Equal parts Captain Nemo, Elon Musk and Richard Branson, this spaceship is Janet C, Meade Gougeon’s G32. I asked the questions of a long message exchange, and he answered them! – ed.
“Wanna write a story?”
Sure. I recently met another G32 owner, John, who turned out to be a carbon copy of myself, except retired. I found our similarities oddly comforting because John is a super cool guy and it was good to see myself doing so well. We have been obsessed with the G32 for so long we basically became the same person. It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced, and if you knew me, you would know that’s saying something.
“You and I could hang…”
Dude, you have no idea. I crewed for John on his G32, “Flipper” (best G32 boat name ever) for this year’s Chesapeake Boomerang race… And at the start, it was gusting up to 20, and the first leg was a spinnaker run just off of the Naval Academy. We unfurled a 700+ square foot chute on a 32′ catamaran that’s only 8’4″ wide.
It’s as crazy as it sounds, but the G32 kept up with a 44′ tri, a corsair 31R and a New Steletto 30 as we flew through the rest of the 60 boat monohull fleet like they were frozen in time. It was one of the best sailing moments of my life. The G32 was going deeper than the other multis, and almost as fast.
For the rest of the race, we passed dozens of beautiful fully crewed racer/cruiser monohulls like they were dragging contraband. I didn’t worry about our corrected time – or the handicap formula – I just enjoyed waving at those massive, beautiful boats with all those people sitting on the rail with the most absurdly innovative boat ever built.
Sure, people corrected ahead of us, and if correcting last is the price I have to pay for the experience, I’ll gladly pay it. Focusing on speed vs. your rating is a classic Gougeon trope, their goal could be distilled to a single word: Faster.
I know! I’m just beginning to realize how good the G32’s story really is. Take PT Watercraft’s Russel Brown for example, his refurbished G32 sets the refit bar annoyingly high for the rest of us. Sometimes I just hate that guy 😉 Russ’s G32 blog and videos are Legendary. Boats like this deserve owners like Russell Brown, as they are the Sailing World’s original Shelby Cobra. Kick Ass 100% American Speed Machines. The fact that most people think they are crazy looking makes them even cooler to me. Check out his 2017 R2AK video.
The G32 rabbit hole is a never ending battle between Jan and Meade Gougeon against “Friction and drag.” “There’s friction in the running back.” or “There’s drag in the helm.” are the kinds of things they would say to each other while tuning the boat for optimum speed. The G32 can be perfectly balanced with rudder, daggerboard and sail settings so that it tracks itself perfectly on a given heading.
Everything about that boat is other worldly – tweaking upwind sails on a 2 plane articulating sprit is a trip. How many boats in existence can articulate staysails to leeward? or raise the sprit to loosen to give an upwind sail a flying sail shape? Why would you even want to? Because Faster. That’s why.
“What did you do to restore it?”
That’s the thing. A boat like this is never finished. There’s always faster. In my case, the part that took the longest was fixing the gelcoat. The boat is epoxy, not vinylester, and the gel coat chemistry at the time wasn’t optimized for adhesion to epoxy. The gelcoat would flake off in areas that may flex a bit. In my case repainting was necessary.
We replaced the hatches, all of those custom windows, and running rigging. I redid the daggerboards and rudders, and replaced the snapped bowsprit(s) and righting pole(s). It’s been repowered with a Torqueedo electric motor and anxiously awaits a new suit of sails and electronics. But, she’s far enough along that she’s finally splashed after a couple of years of being on the hard. I did a get new code zero/screecher from North, but the top down furler didn’t work very well with the running chute. I usually race solo so I’m seriously considering a deckchute, but in the meantime I just dropped two sizes down on the spinnaker halyard in order to get the chute up faster. Lots of tinkering, and Gflex Epoxy from WEST System.
She’s Shiny and smooth now. I just looked for “friction” and tried to reduce it where I could. I did remove the gybing feature from the daggerboards. The idea behind the gybing daggerboards is really interesting, and I could point really high for a cat, however I sometimes felt the board’s centripetal movements when the hulls moved in just the right wave action and produced this weird gyro effect which felt slow in very light air.
Sure Enough, Greg Bull wrote an article about it in Epoxyworks magazine. (Greg is a composite Technician at WEST system and owner of the G32 prototype Wildcard, which has been racing in Bay City Michigan – the midwest multihull mecca – since the G32 was born. You could say he’s a G32 expert)
Anyway, Greg published an article on the work he did on Jan’s last boat, Strings, and it brilliantly illustrated how to eliminate the daggerboard’s gybing feature. Armed only with the instructions and the imaginary, and probably unjustified confidence given to me by Epoxyworks magazine and Russ Brown’s blog, I tried to bring Janet C back to her former glory.
It was like following in the footsteps of giants – Jan, Meade, and Ben Gougeon, Russ Brown, and Greg Bull – basically the best sources of advice available to someone who wants to learn how to fix their own damn boat. Working on boats with my dad are some of my fondest memories now. For me, sailing isn’t dying; we just collectively forgot what the most important part of sailing really is… It’s about more than just winning, or even going faster, it’s about having kick ass stories to tell after the race is over.
