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Aspy 01-28-2004 04:04 AM

Bristol 32
I am in the market for a good, mid-sized sailboat, for local cruising around my home waters of Nova Scotia. I have looked at several models ( Canadian built ) but lately a US model caught my eye. It''s a late 70''s Bristol 32, full keel model. I would appreciate any feedback, pro''s & cons, of this sailboat.
Best regards to all...Aspy

Jeff_H 01-28-2004 05:08 AM

Bristol 32
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.


VIEXILE 01-30-2004 05:49 AM

Bristol 32
That said, I believe it is a "full keel with cutaway forefoot." Herreschoff, as I recall, designed the 32? Maybe you''re looking at a Ted Hood design. Educate thyself, crawl through the boat, look at bulkhead attachments, satisfy yourself as to seaworthiness. Those old wilcox crittenden seacocks and thru hulls go bad and brittle. Replace. Build quality does vary wildly for the same models, same years in old production boats. I just refit (read, admittedly spent way too much) my Bristol 35 "as new"- actually better than new. When I left Rhode Island, I had several people come over to the mooring in Newport admiring the boat - and to me it was a wreck after being on hard for 3 years in Maine. One couple headed for Bermuda told me they sold their B-35 and bought an Albin something or other and wished they hadn''t. I quote "our Bristol 35 went to windward great." Several people in the boatyard down here have come over and accused me of having a Hinckley. New awlgrip, nonskid, Bristol finish, all stainless above decks, tinted lexan portlights, painted spars, standing, running, traveler, pumps, stripped to gelcoat and, for the first time, epoxy barrier built to 10 mil with 4 coats of bottom paint, etc. I recall "hobby horsing" on an Pearson Alberg 26, a little Southern Cross 28 (bad) but nothing serious on the Bristol. Maybe on the centerboard models? There''s several I know of sailing the Caribbean liveaboard at this moment, and a few 32''s and 34''s. It goes to windward very well, but dogs downwind. We reach and avoid dead down. Like dragging a paddle in a canoe. I think we can assume you don''t plan to race it. There''s dozens of boats of similar ilk running offshore. Perfect, but that''s only my opinion, for a Caribbean circuit. I doubt I''ll be going to the Med anytime soon. Educate thyself and just do it. Wait for perfection in selection and it may never come. Take any advice, including this, with a grain of salt, and educate yourself before you buy. Respectfully, Coral Bay Denizen (and splashing next week YA-FREAKING-HOO!). See you in Bequia.

Jeff_H 01-30-2004 09:50 AM

Bristol 32
Clearly you are not familiar with the Bristol 32. They are a very different boat than the 35''s and the 34''s. The Bristol 29 and 34''s were Sidney D Herreshoff designs. The 32 is a Ted Hood design. The B 34 like your Alden designed Bristols offer a pretty nice motion. I assure you that the 32''s hobbyhorse miserably in any kind of a chop. The 32''s are at best so-so boats for their age to windward (we had an easy time beating them to windward with our old Pearson Vanguard which was also no great shakes to windward). By any traditional definition of a fin keel (any keel whose bottom is 50% or less of the length on deck), these are clearly a fin keel with attached rudder. To begin with the waterline length is only 2/3''s of the length on deck. Below the water there is a sharply cut away forefoot and a sharply raked rudder. I would guess that the bottom of the keel is something less than 40% of the length on deck which would make it a fin with attached rudder. (There was a keel/enterboard version of the Bristol 32.)

In any event, how every you choose to describe this keel, sailing the boat, it comes with all of the liabilities of both a fin and a full length keel, with none the inherrent virtues of either.

I do agree with VIEXILE''s advice that it would be a mistake to wait for the perfect boat, but by the same token I would suggest that it makes little sense to buy an over priced poorly suited boat just to get going a little bit sooner.



Jeff_H 01-30-2004 12:46 PM

Bristol 32
I am sorry, that message came out sounding much ''snippier'' than I had actually meant it to be. My main point is that the Bristol 32 and to a lesser extent the Bristol 40, both of which were designed in the mid 1960''s, were not as well rounded designs as the later Bristol designs and by far are less suitable for the kind of adventure that the original poster was asking about.

