been risky!

17. What's your best tip sailing a Europe?
Go out with a mate. Moth sailing in some ways is simple: wang on the cunningham and kicker and go; in Europes you've inhaul, outhaul, cunningham, vang and the board - so many options on the board position - so go out with a mate and you'll find your groove.

18. Everyone's question how many millimetres does the boom miss you by?
It hits me but I am getting use to it, still working on tacking but happy with the windy gybes.

19. At HISC we have gone into double figures in the dinghy park and getting good turnouts, this season looks really vibrant, so similar to certain clubs around the country. HISC has a 60/40 split with boys and girls, what's happening at Stokes Bay SC?
We are 50/50 regularly getting four boats out together and I think there's seven boats in the park and we have a few visitors, Whatsapp call about gets people together well.

20. Jim Saltonstall said at a talk he did at Stokes a while back, your win at the 470 youth worlds with Andy Hemmings in 1983 was pivotal in getting funding for the youth and senior team going forward and without your win, the programme may well have been canned, so we may well be in terms of GBRs success at the Olympics a completely different story. Its 40 years ago, what's your outstanding memory of that event?
Thinking life couldn't get much better, spending a month in New Zealand (during an English Winter) without parents at the age of 17 in the knowledge that my school mates back home were sitting a Maths A/O level exam. I knew at that stage sailing was going to be a big part of my life.

21. Who are you encouraging to get into a Europe to give you a run for your money at your home club?
I would like to see some ex 470 helms (too small to sail anything else) getting into the Europe (Paul Brotherton shouts out to me). At my home club the perfect people would be Severine Calder and Penny Clark both of whom have shown interest.

As you can see from the photographs and Jason's description he has fettled it up from a basket case into a rocket ship. It shows it can be done.

With a lot activity at certain clubs, Stokes Bay, Overy Staithe, Restronguet, HISC, Pevenesey & Bexhill, Castle Cove/WPNSA and many other clubs, sailors are getting FOMO and I personally know three sailors at Hayling desperate to get into the fleet with active participation in the double figures.

So a call to arms, if you know of a Europe just languishing in the dinghy park or someone's garden then please get in touch, email me if you wish and we can look at matching people up:

Of course if you are feeling flush then get in touch with Steve at Rooster who imports Winner Europes from Spain.

Or go local with Simon at Synergy Marine now in production with three boats on the line after a couple of pre production prototypes, the designer is Dave Hollom of 14, 5.5m, Moth and many other WC winning designs.

The class will be exhibiting the long standing Treasurer Richard Eagleton's new Synergy with what promises to be a rather glamorous paint scheme at the RYA Dinghy Show so pop in to Farnborough (off the M3) and have a chat to the committee and check out the new boat.

With a spread of open meetings starting with Chichester, then April fools two-dayer at HISC, Grafham, Overy Staithe, Plymouth Nationals, Staunton Harold, and Stokes Bay with Chichester Race Week drawing interest and an end of seasons in the offing and of course lots of active local club racing.

Take a look at Facebook and the website pages:

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