The new Lagoon 46 reflects decades of experience in the creation of comfortable and seaworthy cruising catamarans, reports KEVIN GREEN.
The difference between being at sea and at anchor require catamarans to fulfil two very contrary roles, so succeeding in both makes a winning formula, as Lagoon found by selling about 950 units of this boat’s predecessor, the Lagoon 450. Catamarans of this size also fulfil the role of floating apartments by offering lots of living space and I’ve enjoyed staying aboard smaller Lagoons for over the years. To do this comfortably sun protection and ventilation are key points when at rest, while at sea, a reasonable level of sailing performance is required to avoid the constant drone of diesel engines. The latter was a point addressed by long term design partnership VPLP who I enjoyed chatting with earlier in the year. We were seated nearby hull number one of the Lagoon 46 in La Grande Motte in southern France while Vincent Lauriot Prevost explained how the rig has been moved back in the boat to balance the sail area across the entire hull. “We are constantly renewing the designs and performance is always a factor,” explained other partner Marc Van Peteghem.
Ascetics are a personal choice but reaching first base in this competitive market – where the likes of Fountaine Pajot, Leopard and niche market brands jostle for your hard earned dollar – is a modern look. So, similar to how car designers are producing rounded, aerodynamic shapes, so it is with catamarans. Sporting smooth rounded gunwales, indented topsides with large rectangular windows and plumb bows to increase buoyancy, the Lagoon 46 is very much the incarnation of an ultra modern catamaran. However, given that those wily designers at VPLP have created Lagoons from the inside out to prioritise living space, the rectangular upright saloon continues to dominate the overall shape while smoothly incorporating a flybridge for that third level of living space and navigation. The downside of the flybridge is the elevation of the high aspect rig and boom, thus compromising some stability for comfort – a well established approach by several builders. So, when reviewing any boat, I always have to recall the phrase, ‘fit for purpose’, in order to fairly do this. As with the Lagoon 450, the Lagoon 46 is very much fit for purpose, as I found out by sailing it along the Mediterranean coast, an ideal cruising ground for such a vessel.
An electric Harken Flatwinder winch ensures that the davits quickly deploy the dinghy for that run ashore while elevating it safely above the briny when at sea.
Image Kevin Green
Standing alongside its towering hulls on the pontoon at La Grande Motte, the first feature noted was the open flybridge that has dual access, something smaller versions didn’t; and when I climbed aboard and up to it, a well laid out area was revealed to me. Double sunpads behind, with mainsheet track well clear of them at the back mean this area really is also dual purpose – for relaxation and navigation. The navigation area is dominated by the centralised single binnacle layout, which has all sail controls nearby plus a dashboard for the B&G plotter and autopilot screen. The user-friendly B&G sailing software gave lay lines and other course directions in an easy to use package; something very much appreciated to new owners Bob and his Hong Kong wife Alice who joined me for the test sail. “We are new to sailing so I love this kind of simple technology that helps me steer,” said Bob.
Also handy is the joystick control in the saloon chart table, which works in conjunction with the autopilot. The large throttle leavers and Yanmar engine controls completed a functional dashboard; all fairly sheltered below the canvas bimini and there’s fibreglass option which is more suited to the tropics.
Nauta’s saloon design avoids vast open spaces which are hazardous as sea yet contains all the essentials – large dinette table, U-shaped galley and substantial navigation area. Image Lagoon
Designers VPLP remit has always put practicalities first with Lagoons, ahead of ascetics; which some buyers may object to especially when confronted by the mast compression post planted in the middle of the saloon. But seagoing folk will know that it is an ideal handhold as well as allowing the centre of effort to be moved aft in the hull. Around the compression post, is the galley to port and lounge area on the starboard quarter, which is nicely shaded thanks to those signature upright bulkheads that are softened externally by a fibreglass lip.
These not only give sun protection but add volume. Critics say the downside is windage, so at anchor you may tend to dodge around, but the benefits are plain to see when you consider the 2.0m plus headroom throughout. Other amenities include the dinette which can seat a large family easily around its rectangular table. Regular collaborator Nauta Design has created a saloon with plenty of locker space, soft close drawers and overhead cupboards. The spacious navigation station uses the forward portside corner well, giving the skipper bulkheads for electronics and a full sized chart table. Behind, the U-shaped galley’s amenities include a single deep stainless sink, sunk into the composite worktops – which have effective fiddles. Plentiful cupboard space includes room for a dishwasher as well. Cooking is well taken care of, thanks to a three burner stove-oven with microwave above. Perishables go into twin drawer stainless fridges plus a front-opening one and food can be conveniently served through the window to the cockpit diners. The Alpi Walnut woodwork is smart but perhaps lends less light than the blonde version while the CNC machine finishing is smooth, with no gaps spotted during my walk-through. Solid metal fixings on doors and gas struts on cabinetry impressed me – something I feel earlier Lagoons were lacking.
The owner’s suite is best in category for me – with a luxurious feel that belies a mass produced catamaran.
