Westsail 32

By Jack Hornor

Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer's specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.
Length Overall32’ 0"
Waterline Length27’ 6"
Maximum Beam11' 0"
Maximum Draft5’ 0"
Displacement/Weight19,500 lbs
Fuel Capacity50 Gallons
Water Capacity75 Gallons
Sail Area 100%
Fore triangle
629 Sq ft.

With a slogan of "Westsail the World" and a marketing campaign geared more to swaying Palm trees and white sand beaches than performance statistics, Westsail International introduced the Westsail 32 in 1971. Over the next 10 years more than 800 Westsail 32s were built until the company went out of business in 1981. Few boats have inspired as many dreams of sailing to far away exotic places than the Westsail 32. This traditional double-ended design can be traced to the late 19th century Colin Archer design of the 47' Norwegian pilot boat Regis Voyager. In the 1920s William Atkins reduced and refined Archer's design for his 32' designs Eric and Thistle.

In the mid-1960s Larry Kendall of Costa Mesa, CA commissioned naval architect W.I.B. "Bill" Crealock to take the wooden Thistle's lines and convert them for fiberglass construction. The design became the Kendall 32 but, after several years of production, Kendall's operation failed and, at a bankruptcy auction, the tooling for the Kendall 32 was sold to Snider and Lynne Vick. The Vicks again commissioned Crealock to redesign a new trunk cabin and, after nearly 100 years in the making, the Westsail 32 was born.

An estimated half of Westsail 32s were factory finished with the other half sold in various stages of completion as kit boats. If it is not otherwise apparent, the hull identification number indicates weather a particular boat was factory or home finished with the prefixes WSSF indicating factory finished and WSSK indicating kit boats.

The Westsail 32 measures 32' LOD, 27' 6" LWL, with a beam of 11', a draft of 5'. Displacement is 20,000 lbs. There is a substantial bow pulpit, outboard rudder and a short boomkin and I would estimate the overall length, with appendages, to be in the range of 40'. This is important when considering the size and cost of a slip to accommodate this boat.

Westsail 32 hulls are solidly constructed of 24 alternating, hand-laid layers of fiberglass woven roving cloth and chopped strand mat set in polyester resin. This is the traditional method of fiberglass construction, however its considerably more substantial than the average 32' boat. Decks are constructed of a fiberglass composite with 1/2" plywood core except for a 2" plywood base below the mast step. Structural bulkheads are plywood tabbed to the hull with fiberglass cloth and resin. The result is a very strong structure at the penalty of extreme weight.

The construction method remained essentially the same throughout production for both factory or owner finished boats however, ballasting methods did vary. Originally boats were ballasted with 2,000 lbs of lead pigs and 5,000 lbs of iron set in resin. Buyers had the option of replacing the steel with lead shot and some kit boats were ballasted by the purchaser. Around 1975 ballast was changed to encapsulated cast lead and it is very difficult to determine the method of ballasting without destructive means.

The deck arrangement of the Westsail 32 is considered by some to be ideal for long offshore passagemaking. A secure bulwark prevents slipping overboard when working on deck in severe conditions and there are high lifelines along each side. There is a bow rail forward although most 32s did not have a stern rail. The cockpit is very small with large freeing ports. This has its advantages for passagemaking but the small cockpit is crowded with more than two people. A very few number of Westsail 32s were built with a small dog house aft and flush deck forward rather than the long trunk cabin common to most models.

One advantage of 20,000 lbs of displacement in a 32' boat is enormous interior volume and the Westsail 32 takes full advantage to provide perhaps the largest and most livable interior of any boat of this size. There is a huge V-berth forward followed by the head, a port side dinette and starboard settee and a U-shaped galley to port and a starboard navigation station and quarter berth aft. An optional interior featured opposing settees and a centerline table. As might be expected, the quality of finish of boats half of which were home finished varies considerably.

Factory installed auxiliary power included Volvo MD2B, MD3B and Perkins 4-107 diesel engines. The 25 hp MD2B engine will be insufficient if your plans call for extended coastal cruising.

The sailing performance of the Westsail 32 has been both praised and maligned over the years. To be sure, with a displacement to length ratio of 419 and sail area displacement ratio of 14.6, the Westsail 32 will never be mistaken for a light air flyer and ten knots or better of true wind is necessary for decent performance. The full-length keel and outboard rudder give her excellent tracking abilities but, also hampers the ability to steer back after being pushed off course by large waves often encountered offshore. Considerable wetted surface causes sluggish acceleration and the lack of a cutaway forefoot hampers maneuverability at slow speed and under power. The Westsail 32 has a deserved reputation for boat that will get you where you're going, albeit a slow and wet ride.

With prices ranging from $33,000 to $84,880 (2012 search) the Westsail 32 is considered an excellent value. They have endured the barbs of nicknames such as "Wetsnail 32", and remain a popular choice of sailors planning for, or dreaming of, offshore passages to far away exotic places on a limited budget. They also attract sailors with an eye for salty traditional appearance and, on occasion, turn up in such unlikely land-locked sailing venues as Lake Mead, NV or Lake Lanier, GA.

Like any boat, the Westsail 32 has her strengths and weaknesses and I think its fair to say that her strengths are more apparent for extended offshore sailing and her weaknesses more apparent when considered for coastal cruising.

Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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