At fifteen metres long and over eight wide, there is no lack of space, whether on deck, inside or on the flybridge. But the French yard’s new catamaran can deliver good performance under sail. Even without much wind
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by ®Gilles Martin-Raget and Nicolas Claris
Space is like an obsession. Interior and deck designers, especially when they work for yards that produce in series, have this pressing requirement. It’s easy to do the sums: space equals comfort, and comfort equals cruising. The team which worked on the Lagoon 51 is experienced: it is the same that has designed all of the yard’s recent models, both engine and sail-powered. We are talking about VPLP Design (who did the naval architecture) and Patrick le Quément (external areas), while Nauta did the interiors. By necessity, they work as a team. None of them can limit themselves to their sector without getting involved with the others, since every decision brings with it some upheaval to the planning stage of the other areas. And, for Lagoon 51, it seems clear to me that there was a lot of collaboration.
Let’s start from high up, from the flybridge, possible one of the most successful elements. This success can’t be taken for granted since the final result on sailing catamarans is often unconvincing. The flybridge is very high up and has a single wheel in the middle that gives whoever is helming an excellent view. Both forward and to the sides, you have everything under control. The only blind spot is right in the stern, but that is inevitable. And what is more, the wheel hasn’t been located too far forward, since the bow part of the flybridge is beyond the rigging and is occupied by two sun pads. It is a very good design, given that they have created an area in which people can relax, without sacrificing the rigging and without blocking the view from the bridge. But there’s more on the flybridge. Going aft there is an L-shaped sofa with a table in the middle which, when lowered, turns the entire area into a large sun pad. This is rounded off by the fold-down backrests for the helm, or for whoever wants to enjoy the sun pad.
There are a lot of possible layouts to meet a range of needs, whether from owner-users or charter firms. The quality of the finish is very high.
The rigging is all to hand. Whoever is skippering can handle the catamaran on their own without finding guests in their way. The winches are completely electric, and there is also an electric control (again, close to the wheel), which means you can adjust the mainsail which stays outside the living area and thus right at the stern end of the flybridge. So, the areas have been exploited as well as possible. So, are there any drawbacks? Such a high flybridge generally means having to reduce the size of the mainsail. The boom is actually over the hard top, to ensure that anybody on the flybridge has got room to stand up. But on Lagoon 51 the keel-stepped mast has been moved slightly forward, and that means the boom is longer and as a consequence, the mainsail is larger. It is 97 square metres in the standard version, and as much as 100 in the optional. A stiff hard top, like the one chosen for the Lagoon 51, gives a lot of protection, but there is always the risk that you won’t be able to see the sails properly, especially the mainsail. But here too the designers have found a good solution.
Two skylights have been included, so the helmsman can see the mainsail without moving from the wheel. That’s perfect not just for trimming the mainsail, but also when you raise or lower it. On the deck, in addition to the space, the thing that I most liked is how easy it is to get around. That’s something you find in the cockpit, along the gangways – which aren’t just wide, but also uncluttered, given that the shrouds are fixed to the sides and even to the bow. This area has been fitted out as if it were a kind of a second cockpit, in that it is furnished with two chaises longues and a linear sofa that joins them together. Essentially it is a living area that faces forward. The bathing platform is another good feature on the deck. Located in the stern, it can be lowered to become a water-level terrace.
A similar approach has been taken for the layout of the interiors, by Nauta. The central lounge of course provides a lot of space, but it doesn’t feel as if any is wasted. The area has a 360-degree panoramic view thanks to the windows that surround it. As well as the sofas, the seats and the galley which looks onto the cockpit, there is room for a map area. In the two hulls, there is the cabin area, which can be set out in a large number of different ways. The most owner-driven of these sets aside the entire starboard hull to the double master cabin and a bathroom with a separate shower cubicle and vanity unit, while the port hull holds three double cabins and two bathrooms.
But there is a full range of options right up to the charter version, which by contrast has six cabins and four bathrooms. There is also a layout with four cabins and four bathrooms, which are set out in the standard way, with two aft and two forward. Riches of this sort in terms of accommodation normally mean that you get a performance, which is hardly exhilarating. And the conditions we found at Sanremo didn’t feel as if they were going to make things easy: there wasn’t a lot of wind, a maximum of five knots, with eleven people on board, a full water tank and fuel tank at 50%. So we had a significant load in addition to the nearly twenty tonnes of the Lagoon 51. I have to confess that I was only expecting to try out the two 80hp Yanmar engines with saildrive, but as soon as we left the harbour wall behind, the skipper unfurled the genoa and raised the mainsail.
IT IS VERY EASY TO HANDLE WHEN MANOEUVRING. COMING BACK INTO PORT, EVEN THOUGH WE HAD TO GET INTO A CRAMPED MOORING PLACE, WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO USE THE BOW THRUSTER.
The care taken in designing the sail plan has paid dividends. Despite a true wind speed of between 4.6 and 5.3 knots, the Lagoon 51 got to 4.7 knots while we were on a beam reach. I was also pleasantly surprised by its ability to sail close hauled. I got to a 45-degree angle, whereas I am used to catamarans that can hardly sail close to the wind at all, and if you try to go below 60 degrees you end up in irons. That didn’t happen to us, and at 45 degrees, with just over five knots of wind, we sailed at 4.5. This is a cruising catamaran, but if you trim them well, the 150 square metres of sails do their work, even with very little wind. The feeling at the wheel is good. The Lagoon 51 gets going easily and when you have found your course it sticks to it without any problem.
162 quai de Brazza, CS 81217
F-33072 Bordeaux Cedex, Francia
T. +33 (0)557 809280
VPLP Design (naval architecture), Patrick le Quément (exterior design) and Nauta Design (interior design)
LOA 15.35m • Maximum beam 8.10m • Draft 1.38m • Displacement 19,914 kg • Water tank volume 830 l • Fuel tank volume 1,040 l • Sailing surface 150 m2 • Main sail 97 m2 • Genoa 54 m2 • Code 0 101 m2 • Berths from 6 to 14 (crew included)
2xYanmar 4JH80 • Outlet mechanical power 58.8 kW (80 hp) • 4 cylinders • Swept volume 2.0 l • Bore&Stroke 84mm x 90mm • Maximal rotational speed 3200/min • Dry weight 229 kg • Saildrive transmission
1,363,793€, Excl. VAT (October 2022)
(Lagoon 51, space extralarge – Barchemagazine.com – October 2022)