The Contessa 33
The Contessa 33

The Contessa 33 has had a prolonged competitive life and is a much sought after boat even today, some fifteen years later. Developed out of the Roller Skate family, but somewhat smaller, the 33 was designed as a cruiser racer and indeed has proven herself in both roles time and time again. Peter Bruce’s Owl, in particular, has won innumerable trophies and by his own calculation Owl was the most successful Channel Handicap boat in the five years he owned her.

Other boats that are known to have done well are Moonlight, the first 33, with a class first in the 1984 Cowes-Deauville race and first overall in the 1984 Starlight Series; Jos of Hamble with first in Class 4 in the 1984 Round the Island race, Chaparral IV with first in Block Island Week in the United States in 1986, and Act of Defiance with numerous wins in the Irish Sea in 1986.

The moulds of the Contessa 33 were sold to a Greek concern, but the business that acquired them were not able to raise a head of steam and it is not known what fate ultimately befell them.

Few of our designs have their racing history so well documented as Peter Bruce’s Contessa 33 Owl. Peter reckons that Owl has been the most successful CHS boat in the UK over the past five years. Now that Owl is sold we can announce that the next Owl is a Humphreys HOD35, Peter’s third of our design.

1992 Bought by Peter Bruce
Cowes Week 2 wins
HCSC Regatta race 1st overall in fleet
Lymington Solent Circuit 2 wins

1993 Lymington Spring Series 1st overall in class, 2 wins
Rover Series 1st overall in class, 3 wins
Cowes Week 1st overall in class, 2 wins
RDartmouth Regatta 1st overall in class, 2 wins
Christchurch Ledge Race 1st overall in fleet
RSolYC Turkey Cup 1st overall in class
Lymington Solent Circuit 1st overall in class, 4 wins

1994 Lymington Thursday Series 1st overall in class
Solent Points 1 win
Cork Week 1 win
Lymington Solent Circuit 1st overall in class, 3 wins

1995 Lymington Thursday Series 1st overall in class
Solent Points 2 wins
Rover Series 3 wins
Cowes Week 2 wins
RDartmouth Regatta 1st overall in class
Lymington Solent Circuit 1st overall in class, 6 wins,
1st overall in fleet

1996 Lymington Thursday Series 1st overall in class
LymTSC Hamble Race 1st in class
Solent Clubs Championships 2 wins
RORC National Championships1st in class and 1st overall in fleet
Round the Island Race 1st in class
Cork Week 4 wins
Cowes Week 1st overall in class with 6 wins, and first winner of the Britannia Salver for most outstanding performance of Cowes Week
RDartmouth Regatta 1st overall in class

1997 Solent Clubs Championship 2 wins
Rover Series 1 win
Cowes Week 2 wins
RDartmouth Regatta Passage Race 1 win
Lymington Solent Circuit 1 win

1998 Lymington Spring Series 1 win
Lymington Thursday Series 1st overall in class
RSouthern YC May Regatta 1st overall in class, 4 wins
RORC Cervantes Trophy 1st in class and 1st overall in fleet
Deauville Race 1st in class
RORC National Championships 4 wins
Round the Island Race 1st in class and 1st in medium sized group (186 yachts)
Cork Week 1st overall in class, 4 wins
HDYC/RYS regatta 2 wins
Cowes Week 1st overall in class, 1 win
Lymington Solent Circuit 3 wins

1999 Royal Southern YC May Regatta 4 wins
RYS Regatta 1 win
Cowes Week 2 wins
Dartmouth Regatta 1 win
Sold by Peter Bruce Oct 99

History of OWL (1992-1999) by owner Peter Bruce

The first Owl, a Rob Humphreys MG27, was a pocket cruiser-racer acquired in 1990. Neat to look at, roomy and fast for her size, but on the small size for cruises to Ireland and Scotland. A boat that could fit the bill better was designed in 1984 at the same time as the MG27. This was the Rob Humphreys Contessa 33. Intended as replacement for the Contessa 32, she was faster and could sleep eight. Not only that, the Contessa 33 had an uncomplicated rig and an attractive appearance.

In December 1991 a Contessa 33 was found called Ceveva in a neglected state at Shamrock Quay. Renamed Owl, it took a couple of years to sort her out but, after much effort and expense, one had what seemed to be one of the best cruiser racers of her size in existence.

During Owl’s second year, 1993, she really came in to her racing stride, winning her class at the Scotland Rover Series, Cowes Week, Dartmouth and Lymington both in the spring and autumn series. The racing potential of the boat was clear but, additionally, we had sailed to Skye and circumnavigated Ireland, living aboard for five weeks, notwithstanding a little bother off the Lizard on the home leg when a short circuit in the electrics set fire to the engine insulation.

The first two years set the pattern for the next six. Owl alternated between cruising on the delightful south-west coast of Ireland combined with Cork Week one year, and cruising the challenging but glorious west coast of Scotland, combined with the Scottish series the next. During the whole period Owl never failed her crew on the racecourse, though on one occasion her crew nearly failed Owl. Bringing her alongside a pontoon single-handed, apart from a spaniel, with a strong offshore wind, one needed to jump ashore holding both bow and stern line. Having done this rather adroitly, imagine the surprise when Owl started accelerating ahead at full revs. Seemingly the dog had trod heavily on the gear leaver, and Owl was off! Taking a run down the pontoon one was just able to jump on to the fast departing transom, like a monkey into a banana tree, and bring Owl under control.

Having found a near perfect boat one should perhaps stick to her forever. However a yacht owner can be a fickle lover and, after a long search, another Rob Humphreys design seemed to offer an improvement – this time a HOD 35.