Lagoon 51 spearheads catamaran leader’s green focus
With a lighter structure, forward mast, shorter rig and overlapping genoa, the Lagoon 51 is even livelier on the water than her predecessor, while also introducing the new emphasis on solar power that will characterise the brand’s future models.
Words: Francois Tregouet. Photos: Gilles Martin-Raget & Nicolas Claris
Designed to be more ecological, more accessible and more connected, the Lagoon 51 unveiled in 2022 further refreshes the brand’s midsize offerings following the release of the 55 last year.
This year, the doors of the International Multihull Show at La Grande Motte had barely closed when the pontoons opened, releasing the 51’s ‘world premiere’ hull for a delivery trip southwest to Canet-en-Roussillon under the command of Bruno Belmont, aka ‘Monsieur Lagoon’!
While the milestone of the 6,000th Lagoon was passed in early 2021, and the fact that the 600 new catamarans scheduled to leave the three dedicated factories this year won’t be enough to satisfy an extremely dynamic market, no one at the world’s biggest pleasure cat builder is resting on their laurels, releasing a model that marks a huge step forward in their eco-friendly offerings.
The platform for the Lagoon 51 is based on that of the former 50, although the mast position has been significantly shifted, among many changes and aspects explained by Belmont, Groupe Beneteau’s Sailing Product Development Manager and the spiritual father of the first Lagoons as well as Sense monohulls and Excess catamarans.
Belmont’s abundant yet realistic creativity, and ability to anticipate expectations and analyse the evolution of uses make him more than just a designer. He’s a ‘visionary’ according to naval architect Marc Van Peteghem, who along with VPLP partner Vincent Lauriot-Prevost, continues to handle naval architecture of all Lagoon models, long after the trio met while studying in Southampton.
Inventing the boat that doesn’t yet exist but that will be a great success tomorrow is Belmont’s rare talent and a precious one for Group Beneteau. Many shipyards are now trying to move towards more eco-responsible boats, but it was back in 2006 that Belmont created Groupe Beneteau’s 12-strong working group on sustainability, although the crisis of 2008-09 halted the project.
The topic is more relevant than ever, while Belmont remains uncompromising in his research and standards. When he realised a major supplier of fabrics made from recycled fibre was importing the ‘green’ textiles by flying them across the Atlantic, he immediately switched to a company more holistic in its approach.
SOLAR SHIFT, MAST MOVED
For the Lagoon 51, the new leap was just as dramatic, with solar panels generating 3,020W integrated into the coachroof and hard top. This power output is enough to supply all the electricity needed on board – excluding air-conditioning – under way and at anchor.
The bonding of the Solbian flexible panels has been meticulously executed, but although the panels are guaranteed for five years, only time will show the hardiness of the most curved areas. With similar impact, a brutal assessment was made of the choice taken a decade ago to shift the mast aft to the centre of the coachroof.
The large self-tacking solent and the short boom had their advantages, but the only solution to increase the sail area and thus improve performance under sail was to go for a taller rig. This didn’t benefit seakeeping, as pitching is the enemy of multihulls.
So, back to a mast stepped on the median beam, at 40 per cent of the overall length aft of the bow. On the scales, the light displacement has reduced by 1,000 kg or five per cent compared to the 50. With the structure lightened by 750kg, a rig that’s more than 6ft feet shorter and an overlapping genoa, the Lagoon 51 is designed to be livelier on the water than her predecessor.
However, following the stormy conditions endured at the boat show, just 36 hours later the sea was like a millpond, so we set out by putting the twin 80hp Yanmar engines to the test. The power is evidence that the Lagoon 51 tries to offer standard equipment that’s more suitable for more users than offered elsewhere, when an attractive ‘from’ price rarely coincides with what clients need.
The Lagoon 51’s owner’s layout, which includes four cabins, a dressing area and three bathrooms, is the standard version.
