This well-built and thoroughly modern cat crosses oceans or cruises the tropics in style
It was hard to believe that we were speeding across the water at 8-plus knots. There was almost no sensation of speed, and the ride was silky smooth as we milled about the expansive cockpit. I was trying to act professional, scribbling in my notebook, but when First Mate Charlotte Kilmister offered me a drink, complete with a little floating umbrella, I felt more like a guest at a cocktail party than the hard-edged journalist I usually try to impersonate when conducting a boat test. Sailing the new Lagoon 570 catamaran on the protected waters of the Chesapeake Bay was a new experience-one that I was quickly coming to enjoy.
The 570, designed by Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost, replaces the 57, the oldest boat in the Lagoon line. According to Bruno Belmont, who represents the factory, more than 8,000 hours of research and development went into the updated design.
"We wanted a little more performance while preserving the basic, well-balanced deck and interior design," he said.
The 57, which was in production for nearly 12 years, pioneered the concept of blending the cockpit into the saloon. The 570 takes this user-friendly concept even further, as the companionway doors form an inverted "L" and slide neatly out of way, creating a seamless transition between the full-canopied cockpit and the luxurious saloon. Although the 57 was a mainstay in Caribbean charter fleets, Belmont hopes that the new boat will also appeal to sailors looking for a spacious cruising boat.
"We can offer several different interior plans, and the owner's version is perfect for a cruising family or a couple with frequent guests," he said.
The French-built Lagoon fleet has been a major player in the exploding catamaran market since 1984. Originally an extension of Jeanneau's racing division, Lagoon became part of the Beneteau Group in 1995 when Beneteau purchased its former rival, becoming the largest sailboat builder in the world. Although Lagoon is known for production catamarans ranging from 38 to 67 feet, it has also been involved in many successful custom projects, including the famous racing catamarans Pierre ler and Fleury Michon, as well as the trimarans used in Kevin Costner's futuristic but grim movie "Waterworld." Today, Lagoons are built in Bordeaux by CNB, the custom division of Beneteau.
I like the look of the Lagoon series catamarans, and when stretched out to 57 feet the necessarily high freeboard of the hulls is less noticeable. The numerous small, vertical ports that rim the cabintrunk give the boat a neoclassic profile, and indeed, the trunkhouse looks a little like the bridge of an old steamer, creating an unusual but handsome design feature on an otherwise thoroughly modern multihull.
Although Skipper Gavin Bladen told me he had the 570 blasting along at more than 20 knots on an Atlantic crossing, the boat is not a lightweight, with a light-ship displacement (i.e., with the tanks empty and no provisions) of more than 33,000 pounds. The hull entries are blunt and the swim steps astern stretch the waterline length to 52 feet. Each hull has a stub keel for directional stability, creating a draft of 4 feet, 7 inches. The 570 flies more than 2,000 square feet of sail with a furling genoa and staysail complimenting the roachy full-batten main. The air draft is 80 feet.
The 570 hulls are cored with balsa and are a vacuum-bagged laminate. Vinylester resin is used throughout during the construction process. CNB has long been a leader in composite material manufacturing, and the 570 hulls are made of multidirectional fiberglass fabric, with carbon fiber reinforcement in high-load and impact areas. Limiting excess weight while maintaining strength and rigidity for the large loads developed by two hulls is a constant battle for multihull designers. The decks and bulkheads are also balsa cored, with thin inner and outer layers of glass in the bulkheads, making them strong, flexible and, most importantly, light.
The cockpit includes double steering stations positioned aft and outboard, but still protected. This is an excellent arrangement, especially compared to the more common bulkhead mounted wheel that limits visibility, or the exposed steering stations perched farther outboard on the hulls. Dual stations naturally allow you to steer from whichever side offers the best view of the world. Remember, there really isn't a high or low side on a multihull.
Both steering stations usually are set up with sailing instruments and, of course, a compass. The standard boat has engine controls to starboard only, and I would add the optional controls to port as well, an important feature for close quarters maneuvering with a 30-foot beam. The steering system features Vectran cable and an aluminum connecting rod. The rudders are fiberglass and kept in alignment with upper and lower bearings.
There is an L-shaped seat to starboard and a straight seat to port. Closed-cell foam cushions and backrests are standard. The cockpit can accommodate as many people as you should ever want to have on board a boat and will undoubtedly become a social center in most anchorages. The sole is teak, which is very comfortable under foot and looks just right with the large folding teak cockpit table. There is plenty of storage in seven compartments, including four large lockers aft. A sun cover of some type is critical, and Lagoon offers an optional fixed bimini with windshields and sides.
The side decks are, not surprisingly, wide and easy to navigate. CNB does superb fiberglass work, and the molded nonskid surface is intricate and offers good footing. The only hazards on deck are the many hatches. The stanchions could be a bit taller, making the double lifelines more useful. The optional bow pulpits with teak seats are a nice addition. The aluminum toerail can be fitted with an optional teak insert, which will add to the maintenance list. Two large lockers just forward of the mast offer space for an optional generator to port with the standard electric windlass and ground tackle housed to starboard. The stemhead fitting features two anchor rollers fed by a long channel from the anchor locker. The forepeak of each hull is accessed through a stout deck hatch and offers additional storage for lines and fenders.
The crossbar forward and the fore-and-aft compression post are lacquered white aluminum. The trampolines are two-part nylon and a magical place to sprawl out and relax under sail. I'll never forget delivering a big cat up the Atlantic coast a few years ago. We encountered a pod of small whales and watched them cavort under and around the boat from the trampoline.