My second point has to do with the current tendency to label any boat with an attached rudder as a ''full keel'' when many meet the traditional definition of a ''fin keel'' with an attached rudder. There would be little harm in mislabeling these keels except that there are big differences in how these keels behave as compared to true full length keels or even long keels. As a result this has become a bit of a hot button for me since I fear that inexperienced sailors are likely to be mislead in their expectations by the misapplication of the term.

Again I apologize for the tone of the prior post.


WHOOSH 01-31-2004 02:46 AM

Bristol 32

I find it quite interesting to watch the Bristol 32 surface over and over as a boat about which shoppers inquire, here and at other BBs. It can''t be the ''numbers'' generated by the design. And it surely isn''t the accommodation for length. And never seems to be due to asking price, unless the boat is a derelict. The only conclusion I can reach is that it is quite simply one of the handsomest boats sold in larger numbers in that size during that era.

I''ve known a series of boats in the course of being at many marinas for extended periods which the owners essentially treat like car hobbyists do their favorite rebuilt custom or antique car. The boat is extraoridarily handsome, with many fittings, ports, metal work and canvas redone or improved on. They draw a loyal following at the docks from other slipholders, much like a special GA plane does when its hangar door is left open. Of course, the boats never really go anywhere, even for a daysail of any length. Perhaps unlike my plane analogy but in line with these other Dock Queens, these B32''s seem to be quite unsuitable for satisfying use away from the dock.

All of this to say that perhaps you want to have a smaller boat but with very ''classic'' lines that strikes a handsome appearance out on a mooring. (We don''t know what you really aspire to do with the boat, which is one reason these types of threads can be so unhelpful). But as a functional boat, it seems very limited in many departments.


Aspy 02-02-2004 03:09 AM

Bristol 32
Thanks to you all who provided me with some valuable insight into the Bristol 32 ( also the Contessa 32 posting )sailboats. Your responses were most appreciated ! Aspy...

rkgleason 08-06-2011 06:37 PM

Bristol 32
If Mr. Jeff_H, acted more like a "Super Moderator", rather than a flame producer, I would have more respect. As it is now I doubt that he has the objectivity required to be in that position, because he is so opinionated.

I have owned, sailed and cared for a Bristol 32 for 30 years now and believe I know the boat better than he. Yes, the tendencies he speaks about are there, hobbyhorse, yes, in a two foot chop, as many cca boats do. You must head off 5 degrees. Yes she has a wide sheeting angle, with her slippery hull form we get to hull speed quickly. She tracks like the devil, and with jib and main tuned will sail herself. Our boat absolutely loves the wind range of 12-15 with our 95% jib and 9-10 with our 140%. She is in her element in heavy air because of a bow pulpit fitted during construction. Yes this is not a dinghy so tacking and acceleration cannot be expected to be the the same!

I grew up with lasers, 505's and many centerboarders and still enjoy sailing/racing them and WH-15's, a herreshoff design, and sometimes J-24's. Boats are like people, they come in many varieties, and I can assure you that Ted Hood did not design this boat to be (nor is it) the boat Jeff-H describes.

mainebristol 06-16-2015 10:04 AM

Re: Bristol 32
I agree with the previous post. We have spent many summers using our B32 cruising the coast of Maine in all kinds of weather, and I find her a safe, comfortable and beautiful boat for me and my family. Now, would I trade her for a Pacific Seacraft 34? in a heartbeat. But the B32 is extremely solid, with an overspec'ed rig and thick laminations throughout. She is bomber, and offers a soft ride through reasonable chop, with none of the pounding so prevalent among her contemporaries. Although not fast, she can reach with many boats half her age.

some like to come across as having all the answers, and often present opinions as facts to further their aim.

chuck53 06-16-2015 03:32 PM

Re: Bristol 32
Newbie-itis....dragging up a thread that is years this case, 11 years old.

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