Oscar Strugstad’s Dawn Raid, complete with rockstar crew, has won the Farr 40 European Championship, held in the Solent from 7-9 September

Former Farr 40 World Champion Jim Richardson enjoyed an immensely successful three-day series in Cowes Week with his Farr 40 Barking Mad and probably expected an equally successful Europeans. However, he can’t have expected a UK-based Norwegian, Oscar Strugstad, to mount a dawn raid of his own, capturing most of the GBR Challenge brains trust for his boat, Dawn Raid.

With Ian Walker (tactics), Julian Salter (navigation), Simon Fry (sail trim) and James Stagg (bow) working their magic, Dawn Raid wrapped up the championship with a third place and a second on the final day, winning by 11 points from Richardson.

“This has been a great regatta,” said a delighted Strugstad, “and is particularly nice as it’s two and a half years since Simon Fry and I put the programme together. We’ve been plugging away since then, with James Stagg coming on board in September 1999 and Ian Walker in November last year.

“Today we had good boat speed and Ian was magic. He called every shift right bar one, which put us in the right place. The entire crew work was also excellent. Having someone as good as James on the bow lets you leave the tactical call late and leaves you with more options. Having some people on board who sail together every day really helps everyone around them.”

Salter himself was matter-of-fact about becoming Farr 40 European champion. “It was tough racing, especially with such a new crew. It was a shifty day as bands of pressure came through, but Dawn Raid nailed all of the shifts today.”

With the Worlds due to start 12 September in the same waters, Strugstad is becoming hopeful of repeating his success. “We’re more confident than we were a week ago. If the magic touch and excellent crew work continues then we’ll have a good result.”

“It was tough racing, especially with such a new crew. It was a shifty day as bands of pressure came through, but Dawn Raid nailed all of the shifts today.”

There was no shortage of talent in this fleet. Current Farr 40 world champion John Calvert-Jones guided his Southern Star into fourth place overall and, were it not for three disastrous races in which he finished outside the top ten, Calvert-Jones might well have run Philip Tolhurst’s Warlord VII closer for third place overall.

The class in this field adds a little perspective to the scale of Dawn Raid’s victory. All the members seconded from GBR Challenge will be familiar with the Farr 40 but they were essentially a scratch crew and to beat several world class established crews by such a margin is a credit to their spirit and the sheer positivity surrounding GBR Challenge at the moment.

One name we might have expected to see there or thereabouts was that of Mark Heeley with his Farr 40 GBR-25. Heeley’s meticulous preparation garnered every domestic laurel going earlier in the year as he prepared his crew for the world championships. Unfortunately, his third and second on the final day matched and bettered his best results and, bizarrely, Heeley retired from both races when he returned to the dock.

The inexplicable move remained so as Heeley and his crew kept mum, opting instead to take a training run prior to the Farr 40 World Championship weigh-in. Their 7,10,3,13,10 scoreline prior to the last day would certainly have fallen short of Heeley’s expectations for the regatta.

Heeley will be hoping to boost his crew prior to the World Championships, based in Cowes from 12-15 September.

Farr 40 European Championships: Cowes 7-9 September 2001
Overall Results: Top Six

  • 1. Dawn Raid – 23 points
  • 2. Barking Mad – 34
  • 3. Warlord VII – 47
  • 4. Southern Star – 52
  • 5. Game On – 52
  • 6. A Bit of a Coup – 58