FANTASTIC OWNER'S SUITE
Our review boat, hull number one, had an owner’s suite to starboard and twin cabins in the port hull. With Lagoon’s strong presence in the charter market there is also a four cabin ensuite version, plus a crew berth option in the bows, so the 46 should have wide appeal. Really well done is the spacious owner’s cabin thanks to the wide hulls affording space and those rectangular portlights lightening up the area. I declared this area best in category and new owner’s Bob and Alice concurred – having viewed several brands. “This really did it for us!,” said Alice. The owner enjoys a large elongated bathroom forward, central desk area with double couch and island bed aft. Ample storage was available and one locker contained the main electrical panel with cut-offs, so ideal for the owner to access quickly. Other good features included slatted mattresses with memory-style foam and a generous acreage of space around the island bed. The desk in the centre of the hull has lots of worktop area as well; and is opposite the glass escape hatch – an essential safety item on an A-Category ocean going cat. For privacy in the cabin, simply slide the door across the entry at night, as those large portlights, including an aft facing one, and opening deck hatches avoids stuffiness. In the port hull, guests are well taken care of, thanks to having a bathroom each and again benefiting from the wide hulls that have beam running forward, where some other marques do not, so again spacious even in the forward berth.
Double couch, large bed, myriad hatches and a stylish Walnut finish should please most owners on the Lagoon 46. Image Lagoon
The redesigned rig has put the mast on the coachroof and created a larger fore-triangle allowing bigger headsails and our review boat came with a cutter rig – self-tacking jib and large screecher on the bowsprit. The alloy rig is a sturdy arrangement with chunky outboard chain plates on the wire shrouds and sails are all controlled from the flybridge, including the screecher’s sheets that run there via deck blocks. Climbing the cockpit stairs takes you to the shoulder-high boom – so not a job for a medium statured sailor – which has the fully battened square-top mainsail in lazyjacks, and requires the canvas bimini to be dropped before accessing it fully. However, mast foot pegs give access to the luff; but a small saloon-top step would be welcome here. Furthest aft is the wide main track which is effectively controlled by a Harken Flatwinder electic winch, making the sail plan ideal for short-handed sailing. The mainsheet runs to the pair of nearby Harken 50 winches at the binnacle with another single one starboardside. Similarly, the halyards have a short run from the cabin stepped mast to the banks of jammers within arm’s length of the wheel. Large diameter lines, oversized winches and jammers all are welcome, especially in heavy weather.
The tall and wide hulls create lots of volume which is intended to retain buoyancy and waterline as you increase the load. Construction is infused polyester with balsa core above the water and below the water – the latter a weight-saving change from solid GRP on previous models. This still makes for a fairly heavy boat, however the factory argue that Lagoon include items such as mooring gear and other essentials in their light displacement figure (15,750kg) while their rivals do not.
At the transom, the stepped bulkheads ensure easy water access, and the dinghy davits controlled by a discrete Harken Flatwinder electic winch allow effortless hoisting which completes a good cruising layout; with even room on the guardrail for a barbecue. The smart design continues as you walk along the flat decks (with indented handrails on the coachroof for support) to the bow. The foredeck has a sunken section with twin drains that won’t retain a dangerous volume of water in heavy weather and is a comfy small cockpit, surrounded by lockers. Two of these can house extra tankage, an 11kva generator and cruising gear including large outboard motors; and one hatch accesses the rode. The sizeable Quick capstan-windless runs the chain out to the bow and a second roller is nearby as well. Our review boat came with twin 57hp saildrive Yanmars which are accessed via the aft deck hatches. Given the wide hulls, ample space is around them for servicing the gearbox oil, filters and impeller. The optional folding propellers are welcome, given the drag created by this large vessel.
The world’s most popular cruising ground has one major drawback, fickle winds, so sailing a heavily loaded cruising catamaran can be frustrating. Wise to this, Lagoon supplied our test boat with upgraded engines (57hp Yanmar saildrives) which propelled us quickly clear of the busy marina at La Grande Motte reaching nearly 9kts at 3,000rpm before I throttled back to a more sedate (and economical) cruising speed of 7.5kts. The other prerequisite for warm water sailing is a substantial sail plan so we hoisted the optional screecher in the 16kt Spring breeze then unfurled it easily. Our crew of four had already hoisted the square topped mainsail using the electric Harken winch, so with full sail I turned the big cat off the wind and watched our speed rise to 8.8kts as the B&G screen showed a 90° apparent wind angle. Comfortably perched on the double helm seat with steering wheel in hand we gracefully sailed down the coast towards the beautiful town of Sete, known as the Venice of the West for its myriad canal systems. Overhead a strong sun fuelled the shore breeze until it was time to use the first of our three reefs in the mainsail – a job done fairly easily with single line reefing – before we gybed for home. Upwind in chop is where cruising catamarans with their stubby mini keels struggle, so we rolled up the screecher and unfurled the jib to point the Lagoon 46 higher, reaching 40° on the wind, with respectable speed of 7.5kts showing on the gauges. Handing over the wheel to new owner Bob, his smile said it all, as he and Alice talked about their cruising plans for their ‘dream boat’, which clearly the Lagoon 46 is. But don’t just take my word for it, as you can see for yourself becuase dealer TMG has recently taken delivery of the first Australian one.
I enjoyed talking with renowned VPLP designers Vincent Lauriot Prevost and Marc Van Peteghem about their latest designs, that included the Lagoon 46, which they expect double-digit performance from off the wind. Image Kevin Green