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Celebrating 50 years of the Contessa 32

by Jo Sammons 30 Jun 22:47 PDT 24-26 June 2022
Contessa 32 50th Anniversary Party - Muscadet of Marchwood sailing home © Adam Price

Nearly 200 sailors of all ages descended on Lymington over the weekend of 24th-26th June to celebrate 50 years of the Contessa 32. The celebrations, delayed by a year for Covid-related reasons, saw over 20 boats making it to Lymington from as far away as Cherbourg & Dartmouth. Many more came by road or air with some devoted owners flying in from Sydney and Baltimore.

The Contessa 32 debuted at the 1971 boat show, aiming to be an affordable boat which could be both cruised and raced to a high standard. With the added advantage of being very easy on the eye, it is a testament to the design of Jeremy Rogers and David Sadler that the boat is still being actively sailed and enjoyed around the world over 50 years later.

The event kicked off on Friday afternoon with some delicious tea and cake provided by Jeremy Rogers Limited and a tour around the boatyard. Participants were treated to an inside view of a new hull being internally fitted and a boat undergoing significant refit. Many thousands of pounds were spent in heads as everyone imagined their boat being pampered and beautified to such a high standard. Dinner was provided by the Lymington Town Sailing Club and tales of sailing adventures onboard kept crew members enjoying the club's hospitality until the early hours.

The highlight of the weekend was the party on Saturday night, with 50 different boats represented with owners of over 40years mixing with owners of only a few months. The night started with the traditional 'pontoon' party and was followed by a delicious meal and dancing to a fantastic live band. Five boats (Assent, Coh Karek, Concerto, Jemmana & Wild Thyme) made it to the party after successfully completing the Round the Island Race, with one party-goer commenting 'You know it's going to be a good party when some people are wearing jacket and tie, some are wearing fancy dress, and some are still in their oilies'.

The speeches really brought home how much joy the boat has brought to owners over the past 50 years, with a class captain of 25 years ago remarking that despite owning many bigger and supposedly 'better' boats since he sold his first Contessa 32, he is now onto his second. But even more importantly, they showed how active the class is now. The class had 20 boats competing in the 2021 national championships and 13 are already entered for this year's Cowes week showing class racing is still very much alive. And that is alongside a well-attended Solent cruising programme involving everyone from young families to those in their 80s. Significant achievements from outside the Solent were lauded with cheers given to Lou and Elin who were in their final stages of being the youngest and first female two-handed crew to complete the Round Britain & Island Race on Wight Knight. Eugenie Nottebohm's emotional speech thanking their community for their support of her solo sail to South America on Giulia brought the house down.

A stiff breeze on Sunday morning meant that many boats chose to run for home rather than completing the planned activities, but a good number paraded out the harbour serenaded by bagpipes from Gualin. The event was summed up by Holly who said 'Congratulations to the whole committee and everyone involved in organising the 50th anniversary party. Great Speeches, fab band, great night all round. So wonderful to catch up with old friends and an extra round of applause for Eugenie, an incredibly inspiring lady'.

If you'd like to take part in future events details of activities organised by the Class Association can be found at www.co32.org

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