The Unsinkable ETAP 32s

By Thomas Kjaersgaard

The ETAP 32s might be a relatively new boat to Canadian waters but it’s hardly a newcomer to the yachting world. However it is a newly redesigned yacht, one of the latest in a long line of extremely well designed vessels from ETAP Yachting, a Belgian builder with a thirty-five-year tradition of yacht design and construction and almost 7,000 ETAPs sailing all over the world.

This builder has managed the seemingly impossible: combining tradition with modern, sporty-looking and leading-edge boats – boats that deliver the modern aesthetics many Canadian buyers demand. At the same time, they have incorporated the most important part of their experience – not just lines and style but wisdom. It’s no surprise that this yacht has earned several prestigious awards since it was introduced in 2002.

The overall functionality and design is near-perfect for a 32′ boat. And it sails well.

A near-perfect 32′ boat? I spent a week getting to know her in the dead of winter down in Florida. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.

The ETAP 32s is a European built boat with beautiful lines, a treat to sail with a super-efficient and functional design. It’s also a Class A rated, blue water offshore yacht.

One unique aspect of the ETAP 32s is that you could fire a cannonball through one side and out the other and not sink it! That’s due to its double hull construction with foam in between. It’s virtually a hull within a hull, with positive flotation in between. The French Merchant Marine has certified ETAP Yachts unsinkable; the only builder of ocean-going sailboats in the world awarded this distinction.

Even in a completely flooded condition, water only rises to the level of the settee bunks in the main cabin. This means even in a distress situation the crew can still cook hot meals, dry out clothing, assess damage and make any repairs and keep food from being contaminated.

Even better, the yacht maintains sufficient stability and seaworthiness to be able to sail slowly and safely out of danger.

On Deck
The clean, uncluttered deck layout allows crew to move around safely without obstruction and with secure footing.

ETAP uses an excellent TBS anti-skid surface where it matters: on the high traffic side deck areas. This type of anti-skid is great – it actually works. It’s not in the mold, but fitted instead, and is designed to last at least 10 years.

The cockpit sole and cabin top have a more conventional molded pattern of dimpled anti-skid. For the purist aboard, the cockpit seats are flush teak recessed into the fiberglass benches. They too are slip-resistant.

Her toe rail is best-of-breed. Imagine a stylish toe rail that looks like an upside-down grab rail made from anodized aluminum. The rail is through-bolted and back-plated at all attachment points and goes (nearly) all the way around the boat. The bow, stern, and mid-ship cleats (rated at 5OOOkg/11000 lbs breaking strength) are simply sections of the rail. The well-constructed toe rail ensures that deck water drains away instantly. With the main mooring cleats integrated into the rail, fewer holes are drilled into the deck.

The rig is a sporty looking fractional model by Selden with double swept back spreaders and all lines running aft to the cockpit, including a single line reefing system.

There are no dedicated cleats in the cockpit area for the genoa sheets. The only cleating for genoa sheets is courtesy of the self-tailing Lewmar Ocean Series winches. In fact, there are almost no cleats at all on the deck of the 32s.

The sails are quickly and easily presented to the wind. The Selden Furlex system on board handles the genoa beautifully, while the mainsail features a simple system for dousing. The system is really a marriage between lazy-jacks and a main­sail cover. When dousing the main­sail you simply drop it and, with one smooth boom-length, it’s done.

Another really clever feature designed to make life aboard even more comfortable is an innovative detachable mid-cockpit traveler, giving you extra cockpit room when entertaining aboard. While on the water you can also remove the traveler and attach the mainsheet block to the eye on the cockpit sole. When guests arrive you can easily remove the traveler and swing the entire boom and mainsheet assembly to one side.

The split backstay aboard the 32s is really nice, especially for those of us who like to use a stern gangway, or for access to the swim/dinghy boarding platform and swim ladder. A split backstay also shares the load where it matters. The side opening lifelines (amidships) with more anti­skid right there on the toe rail also make for another real convenience.

ETAP 32S - Below DeckBelow Deck
This boat is equally inviting below. The interior is all business and walks the line between modern and traditional, without compromising either.

Corian® countertops, double sinks (perfect for port or starboard tack drainage) and a 360 degree view combine to make any galley crew’s day. The sinks are round, and as long as your plates aren’t also round and exactly the same diameter – well then – life is good.

The finish throughout is in cherry wood and all wood is done in a matte finish. There is standing head-room of 6’3″ in the main galley area though it drops slightly to about 5′ 9″ at the front of the saloon to allow an unrestricted forward view through the panoramic saloon windows.

