Leeloo’s M32 weekend

Leeloo’s M32 weekend
July 12, 2019 Mattias Dahlström

Harold Vermeulen’s sailing team joined the M32 European Series Holland last month

During the M32 European Series this year, one boat has been made available on the circuit to sailing teams wishing to try their hand at high performance catamaran racing from Aston Harald, the Swedish builder of the lightweight carbon fibre one design catamaran.

At the M32 European Series Holland event last month for example the local Dutch organiser Frans Driessen of Event 32 arranged for compatriot Harold Vermeulen and his Leeloo sailing team to take charge of the trial boat for the event.

Vermeulen admits he was relatively new to sailing, only having taken it up five years ago having got the bug while on holiday. “I decided that blue water cruising would be nice. If we got a boat the idea was that you could go racing as well… We have learned a lot since then,” he admits.

Vermeulen currently campaigns the MAT 1180 keelboat Leeloo (named after the orange haired heroine from the Luc Besson film The Fifth Element) and has enjoyed success racing this. As his first racing yacht, the Turkish-built Mark Mills design is reasonably large and as to his reasons for not starting smaller, Vermeulen says: “I don’t like going upwind in small boats! It’s terrible!” However a downside of trying to race a relatively long high performance craft, is that he feels his team generally lacks competition in the Netherlands.

So why did he come and trial the M32? Was it the speed of the boat? “High performance racing and the difficulty in finding good competition in the rating class monohulls – there is a bias towards cruising-orientated boats in those,” he cites as his reasons. “Then you have the extreme classes which are expensive and in which there are a lot of technical developments. So the M32 seems interesting – it is a high performance one design and there are not too many of those around.”

Vermeulen’s other sport is racing Superbike in which he competes as an amateur driver. Comparing this to sailing, he says: “Sailing is quite different. The speed is slow, but there are so many dynamics that I love it. Going fast on boats it great – that is certainly what the M32 offers.”


While the Leeloo team has a boat captain who is a professional, the rest of the sailing team are amateurs but nonetheless they made a good job transitioning from one hull to two for the M32 European Series Holland.

“The field is competitive and you have to know the boat right and for us catamaran starting is a bit different from monohull starting,” Vermeulen continues. Then there were also the various unfamiliar techniques the team had to get used to, such as when and how to use the gennaker upwind in light conditions and how to tack with it. “We feel more under control,” said Vermeulen going into the final day of competition in Medemblik. “I really like the boat because aside form it being both high performance and light, but it is simple as well. Once you’ve got a little bit of experience it is relatively easy to get hold of and get around the course.”

The M32’s high speed/high simplicity formula largely comes down to it two sail rig format. Vermeulen continues: “It is nice that you can get to a level where you can have exciting sailing and you feel you can control the boat. But to sail the M32 to its full potential is a challenge of course. So it is the high performance, simple and not that expensive compared to the MAT 1180.” And logistically more straightforward too – for example the M32 requires just four or five crew compared to the keelboat’s eleven. “It is very involved and it is physical which I like as well although as a helmsman it is not too bad. It seems to be robust as well, so it is an impressive design.”

While Vermeulen says that his sailing program is fixed for 2019 with his MAT 1180 – for next year, who knows? “We will definitely look at it. The guys and myself are so excited. It is a nice set-up.”