Already established as an exciting fleet racing circuit that is rapidly expanding its horizons, the M32 cat is now the weapon of choice for the World Match Racing Tour. Matthew Sheahan sailed with reigning M32 champion and former WMRT winner Taylor Canfield to find out why this cat is so different and why it might provide the missing link between between both the match racing circuit and the America’s Cup and between amateur and pro sailors

While America’s Cup foiling cats look spectacular and turn plenty of heads, the rate at which the demands of the new technology has been accelerating is leaving many of us trailing behind, unable to keep up with the skills required to master the new trend. And the Cup cats are not the only ones trail blazing into the future. Among the new breed of foiling machines, the A-Class cat, the Flying Phantom and Nacra F20 are examples of a new style of high speed, high octane, foilborne racing.

So when the World Match Racing Tour announced that it was switching from a range of conservative monohull keel boats, to a high performance 32 foot catamaran, you may have thought that even the cerebral sport of match racing would now be out of reach for anyone other than a talented cat sailor with no fear of heights or speed.

Too big, too complex and with the crew sat on the hiking wings and flying high enough above the water’s surface to bring on a bout of vertigo, this was surely just another example of the professional world scorching off into the distance?

But, as I discovered at first hand, I was wrong.

The new M32 one design cat is indeed quick, easily capable of 22 knots downwind. Even in the hands of an extra medium sized, lunch loving, dyed in the wool monohull sailor, I found it far easier than I had expected to hit and sustain such speeds while flying a hull downwind.

Within one hour aboard and 20 minutes on the helm I had settled down and was hooked. I had got used to flying above the water at heights you only normally experience on a fly bridge motor cruiser as the cat heeled. I had got used to double figure speeds, (although it didn’t stop me grinning each time) and I was now concentrating on trying to refine my technique to sail smoothly upwind in the gusty conditions while hitting the right numbers and keeping the windward hull flying.

A couple of hours later and the M32’s penny had fully dropped, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t noticed how radically different a boat this boat is when I had first seen her at the Dusseldorf boat show two years ago.

What I should have seen then was that this is a deceptively simple boat.


To read Matt’s full test see Yachting World January 16