At the other end of the boat, the stern steps facilitate every type of water activity. Access from both the deck and cockpit is easy, and teak battens provide sure footing. The first, wide step serves as the access point for the engine. A cold-water shower is standard. The dinghy is secured on stainless davits between the hulls.
The long mainsheet traveler is aft of the cockpit and has a 4-to-1 purchase. Trimming the traveler is key to catamaran sailing, and the controls are well placed on the centerline in the back of the cockpit. A pair of side-by-side Harken 48.2 STs winches control the traveler and the mainsheet. The staysail leads are inboard on the cabintrunk and led to the cockpit. Primary genoa sheet winches are 56.2 ST Harkens, although an upgrade to an electric winch is a popular option. The fractionally rigged aluminum mast features double swept-back spreaders, and a luff track is equipped with rolling slides necessary for a full-batten main. Lazy jacks are standard and quite necessary to control the 1,119-square-foot main.
Lagoon offers four different interior arrangements, all similar but with slight differences. All plans include a magnificent saloon. One of the most appealing features of a catamaran is the spaciousness of the saloon as opposed the cavelike feel of a traditional monohull interior. By placing the galley down in the port hull, it is accurate to say the Lagoon 570's saloon is enormous. A circular table to port seats six comfortably, and an L-shaped settee aft to starboard bends around a teak coffee table. The navigation station is amidships, facing forward with a pullout seat. This is a great place to navigate as you have an unobstructed view forward and a decent view from side to side and aft through the cockpit. I can imagine when the boat is ripping along on a double-digit reach the navigator just might think he's in a plane not a boat.
Handsome teak bookshelves are to port while the entertainment center is to starboard. Our test boat placed a flush-mounted large-screen plasma television forward amidships and pushed the nav station out to starboard.
The 570's teak joinerwork is lovely, and the light PVC-foam-backed headliner just adds to the light and airy atmosphere. Four opening bridge ports provide terrific ventilation along with several deck hatches. Storage is in lockers below the bookshelves and under the settees. Efficient and effective halogen lighting is used throughout the boat.
The galley on most of the layouts is in the port hull gangway, or as they say in multihull speak, a galley-down arrangement. There are two stainless steel sinks, with storage and cutlery drawers opposite a four-burner stove and oven. A large, stand-up refrigerator and freezer is another advantage of a nonheeling catamaran. The owner's version features three double cabins, with the entire starboard side dedicated to the owner's cabin, a large sitting area, desk and several hanging lockers. Forward is a huge head with a private shower. The port side in this plan includes private double cabins each with a head and shower. A variation of this plan adds a small skipper's cabin just aft of the owner's cabin.
The charter version features five double cabins and five heads, with the galley to port. An alternative galley-up plan places the galley to starboard in the saloon with four double cabins and a single skipper cabin in the port gangway. Despite the plethora of sleeping cabins in all of the interior plans, there is sense of spaciousness throughout the boat. Storage is usually located in drawers under the bunks, a better idea than trying to access large lockers located beneath heavy cushions. The heads are white molded units with teak shower grates. The standard water capacity is 234 gallons in two tanks. Obviously a watermaker is necessary to keep five showers running.
The Lagoon 570 comes standard with a 56-horsepower Yanmar diesel in each hull. While these engines provide plenty of punch and good fuel economy, optional power plants with up to 100-horsepower in each hull can deliver performance that will make powerboaters envious. Access to the engines is from a locker on the top stern step-ideal unless the weather is foul. Saildrives eliminate the need for a shaft and stuffing box, reducing the space needed for mounting engines. Fuel capacity is 200 gallons in two tanks, which should translate into a 500-mile-plus range.
In general, catamarans handle extremely well under power, and the new Lagoon 570 is no exception. Bladen said that maneuvering the boat into tight spots is easier than with a comparable 40-foot monohull. I know what he means. One of my skippering highlights was backing a 42-foot catamaran into a very narrow opening between two classic schooners along the quay in the port of Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard. The skipper of the Alden schooner eyed me nervously, but Sen. Ted Kennedy had nothing to worry about. With engines placed well outboard and little water resistance, the cat handled beautifully under power-it just took learning the knack of handling twin screws.
Setting my drink on the table, which always seems sacrilegious to an old monohull sailor like me, I took the helm. I brought the boat up onto a close reach, and with apparent winds of 12 knots, we touched 9 on the speedo. We were sailing with the genoa and staysail, and coming up a bit farther, I was impressed that we could keep the speed up while sailing at 50 degrees apparent. The helm was light and balanced. Coming through the wind is slower on a multihull than with a monohull, and for best results requires a little backing of the headsail, but the quick acceleration makes up for slow tacking. According to the skipper, the 570 reaches at around 8 knots in 10 knots true, and easily hits more than 10 knots in a 20-knot wind.
"First reef comes in around 20 knots," Bladen said.
Falling off the wind, we set the gennaker and were able to keep the boat moving despite a fading breeze. A nice design feature of a cat with an LOA of 57 feet is that the bridgedeck clearance is high enough to keep choppy seas from slapping underneath. I relinquished the helm to a potential buyer from Pennsylvania. The man, in his 40s, was contemplating the 570 for a world cruise. "What other boats have you owned?," I asked. "None, this will be the first one." Surprised, I asked if he felt the boat was a bit big for a first boat. "No, not really, we need the space."
While I might not recommend buying a Lagoon for a first boat, I would strongly recommend it to sailors looking for a world-class yacht ready to set sail on a world-class cruise.