The Westsail 32 design has a long history. The hull shape is descended from the double-ended pilot and rescue boats designed by the Norwegian naval architect Colin Archer. These boats were designed for extreme seaworthiness in the rough conditions of the North Sea.
The late 19th century Archer design was first adapted for pleasure sailing by William Atkin, who, in 1928, designed a 32-foot (9.8 m) double-ended boat called Eric based on Archer's 47’ pilot boat Regis Voyager. This design was later refined into Thistle, which replaced Eric's gaff rig with a bermuda rig, and has a flush deck. Similar boats made impressive voyages, including the wartime circumnavigation of Vito Dumas in Lehg II, designed by Manuel Campos. An Eric design shot to prominence in 1969, when Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to sail single-handed and non-stop around the world; his boat, Suhaili, was hand-built in India to the Eric design.