Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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The Bristol 32 began life as an extreme CCA rule beating race boat from the mid-1960''s. They are somewhat prototypical of the more extreme examples of that breed. They have an extremely short waterline for their overall length, a fairly high displacement, have a narrow beam, moderately shoal draft and a moderately small amount of ballast for their displacement and drag. As a result they were quite tender and wet to sail, needing to be sailed at comparatively large heel angles to achieve any kind of speed. The short waterline length means that they tend to hobbyhorse extremely in a chop and the high vertical center of gravity and the deep canoe body means that they are real rollers. These are not full keels at all. By the traditional definition of a fin keel (a keel whose bottom is 50% or less of the overall length of the boat or the sail plan) this is a fin keel with an attached rudder. Fin keels with attached rudders offer most of the disadvantages of both a fin keel and a full keep with few of the virtues of either. These boats do not point or track well, they are miserable on a run. In any breeze at all they tended to develop a lot of weather helm. (I have not sailed one in over 20 years so modern sails and better sail handling hardware may have improved this some.)
These boats are miserable in light air. They were designed in a day when 180% genoas were the norm by Ted Hood who made some of the best 180% genoas of the day. These were big miserable sails to handle (especially using the top action South Coast winches that come on the early boats). They needed fairly large sail inventories as they were tender and could only carry that large sail through a narrow wind range. They were also not very good boats at the high end of the wind range.
There were at least 2 interior layouts, both were cramped by any kind of objective standard but the aft galley layout was a very nice set up.
Build quality on the earlier Bristols were about on the par with Pearsons of that era (not very good) but by the end of the 1970''s and into the early 1980''s build quality had improved quite a bit. If they have not been upgraded you are dealing with a Homestrand (or Kenyon on later boats) pressure alcohol stove and an Atomic 4. Both can be workable but are less than ideal in that parts are not always so easy to obtain.
These boats seem to have a loyal following which has resulted in pretty high prices for the sailing ability and build quality of these boats. While I know that some of these boats have been used for serious voyaging, I would suggest that there are much better choices that are similarly priced or even less expensive and that are all around better sailing boats. (Bristol''s own 34 footer of that era is a good example).
I will say that there is a different aesthetic to sailing these old CCA era race boats. For many that aesthetic is appealing. If you are in an area with predominantly moderate winds and are mostly daysailing, or weekending where there are short hops then a boat like this can be very appealing.