By Richard (Danger) Mitchele
In the spirit of gonzo journalism, our man in Spain compares the magnificent Lagoon Fifty-one to a rudderless Spanish catamaran
Catamarans are cool. In 1876, Nat Herreshoff, the renown yacht designer, built Amaryllis, a catamaran based on pictures he had seen of Polynesian sailing cats. He crushed it in his first regatta and won by a landslide against the traditional monohulls known as sandbaggers because they shifted bags of sand from side to side as ballast. In short order the gentlemen in the blue blazers with the brass buttons and the funny hats banned catamarans. Completely. From racing. Forever. That set cats back until years later when a dude from So Cal named Hobie had an idea.
Lounging on the Lagoon Fifty-one.
I was sitting on the terrace sipping Cava and watching the sailors enjoying the champagne sailing on the sparkling Med when I received a ping from our Benevolent Editor. He asked if I’d like to review the new Lagoon Fifty-one. As it turned out, my schedule wasn’t all that full and the review was mere twenty-minute jaunt down the coastal highway from my home here in Spain. We were asked to meet up at a marina called Port Genestra. Port Genestra is one of many marinas that dot the southern coast of Spain. At 1,200 slips, it’s average size for this area and probably bigger than any marina I’ve seen in the People’s Republic of Canada. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited. I’ve sailed thousands of miles in big cruising cats. Still, I figured they’d have tapas (Spanish Appetizers) and Cava (Spanish Champagne). I was about to see what it’s like to sail a house on the Med.
The same week, my friend Oriel called to ask if I’d like to sail a Patin (pronounced pat-een). A Patin is an eighteen-foot local sailing cat. In the 30’s the folks in Barcelona found that the beaches were too dirty for swimming. So, they built catamarans to row out past the scum layer. Ultimately, someone that was tired of rowing put a sail on one. They didn’t however bother with a tiller or rudder. I’d seen these boats on the beaches and spent time trying to figure out how you steer. I was about to find out.
You step aboard the Fifty-one like you are stepping aboard a yacht as Carly would say. It is simply palatial. I wore Top-Siders, seersucker Bermuda shorts and a pink Polo hoping I might fit in. The wonderful people from Beneteau, Lagoon’s parent company had Cava and Tapas laid out. We sat on the big, comfy couch downstairs in the living room and waited to depart. To ensure that I was safely aboard, the Lagoon hostess texted me from the bridge. Big boat.
Sailing a Patin using “body English”.
As the tender driver took me to the Patin for my turn, he pulled out his cell phone, grinned and showed me a picture of an 800kg shark that had been seen in the area. Thanks. I scrambled onto the Patin in a less than gracious manner and grabbed the only control there was, the main sheet. Instinctively, I found myself reaching for the non-existent tiller and thinking about the shark. For a moment, I was longing for the Cava and the big, comfy couch.
The Lagoon has more do-dads than the space shuttle. It is covered in form-fitting solar panels that generate all the power you could need. Under power, you can travel for days. It makes its own power and water. Of course, it’s primary source of propulsion is completely sustainable – wind. And special attention has been paid to sustainable building materials and building processes. I’d love to see regenerative electric motors. I’m sure that’s on the horizon. You can stare down at the common folk from the two-story high flybridge sipping Cava all the while reassured that you are saving pandas and perhaps the entire planet through yachting.
So, how do you steer a Patin? You move. You move forward to head up and you move aft to head down. You wear a wet suit as you are most certainly going to spend considerable time submerged. It didn’t take long to get the feel of the thing and soon I was blasting along on a close reach. The boat is so sensitive that the smallest shift in body weight changes your course. After zipping along for a while, I realized that the lee shore was rapidly approaching and I would have to tack. I had watched Oriel do it. It looked difficult and he’s one of the local champions when it comes to racing these things.
The commanding view from the flybridge.
On the Fifty-one, you press a button and a TV pops up. I’m not sure how many TV’s there are in the boat. The kitchen is bigger and better appointed than mine at home. You can see from the photos that this is a home afloat. The design is simple and clean. No space has been wasted. I think the people at Lagoon have listened to owners and taken it to the next level. The fit and finish are extraordinary. From light switches to cabinet hardware, everything has been thought out. Despite the lovely fixtures, I was more interested in how this house sailed. I’ve sailed everything from charter cruising cats to a Gunboat sixty-six, arguably the gold standard in cruiser/racer cats.
Tacking time came on the Patin and I scrambled forward, grabbed the mast and leaned out. I had to paddle with my foot a bit to get the bow through the wind but slowly the boat came around and was pointing away from the rocky coast. Of the two boats, I’d have to say that the Lagoon tacks faster. It also seems to afford the occupants a more significant degree of separation from the aforementioned shark. My friends in the tender giggled and pointed as I struggled to get the little cat under me and get the windward hull flying again. These boats offer a completely connected and immersive sailing experience.
A small part of the galley by the back deck dining table. Photo: Nicholas Claris
Sailing the Lagoon surprised me. We were doing seven and a half knots in eleven knots of wind with a full main and code zero. Despite the enormous dimensions on this twin-hulled condo, there was actually some feel in the helm. I quickly realized that, when (it’s a sure thing) my big cyber currency investment pays out, I would like to own one. At the same time, I would likely hire a crew to do all the work. I could see myself chilling in the forward cockpit sipping Cava with Richard Branson, Barak Obama and a bevy of supermodels. If you are inclined to own one, Lagoon has a management programme that will ensure that your boat is perfectly maintained and generates revenue while you are off heli-skiing in the Swiss Alps or touring Italy in your 1963 250 GTO.
As for the Patin, Oriel is trying to talk me into going racing. Imagine lining up on the starting line with no helm as twenty super-fit people in wet suits yell at you in Spanish as you continually reach for the tiller that isn’t there. As for steering the Lagoon, I think you can do it from your mobile phone. Through the best of times and the worst of times, cats have been with us and they are here to stay. If you find yourself in the Barcelona area, try and score a ride on a Patin. And when my CyberCoin pays out big, I’ll be on the phone to Lagoon.
a salon or the living room? Photo: Nicholas Claris
below left: Lagoon Fifty-one master head. Photo: Nicholas Claris
below right: Our man in Spain – Danger Michele.