The main table offers plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a full broadsheet newspaper. You could seat five for dinner comfortably or eight for hors d’oevres. The interior of the 32s is stylish with matching curtains for windows and portholes.

Two private cabins, one fore and one aft, allow room for six bunks, including two well-designed mid ship sea berths. The aft cabin is larger and roomier, but after trying each we think most owners will claim the forward berth. Both cabins boast adequate room, accessibility, ventilation and overall comfort.

Storage space onboard the 32s is ample for two people. One of the trade-offs for guaranteed unsinkability is that conventional storage space under the v- and aft cabin berth is already spoken for; this area is injected with closed cell foam. There are several places where you can stow your gear, and for weekend use it’ll never be an issue.

The navigation station is well laid out, and plotting on a folded chart is no problem at all. Lighting throughout the boat is excellent, using a series of independently switched pot lights. The only area that suffers from low lighting is the galley. An additional overhead light would more than suffice.

The boat we tested featured an innovative “performance shoal draft” keel. This unique tandem keel design is designed to offer a shallow draft without significantly compromising windward performance; the shoal draft of 4’3″ allows her to go places where other deep keels dare not go. You might pick up a couple of knots if you go for the deep draft option but we like the tandem keel model. You don’t make way at all when you’re aground.

Sailing under full main and headsail we enjoyed varying winds over several days and throughout the test. We regularly sustained 5.2 to 5.5 close-hauled in 10 knots of breeze even towing a dinghy. One afternoon the wind made 18-19 knots true. We sailed under headsail alone for a short time headed for an anchorage. In sustained windy conditions, a mainsail alone with a single reef and lightly furled headsail is preferable to sailing with genoa alone. In spite of the reduced sail area, still towing the dinghy, we were happily making 4.75 knots upwind in wavy conditions.

Those are good news numbers.

The 19 hp Volvo Penta Diesel pushed the boat along beautifully under power. Towing the dinghy along we were comfortable and making 6 knots at just less than 3,000 RPM. The Volvo was quiet and reliable with a very efficient saildrive unit for propulsion.

The balance and weight distribution issues are handled very well; the boat feels great under sail and motor. The tandem keel configuration seems perfectly balanced under sail and behaves no differently than a deep draft boat.

One unexpected pleasure under sail was how quickly the rig and boat responded to minor tweaking. Under motor the boat turns on a dime.

The ETAP 32s is a real gem. It’s a boat that makes you smile when you see it. With a proven track record of thirty-five years, it’s comforting when you’re out on the water to know you’re on the safest production sailboat offered in Canada.

The ETAP 32s could be the ideal choice for many Canadian sailors since it is ideal for family cruising or for a crew of two who want the ultimate in peace of mind.

And it’s available in Canada right now.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s April 2005 issue.

Length Overall: 32′ 3″
Hull Length: 31′ 6″
Length Waterline: 27′ 6″
Beam Overall: 11′ 3″
Beam at Waterline: 9′ 4″
Draft: 4′ 3″/ 5′ 11″
Displacement: 8,575 lb./ 8,157 lb.
Keel: 2,844 lb./2,425 lb.
Mainsail: 293 SQ. ft.
Genoa: 297 sq.ft.
Engine: Volvo Penta 19 HP – Diesel 13.4 kW.
Current Base Price: $220,000 CDN (2005)

ETAP Yachts is represented by:
Shining Waters Marine
148 Nautical Way, Tantallon, NS, B3Z 2P3

Test boat supplied by:
Yachting Vacations
31908 Matecumbe Key Rd, Punta Gorda, FL, 33955
(800) 447-0080

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 – ETAP 32s under sail.
Photo 2 – Below deck.

Jeanneau Yachts 55

Throw away the box, this is some fresh thinking

Seemingly part sailboat and part spaceship, the new Jeanneau Yachts 55 just busted through the boundaries of traditional yacht design. I couldn’t take my eyes off the bubble hardtop that met me at the dock and I stepped aboard with trepidation. A few hours later, I was planning how to spend my not-yet-won lottery winnings.

Read More


Paving the Way to Cleaner Boating – How a Commitment to Reducing our Environmental Impact is Inspiring Cleaner Boating in Ontario

By Dave Rozycki

Over the past seven decades, Ontario’s marina industry has developed alongside some of Canada’s largest freshwater lakes. Boaters have been able to enjoy the beautiful scenery and create lasting memories on the water, with certain marinas dating back to the 1960s. As we reflect on this rich history, we can begin to see trends in how our footprint may have had an effect on the environment, in not-so-positive ways. However, by embracing innovative solutions and adopting sustainable practices, both marinas and boaters hold the key to preserving and enhancing the quality of our lakes and marine life for generations to come.

Read More