When French mega-builder Jeanneau announced in November of 1990 that it would embark on a joint production venture with TPI in Warren, Rhode Island,to manufacture Lagoon cruising catamarans, multihull enthusiasts and the industry at large took sharp notice. The Lagoon series cat, at the time formidably represented by an ultrasleek 55-footer already in production, signified an extensive commitment to the multihull field by a major monohull enterprise. And plans for TPI’s inaugural effort — the fashionable Lagoon 42 ultimately introduced a year later in the fall of 1991 — suggested to the cruising public that the ongoing rise in multihull popularity was more than a passing fancy.
The 42 went on to enjoy a successful debut, garnering Sailing World magazine’s multihull and overall Boat Of The Year awards in 1991. Jeanneau’s next ploy was to have designers Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot-Prevost reproduce the winning formula in a smaller boat. What resulted was Lagoon 37,as much a downsized version of the 42 as a striking cruising catamaran in its own right. Developed for private ownership or charter service, the 37 features the Lagoon series’ familiar curvilinear orientation and round, podlike cabin structure. Aesthetically the look is simple and modern. The designers have controlled the tendency of most cruising catamarans under 40 feet to appear ungainly and overfed by sculpting into the hulls a good measure of subtle sheer.
Below, the contemporary theme is pursued in an airy, well-lit, oval-shaped saloon and in spacious, uncluttered sleeping cabins.
Construction and Execution
TPI’s reputation as one of the great innovators in modern FRP technology is not lost on the 37. Hulls and deck feature Baltek end-grain balsa core throughout,sandwiched between triaxial glass fiber hand laid in vinylester resin. The hull element, including both of the floats and the bridge deck structure between them, is laid up essentially in one piece; to facilitate the keel work, it is begun in three separate molds — two for the outer halves of the floats and one more for the inner halves plus the bridge deck — and then the tooling itself is assembled early on for completion as a monocoque structure. Deck and cabin top are laid up in a single mold. Hull-to-deck joinery is accomplished by means of an inward hull flange to which the deck piece is bonded chemically with a high-strength, two-part urethane adhesive. Mechanical fastening occurs where stanchion bases, deck cleats and other paraphernalia are thru-bolted, but they are not designed to be part of the primary bond.
The rig is stepped on the cabin top and supported by a 28-inch heavy-duty stainless-steel compression post that is anchored to a hefty piece of solid ash, itself glassed into the intersection of three structural bulkheads, one running athwartship and the other two V’ed forward from an apex at the step. Chain plates are secured outboard to heavily glassed knees. Forward, the headstay is fitted to an aluminum cross member trussed with a seagull striker; the cross beam is pinned to aluminum brackets thru-bolted to the bows, a detail that allows the bows to work ever so slightly in a seaway without torquing the aluminum extrusion in the process, much the way toggles on standing rigging diffuse torque on the terminals.
The steering detail is noteworthy for its logical simplicity and built-in
resilience. The rudders are constructed of glassed-over welded stainless webs, all fabricated around solid stainless stocks that pass into the hulls through upper and lower bearings. The bearings themselves are patented by Jeanneau and feature large, fitted neoprene “donuts” that absorb side loading on the rudders and keep the stocks aligned with the blades in stressed conditions. Small tillers off the stocks are fixed to a continuous tiller bar that runs underneath the cockpit coaming. An Edson pedestal at the helm features a conventional chain drive off the wheel connected directly to wires that run via idlers and sheaves to a quadrant at the end of the tiller bar. The execution makes for easy maintenance and troubleshooting, and the directness of the linkage makes for good, positive feel at the helm and responsiveness under way, two qualities validated in our sea time on the vessel.
Systems And Mechanical
The 37 is powered by two 18-horsepower Perkins M20 freshwater-cooled diesels occupying generous engine compartments in the sterns. The starboard unit is fully accessed through a large hatch beneath the aft berth; the port unit is accessed through a large bulkhead opening in the head. As is the typical case in cruising catamarans this size and larger, there is good space around the engines, steering paraphernalia and related gear for unhampered service and maintenance.
Over 50 gallons of fuel and 100 gallons of fresh water capacity point to a
relatively extensive cruising range — indeed reassuring given the level of overall comfort that this boat offers and the notion that there is no particular reason, once you’re settled in, to get off it in a hurry. A 12-gallon hot water heater runs off a heat exchanger on one of the engines. Hot and cold pressure water is standard. Bilge-water evacuation is by means of an automatic electric pump and a manual pump in each hull.
