The difference between being at sea and at anchor require catamarans to fulfil two contrary roles. Succeeding in both makes a winning formula, as Lagoon found out by selling over 1,000 units of its 450, which has been succeeded by the 46 in 2019.
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 weeks at a time 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.
“We are constantly renewing the designs and performance is always a factor,” said naval architect Marc Van Peteghem, before VPLP Design partner Vincent Lauriot-Prevost explains how the rig has been moved back in the boat to balance the sail area across the entire hull.
Aesthetics are a personal choice, but getting to first base in this competitive market – where the likes of Fountaine Pajot, Leopard and Bali also jostle for your hard-earned dollar – is looking modern, and Patrick le Quement is again responsible for exterior design.
Many car designers are producing rounded, aerodynamic shapes and 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 the incarnation of an ultra-modern catamaran.
However, given that those wily designers at VPLP have long created Lagoons from the inside out to prioritise living space, the rectangular upright saloon continues to dominate the overall shape while a flybridge is smoothly incorporated for that third level of living space and also 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. As such, when reviewing any boat, I always have to recall the phrase “fit for purpose” in order to do so fairly.
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.
Standing alongside its towering hulls on a pontoon in the south of France, the first feature noted was the open flybridge that has dual access – something Lagoon’s smaller versions don’t – and when I climbed aboard and up to it, a well laid out area was revealed.
Double sunpads behind and a mainsheet track well clear of them at the back ensure this area really is 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.
It was also much appreciated by Switzerland-based owners Bob and his wife Alice, who’s from Hong Kong. “We are new to sailing, so I love this kind of simple technology that helps me steer,” Bob said, as the couple joined me for the test sail.
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, although there’s also a composite option more suited to the tropics.
VPLP’s remit has always been to put practicality ahead of aesthetics, which some buyers may object to, especially when confronted by the mast compression post planted in the middle of the saloon. However, seagoing folk will know it’s 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 due to those signature upright bulkheads that are softened externally by a fibreglass lip that not only gives sun protection but adds volume.
Critics say the downside of upright bulkheads is windage, so at anchor you may tend to dodge around, but the benefits are plain to see when you consider the 2m-plus headroom throughout. Other features include the dinette, which can easily seat a large family around its rectangular table.
Nauta Design is again responsible for the interior and 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 stainless sink sunk into the composite worktops, three burner stove-oven with microwave above, plentiful cupboard space and room for a dishwasher. 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, although it perhaps lends less light than the blonde version. The CNC machine finishing is smooth, with no gaps spotted during my walk-through, while I was impressed with the solid metal fixings on doors and gas struts on cabinetry, something I feel earlier Lagoons were lacking.
FANTASTIC OWNER’S SUITE
Hull number one has 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 en-suite version, plus a crew berth option in the bows.
The spacious owner’s cabin is really well done, due in large to the space provided by the wide hulls and the rectangular portlights lightening up the area. I declared this area ‘best in category’ and the new owners Bob and Alice concurred, having viewed several brands. “This really did it for us,” Alice said.
The owner’s suite has a large elongated bathroom forward, central desk area with double couch and island bed aft. There’s ample storage, while one locker contained the main electrical panel with cut-offs, offering quick access for the owner.
Other good features included slatted mattresses with memory-style foam and generous space around the island bed. The desk in the centre has lots of worktop area and is opposite the glass escape hatch, an essential safety item on a Category A oceangoing cat.
For privacy in the cabin, simply slide the door across the entry at night, as stuffiness is prevented by the large portlights, including an aft-facing one, and opening deck hatches.
In the port hull, guests are well taken care of, having a bathroom each and benefiting from the wide hulls that have beam running forward – where some other marques do not – so it’s even spacious in the forward berth.
SIMPLE SAIL PLAN
The redesigned rig has put the mast on the coachroof and created a larger fore-triangle allowing bigger headsails. 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 large 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. 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 electric 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, 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. It still makes for a fairly heavy boat, although Lagoon states that it includes items such as mooring gear and other essentials in its light displacement figure while some competitors do not.
At the transom, the stepped bulkheads ensure easy water access, and the dinghy davits controlled by a discreet FlatWinder allow effortless hoisting, which completes a good cruising layout. There’s even room on the guardrail for a barbecue.
The smart design continues as you walk to the bow along the flat decks, with indented handrails on the coachroof for support. The foredeck has a sunken section with twin drains 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, while 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.
Engines 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 review boat with upgraded engines (57hp Yanmar saildrives), which quickly propelled us clear of the busy marina at La Grande Motte, reaching nearly nine knots at 3,000rpm before I throttled back to a more sedate, economical cruising speed of 71⁄2 knots.
The other prerequisite for warm-water sailing is a substantial sail plan, so we hoisted the optional screecher in the 16-knot 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 8.8 knots as the B&G screen showed a 90-degree 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 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 struggle with their stubby mini keels, so we rolled up the screecher and unfurled the jib to point the Lagoon 46 higher, reaching 40 degrees on the wind, with a respectable 7 1⁄2 knots 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’.
The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 49. Email [email protected] for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at: www.magzter.com/SG/Lux-Inc-Media/Yacht-Style/Fashion/