Winner: Lagoon 42
The first of three dedicated catamaran classes for 2017 was a decidedly French affair, with three of the four contestants hailing from the sailing-crazed nation, which has been one of the hotbeds of cat design and construction for decades now. So it’s no surprise that the competition for Best Full-Size Multihull Under 50 Feet came down to a battle between a trio of boats from two longtime BOTY adversaries and competitors: the Fountaine Pajot Lucia 40 and the Lagoon 42 and 450 S.
Before diving into the category analysis, we’d be remiss not to mention the fourth boat in the class, a sharp 39-footer built in Vietnam, the Seawind 1190 Sport. While the minimalist, performance-oriented Seawind was an outlier in the battle of more traditional cats waged between Fountaine Pajot and Lagoon, the judges believed it was a critical success and honored it as such with a special award.
That left the French cats, beginning with the Lucia 40. “Fountaine Pajot has been in business for 40 years, during which time they’ve built some 3,000 boats, all cats,” said Tim Murphy. “The Lucia 40 replaces the Lipari 41 in the builder’s line. Over a six-year span, they built 200 units.
“The Lucia can come in four different layouts with as many as four cabins,” he added. “It’s an infused hull: They do a vinylester skin coat, and then the rest is resin-infused. The decks are injection-molded. It’s worth noting that Fountaine Pajot builds the largest injected part of any industry in the world: the decks on some of their larger models. It’s impressive.
“Once we were underway, I was pretty happy,” he concluded. “I felt the boat would be a strong contender before we sailed it, and that was only confirmed once we hoisted the sails. The builder claims it’s a performance boat, and our test sail confirmed that, making 7.7 knots on a beam reach in 10 knots of true wind. She felt fine and spritely. It was definitely easier to handle and keep track of all the lines compared to some of the other catamarans we’ve tested.”
Next up was the first of the two Lagoons, the 450 S. “The ‘S’ stands for ‘sport top,’” said Murphy. “They introduced the Lagoon 450, which was a flybridge model, six years ago, and in the time since have sold some 650 of them. The sport top is all about the steering; the Lucia 40 had a similar configuration. It’s really a hybrid between traditional bulkhead steering and a flybridge. You step halfway up and sort of look over the cabin top, so you have good visibility but not a true flybridge. There have been many tweaks along the edges to go with the new steering station, but this is a marginally new design.”
On the other hand, the Lagoon 42 was a completely fresh model that replaced the previous 421 in the company’s quiver. “There were 280 of those built, so this is likely to be a high-production boat,” said Murphy.
With the 42, Lagoon made a deliberate effort to consolidate the floor plan and living areas, making it a much more intuitive space by eliminating long ladders and compartments. But they didn’t stop there.
“One of the major things they did was move the mast aft, which had big structural implications,” said Murphy. “Lagoon feels there’s a big advantage there.”
“One of the positives of moving the mast aft was that you expand the foretriangle, and in addition to any spinnakers you might fly, there’s now a self-tacking jib,” said Carol Hasse, our resident sailmaker. “It’s a bigger headsail, so you have a little more power in there now, and it means the boat’s a little less mainsail-driven, so the main is less of a handful when you want to reef it or you’re under sail.”
All that left the judges with a difficult decision to make, one that ultimately came down to the Lucia 40 and the Lagoon 42, both of which came in at basically the same $18 per pound. “It’s a tough call, a really tough call,” said Hasse. “The Lagoon toerails and big cleats felt a bit more substantial to me. The bow pulpit seats were comfortable, and I liked the lifelines between the hulls forward. The Harken hardware is also excellent.”
With two boats so similar, the little things stand out. Furthermore, when the votes were cast, the Lagoon 42 felt like a real departure and evolution, which is why the judges named it 2017’s Best Full-Size Multihull Under 50 Feet.