By Matthew Thomas
It's always interesting to see what builders do in the market to distinguish their boats, and how designs change over time. The new Lagoon 39 catamaran is most definitely a design departure from the old range and together with the new Lagoon 52, is the shape of things to come from one of the biggest builders in the world.
Many of the early catamaran designs had small mainsails and large overlapping jibs, and these were replaced by more conventional rig layouts as more and more monohull sailors started to sail cats. Well, the small high aspect rig is back! Walking down the dock to the yacht, it's one of the first things you notice, a much shorter boom than the other cats and a double spreader rig, placed significantly further aft.
While it would be tempting to say that it's a return to the old formula, that would be inaccurate at best. The Lagoon 39 has been designed by the French design powerhouse of VPLP, who not only designed the fastest multihull on the planet, Banque Populaire V, but have also designed cruising cats up to 170' as well as Alex Thomson's new IMOCA 60, Hugo Boss. With a design portfolio this extensive, there is simply nothing old about this design.
Rather, they've really looked at how cats are sailed and what the issues are, especially on a catamaran under 40'. By moving the mast aft, they've significantly reduced the pitching moment and made the boat easier to sail. By increasing the size of the jib, you're now able to simply unfurl it for those short inter-island trips, without having to bother about hoisting the main.
Of course, by moving the mast aft, off the main bulkhead, they've had to figure out how to carry the mast loads and this has been achieved by simply adding a compression post under the mast that transfers the load to a massive fibreglass grid system that runs between the forward and aft main bulkheads. This in turn has made the boat incredibly stiff, which has further enhanced the ride.
The rest of the design features also stand out - an integral cockpit hard top that flows seamlessly aft from the cabin top and gives you a feeling of a single roof, levitating above the decks, and a boxy hull design that has a bevelled upper edge that clearly sets it apart from all other cats.
Like the rest of the range, the Lagoon 39 also has a recessed step in the side of the hull, making boarding from the dock side simple and safe. Lifelines and stanchions have been placed inboard, so it's very comfortable climbing aboard. The decks are absolutely flat, with a slight slope aft, which I noticed immediately. Traditionally, decks have been curved to facilitate water drainage, so it's quite different to suddenly find such a flat surface, with
In thinking about who this yacht is aimed at, this makes a lot of sense as many owners will have young kids, or grandchildren, and both of these features enhance safety and most certainly relieve much of the worry associated with young children on board.
Given that this boat is only 39' long, the aft cockpit is huge, with a removable table which gives you the sense of a large, covered and comfortable outside lounge area that can be quickly converted into an outdoor dining area for alfresco meals in quiet anchorages.
Entering the main saloon through the large sliding door, everything is on the same level and the view is spectacular through the large glass windows that surround the entire cabin. Inside, the large galley is well fitted with all the latest gear to port and a large settee and table to starboard. Interior joinery is very modern and somewhat square, but of course, this is the advantage of having a catamaran, lots of space and a much more home-like environment.
As is standard on cats, cabins are in both hulls and can be separated from the saloon with sliding doors. While it is traditional for an owner's cabin to take up the entire hull and double guest cabins the other hull, on the Lagoon 39, you have the option of ordering owner's cabins in both hulls or double cabins in both hulls if the yacht is going into the charter market.
Having spent some time wandering around and poking my head into everything, it was clear to me that an enormous amount of thought and understanding had gone into the design of this 'little' cat and that both VPLP and Nauta Design, who did the interior, had clearly defined who the customer was and how they were going to use their Lagoon 39. Construction quality is very good and the whole boat was light and airy and well thought out.
With the inspection done, it was time to leave the dock and see how she performed. All controls are led to the raised helm station on the starboard side, so it was simply fire up the engines, cast off the lines, pick up our margharitas (joking) and go sailing.
She's easy to drive, tracks very well and is a pleasure to command. We left the V&A, hoisted the main, unfurled the self-tacking jib and were sailing with ease. Everything is led to the helm station and the boat can easily be sailed by one person.
As I suspected, with a design lineage from VPLP, she sailed well, pointing comfortably at 50° with very little pitching. Tacking was a simple flick of the wheel and with the selftacking jib, there was nothing to do other than set up on the new heading. With the wind around 11 knots we were happily going upwind, with no noticeable leeway, at 6.5 knots. Bearing away, it was simply ease the sheets and settle onto the new course and hoist the screacher! No fuss, no bother and the idea of a long leisurely sail between islands was the order of the day!
For me it was time to jump into our chase boat and have a look at her sailing. Having this as an option is very useful as you get a completely different perspective on the yacht and the first thing I noticed was how much volume there was up forward and just how dry the Lagoon 39 is on deck.
With a fine entry, the hulls carve cleanly through the water and the boat sails very smoothly. Clearly the rig layout works and while my first impressions were that she was maybe too square in design, having spent some time sailing her, the aesthetics have started to grow on me. Lagoon has done a great job of creating a new sailing catamaran under 40ft.
Fitting into the Lagoon range between the current 380 and 400 S2, the Lagoon 39 is going to be a force to be reckoned with and will in time probably replace the older designs. With nearly 700 Lagoon 38s built, this 'little' cat has a tough act to follow, but with the updated systems and styling, she is sure to be around for a long time and set the standard for the rest of the range.