As we waited for the thermal breeze promised by the forecast for the early afternoon, we made a direct course at eight knots, with the engines at 2,200rpm each consuming 5.2-5.5 litres per hour and giving a range of over 750nm. From the flybridge, Belmont was enjoying a 360-degree view, so we took the opportunity to have a look all around the boat.
CAR STYLING, BETTER ACCESS
As well as volume and interior comfort, the Lagoon 51 features a strong focus on exterior design. Former car designer Patrick le Quément – now associated with VPLP for a new life in boating – works on every detail. A bow angle, a topside line, a bimini radius: nothing escapes him.
With his very elaborate coachroof, it’s clear that under his impetus, the Lagoon range in general and this new 51 in particular has become yet more elegant, with the angle cut at the back of the side windows our only reservation.
The concern for a more harmonious catamaran was something shared by all those involved in the project. For example, in cooperation with Lancelin rope manufacturers, the halyards are now of the same shade, having formerly been too brightly coloured. They can be identified by a relevant number of strands of appropriate colours for each of the reefs – one, two or three – or in the axis for the halyards, for example.
These are details compared to the attention paid to access and circulation. This starts at the transoms, with easier access for stepping aboard due to their shape and positioning, which brings them closer to the dock. Their size is also more welcoming and there’s no need to jostle when getting off the dinghy – three people can stand together without getting in each other’s way.
Only two steps up and the cockpit and the entire nacelle are immediately accessible because the sugarscoops are slightly higher off the water and the thickness between the underside of the bridgedeck and the cockpit sole has been reduced.
This benefits the cockpit, whose vast surface area is divided into three zones. An adjustable plancha grill is next to the aft bench seat, a lounger occupies the starboard side, and an L-shaped bench seat surrounds the table on the port side. Part of the seat can be shifted forward to enlarge the table when at anchor, for instance, but this hinders direct access to the flybridge.
Once inside, with the bay window closed, engine noise reduces, and everything is a luxury and a pleasure. Thankfully, the cumbersome mast support-strut in the saloon of the 50 has disappeared.
Furthermore, the owner’s hull is even more luxurious, with its vanity/dressing area fitted as standard. As for the port hull, it offers three berths in the standard version. The furniture and decor, signed by Italy’s Nauta Design, is as warm as ever, and the materials are plush. We really liked the large opening hatch by the mast foot. This will be an important source of natural ventilation at anchor.
Eventually, the wind picked up as we got in sight of the Pyrenees and it was time to hoist the sails. A little trip onto the bimini to help the battens clear the lazy jacks indicates that a less perilous solution needs to be found, although as Belmont handled manoeuvres, it appeared to be child’s play. Halyards and sheets all come back to the central helm station with the optional electric winches.
From up there, you have an ideal view of the sail plan. Under the Code 0, our speed was oscillating between 7.8 to 8 knots, which was the true wind speed. Admittedly, we were on a heading at 60 degrees off the apparent, but even under genoa, we were pleasantly surprised to exceed seven knots at 55 degrees off the wind.
The return to a more forward-set rig clearly influences the new sail-plan distribution. With Lagoon consulting the suppliers and even seeking the expertise of an external design team, the mast no longer has aggressive diamond stays for the genoas but two sets of aft-swept spreaders.
While being lighter, the profile of the mast divides the canvas better and offers more adjustment possibilities. As for the sails, they have been entrusted to Elvstrøm, renowned as master sailmakers, while owners can request sails made from recycled materials, another Lagoon initiative.
The 51 is the start of a new direction for Lagoon. There’s a real awareness of the ecological impact of leisure boating, with 80 per cent of the carbon footprint of a boat coming from its use.
Sailing, natural ventilation rather than air-conditioning, more solar panels, no or less use of a generator, are all positive signals from this new model, which maintains the brand’s reputation for comfort and quality of finish.
The next major evolution will concern the engines, with a move to hybrid then electric. Lagoon still needs to address the question of energy storage, according to Belmont, who is keen to see nanotechnologies revolutionise the battery market.
In the meantime, the new 51 pays attention to its weight, lines, accessibility and life on board, with Lagoon creating an ever more refined cruising experience.