Electrical storage is in four 85-amp-hour 12-volt deep-cycle batteries, two located in each hull. Each bank of two is charged by a standard 35-amp alternator belted off its respective engine. Distribution is handled by a tidy breaker panel in the navigation area on the inside of the starboard hull that includes master and secondary switches, an ammeter, a voltmeter and space for an optional shore-power package. The standard electrical scenario offers good, adequate power for a vessel this size — plus the advantage of redundant charging.
Given a profusion of subdued teak trim and white Formica below, the interior is bright, cheery, very contemporary and easy to maintain. A Plexiglas door provides admittance to an aft-facing U-shaped settee that takes up the main saloon. Large cabin top windows let in plenty of ambient light, and two opening hatches in the overhead promote ventilation. In “traditional” catamaran fashion the galley is down in the port hull, and is provided with good working counter space, a three-burner LPG stove and oven, an over-under freezer/reefer and a pair of stainless sinks.
Sleeping accommodations include two big queen-size forward doubles port and starboard, each with a convenient standing/dressing area and stowage in deep cubbies. A smaller double is located in the starboard hull aft. The main head, complete with a stand-up shower, is built in aft of the galley in the port stern; an optional second head can be installed as a walk-through element in the starboard hull amidships. Also in the starboard hull, as noted previously, is the navigation station which includes the electrical panel, a fold-down chart table and room for the electronics. Opening hatches for ventilation and fresh air occur in all staterooms as well as in the main head.
The interior is comfortable without being overdone, and notable is the emphasis placed on simplicity in lieu of an expensive — and weighty — preoccupation with plushness. The main saloon is just that: a congenial area comprised of a large settee and dinette, unencumbered by a fancy galley area, or by a dedicated niche for navigation and instruments, all of which fare better in their own places down in the hulls. The sleeping quarters forward are spacious and airy while minimalist in decor — but this is what cruising catamarans are all about. To assume that a cruising cat is garage space for all the toys and trinkets you own is anathema to the performance intent of the vessel in the first place. Best to look at this boat as a fully cruisable multihull with great comfort for two-week stints in coastal haunts and occasional forays offshore; load her up with provisions for a trip around the world and you may be missing the point.
Sail Plan, Deck, and Under Way
With a lofty 54-foot spar, a high-roach mainsail and an overlapping
roller-furled genoa, the 37 enjoys good horsepower for light- to moderate-air work. This is good, because horsepower is in fact what you want in conjunction with a Displacement/Length ratio of 143 — on the heavy side for a truly performance-optimized multihull. In a cruising context the scenario works well, especially given the need for some albeit minor load-carrying capability to accommodate moderate provisioning.
The deck is wide open and easy to range. A large cockpit aft with the steering pedestal bulkhead-mounted on the port side gives adequate room for an entire crew of six to congregate freely, and the addition of a dodger and Bimini off the cabin top secures this area in wet weather. Access to the cockpit from off the boat is by way of integral transom steps port and starboard. Side decks are wide and easy to maneuver, although the addition of grab rails on the cabin top would maximize security in lumpy seas. The trampoline forward is a marvelous place to hang out under way; it also serves as a safe, uncluttered area from which to launch and gather an asymmetrical kite.
Under sail, the 37 is responsive and sea-kindly. The combination of inboard genoa sheeting on the cabin top and long fin keels on the hulls makes for good tracking to weather at refined angles in all conditions. Cracked off, acceleration is instant, and at about 120 degrees in moderate air with the chute up performance is stellar, especially when payload is kept within reasonable parameters.
We had the opportunity to sail aboard a Lagoon 37 in the predominantly light-air 1993 Marblehead-Halifax race — a biennial 360-mile sprint from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Halifax, Nova Scotia — and we pulled off a third in class on corrected time. That’s not shabby considering that we had the Bimini rigged for the whole race, ate like kings and spun movies on the VCR during the off-watches. Faced with a 90-degree rhumb line to Cape Sable and shifty westerlies prevailing off our stern, we kept the boat moving by tacking downwind and changing gears constantly: In really light air the 37 enjoyed her best runs at about 95 degrees off the wind; in the occasional 15 to 25 knots we could come off to about 120 degrees apparent and fly at speeds well over 10 knots. This level of performance by a legitimate cruising catamaran in a decidedly serious ocean race was striking.
Jeanneau’s aim with the Lagoon series has been to offer upscale performance in a comfortable, stable cruising context. They have accomplished that in the case of the 37 with a vessel that sails well without requiring that you put a stripped-out factory team aboard to achieve good results. Low draft and integral keels allow you to beach the boat at will; a simple deck layout and sensible sail inventory allow you to fly the canvas necessary to make it move smartly without confusion or intimidation. The accommodations are straightforward and convivial. And you can always rely on that great cruising catamaran trait: level sailing. In all, a well-done vessel with great sailing characteristics and a happy cruising bent.