Fast boats get to tell the most wild stories. And fast boats Break. A. Lot. At some point it becomes more about preparing for the race than the race itself: What will break next? Why? Jan and Meade figured out this little story telling secret to keep sailing alive over 50 years ago and dedicated a business to help sailors like me go faster, and to create some Epic stories of my own. Jan and Meade are dearly missed.
“How much do they weigh? Anything inside? How much are they worth?”
I’m not sure how much my boat weighs after her diet. I haven’t weighed it yet. The G32 had an advertised dry weight of 1100lbs, but some structural repairs to Janet have made her a lot stronger and a bit heavier. Over time the stock sails became bigger and bigger (This is called “The Gougeon effect,” although Jan and Meade simply referred to the phenomena as “Sail Wars”).
John’s main has the biggest roach I’ve ever seen on a boat. I didn’t measure it, but I’m guessing his main is at least 250 square feet. The huge roach was actually easier to trim than my smaller roached main because the top of the sail spilled away in a gust. I have a 110 square foot jib, a 300+ square foot yankee staysail, a 432 square foot tight reach screecher and a 670 square foot running chute. I use screecher upwind in under 5. Except for the chute, all of the sails furl, including the main.
There’s 600lbs of water ballast in each hull. Yes, with an 8’4″ beam, this cat tips over, but there’s a patented self righting system . It’s all explained here by the Gougeon brothers themselves I like that I can raise the mast and launch it off of the trailer by myself in 15 minutes, and race it hard solo thanks to the water ballast and furling sails, so there’s no need to yell at the crew 🙂 Both the rudders and dagger boards kick up if they hit bottom, because Jan believed it was easier to build kick up foils than it was to learn how to navigate. My kind of guy.
There’s sitting headroom in the cabin, along with a porta potty, stove, galley and room for a queen sized mattress. most sailors use secured netted bags in the cabin for storage in case the boat finds itself floating on it’s side. They sold 14 of them for about 37K new from 1990 to 1993. What are they worth now? The real trick is finding one for sale. Most owners keep them until they are too feeble to sail them, and given Meade was still racing his in his 70s they don’t come up for sale very often.
They are too addictive. The boat is a monster, but it can be easily detuned if you don’t feel like scaring the shit out of yourself. It’s also an unusually dry and comfortable boat to sail, especially in heavy air and big waves. Padded backrests are nice. Even when I tip the boat over I manage to stay dry. It’s very comfortable for an all out racer, like camping in a roomy 5 man dome tent. When they do come up for sale, they aren’t for sale for long, maybe a week tops. The last one that came up for sale on the Gougeon Multihulls face book group was snapped up in record time. Check out this classic G32 promo video!
“Now you make me want one!”
The stories are priceless, Scooter. In 2009 Janet C raced in the Chicago Mac. Check out Clean’s video of the Gougeon boys kicking ass! Jan and Meade were 64 and 70 when they celebrated 40 years of working together at the 2009 ChiMac awards ceremony. We talked about it over lunch the day they mentioned Janet C might be for sale. Jan said, “The G32 has standing headroom when the boat is tipped on it’s side.” using a deadpan delivery so there was a moment I didn’t realize he was joking.
Then Meade looked at Jan and smiled because he could see Jan was holding the corners of his mouth, trying not to smile. We all burst out laughing at the same time. The stories. I found John, a fellow G32 owner through the Facebook Gougeon Multihull group. I reached out to him to talk about our experiences and he invited me to crew on Flipper. I drove 6 hours and knocked on the door of someone I’ve never met and was treated like family. That’s one of the things I love about this sport – it’s ability to bring people together.
After meeting John, a fellow G32 owner and carbon copy of myself; I realized we were doing our best to emulate the ingenuity and camaraderie that Jan and Meade resonated in the multihull racing community, and beyond. They lead by example, by inviting people into their sailing circle and showing them how to stay competitive and on budget by doing things yourself.
Even today, the technicians at WEST System are there to answer the more specific questions that might pop up in your projects. It’s a legacy I’m proud to be a small part of. I keep the boat at the Lake Norman Yacht club, in Charlotte NC – they are an awesome group of sailors and have been really cool about letting me race even though I’m the only Multi interested in racing at the moment. They just want people on the race course, and what ever they are doing to get people out there must be working because I’m floored by how many boats they get out on the water!
Sure, I have all kinds of ideas on how to make this boat faster; some of them might be good – most of them are probably crazy – like Randy Smythe’s new super cool patented wingmast or some kind of foil assist to add righting moment in heavy air to try and keep up with the big boy multis for a little longer in a blow. But Jan and Meade taught me just about anything is possible, and if the thought of trying it brings a smile to your face – it’s worth consideration – I’m lucky I got the chance to hang out with those guys and no doubt I’m a better sailor for it.
Anarchist Chris Ross.
And, hell ya we could hang – it would be Epic!