Advice on Contessa 32 sailing


Propped up on her newly-painted cradle, I looked up at the curves of Gigi, the 1982-built Contessa 32 which was sailed from east to west around Cape Horn by her famous owner John Kretschmer, and stroked her bilge. She looked magnificent and I was soon aboard with my son Richard, 8, where we met her builder Jeremy Rogers who now owns the boat and who has completely restored her.

There are some great new ideas: the chart table lid has been cut in two and hinged so that you can prop it up: on my Contessa 32, Minstrel Boy, the existing lid is one board and will not lift higher than the underside of the deck which it fouls.
There is a new fridge unit moulded to the sweet curves of the hull, but that leaves me – pardon the pun – cold, I’m as happy with my cool box. There are some dinky little blinds which my wife Cathy approved of, especially as I’ve brought the curtains of my boat home for a wash.

Best of all are the two pipe cots in the foc’sle. These lift up and can be lashed to the boat’s side enabling the lockers to be used as a sail store, which is all I use the forepeak for anyway, most of the time.

I noticed Gigi had only two reef points in her mainsail, Minstrel Boy has three. This prompted me to ask about sailing short-handed in a blow. Jeremy told me these boats will go to windward in heavy conditions under No 2 headsail alone: admittedly not as close winded as if the main were still set. But I’m looking forward to trying this out.

As I climbed off full of admiration, I spoke to Jeremy’s wife Fiona. ‘Why does anybody buy anything other than a Contessa 32?’ I asked. She told me that their yard are now doing a roaring trade in up-grading old Contessas and recently did one for a yachtsman who had sold his Swan 60 because he had tired of crew letting him down and of spending a fortune in marina fees. Since sailing away in his Contessa he has round Britain and crossed to Northern Spain: all solo. Nuff said.