The Contessa 32 is a 9.75 metre (32 ft) fibreglass monohull sailing yacht, designed in 1970 by David Sadler in collaboration with yachtbuilder Jeremy Rogers, as a larger alternative to the Contessa 26. With over 750 hulls built, the yacht has become the most successful one-design cruiser-racer of all time. The yachts have a masthead sloop rig, with a fin keel and a skeg-mounted rudder, a cutting edge concept for the period which now represents a cross between newer and older designs. The Contessa 32 is seaworthy enough for offshore voyages in extreme weather conditions, but also performs well in races, and as a one-design racing class is administered by an active Association. The trait most often associated with the Contessa 32 though is her ability to endure harsh weather and rough seas. A Contessa 32 was the only yacht in the small boat class to finish the disastrous 1979 Fastnet race, in which 15 lives were lost. Production by the Rogers boatyard Jeremy Rogers boatyard restarted in 1996 after ceasing in 1982, and still continues. The qualities and long production span of the Contessa have given the yacht a dedicated 'cult' following. The furnishings of the Contessa 32 cabin are typical of boats of her size and vintage. There is a V-shaped berth in thebow, followed by a small head (toilet) to port opposite a wet-locker and shower. The saloon (main cabin area) includes a folding table, with sofas that double as berths, the table lowering to convert the port berth to a double. At the aft end of the saloon next to the companionway, and to port, is a small U-shaped galley, consisting of a stove, sink (fed by an 18 gallon freshwater tank), and a counter. To starboard, there is a chart table, with a quarter berth extending aft of the navigators seat. An inboard marine diesel engine of 15 to 25 horsepower is mounted beneath the cockpit, fed by a 12 gallon fuel tank. Modern boats have a Beta Marine 20 or 25 horsepower engine with folding or feathering propellor, in conventional or hybrid configuration.
Though small in terms of accommodation in comparison with modern boats with wider beams and greater headroom, the compact cabin of the Contessa resulted from the low, narrow-beamed design that emphasized rough weather handling and seaworthiness at the expense of cabin space.