by George Day
Blue Water Sailing
The Lagoon 500 Ups the Ante
The new 50-foot cruising catamaran from Lagoon provides owners with a fine sailing catamaran that is brimming with innovations and luxurious living spaces
The new Lagoon 500 had its American debut at this fall’s Annapolis Sailboat Show and despite the rain, the boat was well received and visited by hundreds of sailors eager to see what the new generation of big Lagoons has to offer. The 500 follows on the successful launch of the Lagoon 440 last year and incorporates many of the design innovations that made that boat so unique and successful.
Lagoon, which is a division of Group Beneteau and based in Bordeaux, France, is no stranger to building large catamarans. The company was launched in 1984 as a division of Jeanneau, also a division of Group Beneteau, to build high tech offshore racing multihulls. Boats built by Lagoon have raced and won most of Europe’s Grand Prix multihull events and have crossed oceans and sailed around the world.
In the early 90s Lagoon entered the cruising boat market and was subsequently linked with custom builder CNB (also a division of Group Beneteau) and its facilities were moved to the southwest of France where it has steadily expanded over the years.
Now focused solely on building cruising catama-rans, Lagoon has gained the reputation of being one of the world’s leaders in catamaran design and construction. The company has a worldwide network of dealers and has supplied boats to hundreds of private owners as well as the major charter fleets around the planet.
Lagoon builds cruising cats from 38 to 67 feet so the new 500 fits into the top end of the line. Three versions of the boat are offered: an owner’s layout with three sleeping cabins, an owner’s layout with four cabins and a charter version. For our purposes here, we will discuss the owner’s versions.
The new 500 was designed to provide its owners with a luxury yacht with ample room for extended cruising with multiple guests, for living aboard and for elegant entertaining. The 500 is intended to be both comfortable and easy to sail and to be fully equipped with all of the amenities many modern cruisers require.
On deck, the sailing systems have been created so that sail handling can be managed by two people in most conditions, while down below engineering spaces have been designed to accommodate all of the systems needed for climate control, electrical demands and water consumption. For example, the engine rooms in the after ends of both hulls have been designed to accommodate a watermaker, genset and air conditioning units.
The 500 is a boat for living outside and enjoying tropical cruising. The flying bridge concept that was introduced in the 440 has been refined to make the elevated steering station more accessible and comfortable. Instead of being somewhat cutoff from the after cockpit and the main saloon, the 500 design has made the bridge more streamlined and has integrated multiple access routes up and down.
The view from the flying bridge is unusual for a sailboat and gives excellent perspective for sail trim, mooring in close quarters or piloting through tropical shallows. With all controls at hand and a large seating and reclining area, this is where the crew will congregate while underway.
For wet conditions or when you have had enough sun for the day, the skipper can move to the nav table in the saloon, which faces forward. From there it is possible to steer, navigate and control the engines. Sailing the 500 from the nav table will, however, require regular trips on deck to check sail trim.
Part of the outside living scheme is the forward cockpit, which has long bench seats and wide sunbathing areas. In calm weather this too will be a good place for guests and crew to gather. The nacelle, which carries the anchoring system, runs forward from the cockpit so you will be able to deploy and retrieve the ground tackle while still enclosed by the cockpit sides.
With the steering station located above on the flying bridge, the afterdeck is wide open
The after cockpit has a large seating area that is well protected by the overhanging rigid Bimini, which is an integral part of the flying bridge. Access to the water or the dinghy is via the large steps running down the sterns of both transoms. For open-air meals or for partying with cruising friends, the afterdeck will get a lot of use. Plus there is plenty of storage for water toys, scuba equipment and even a spare inflatable dinghy.
The side decks have been made wide and easy to move around and are well integrated with the afterdeck and the bridge. Moving from space to space you never find yourself climbing over a large coaming. The deck hatches have been recessed to be flush with the deck so that you don’t stub a toe as you move fore and aft. Also the flush hatches give the 500 a sleeker look.
The 500 was conceived to really go places with a full crew so the builders have included tanks for 254 gallons of water and the same amount of diesel fuel. With two 55-horsepower engines (75-horsepower engines are optional) the 500 should burn about 1.5 gallons an hour at cruising speed so it will have a range of about 1,000 miles under power alone.
But the 500 is first and foremost a sailing machine. The hulls have been designed for good performance and comfortable seakeeping qualities. Overall the boat has been kept quite light by modern cruising cat standards so it should be easily driven under sail. The bridgedeck under the saloon offers enough clearance to avoid excessive wave slapping when sailing to windward. And windward performance has been enhanced with fairly deep keels and high aspect spade rudders.
The 500 is not a racing machine but it should offer her owners high average cruising speeds and will be able to achieve excellent daily runs when passagemak-ing. Moreover, because of the boat’s moderate displacement and the oval cross-sections of her hulls, it should have a gentle motion in choppy seas instead of the rapid pitching of lighter hulls.
The 500’s saloon is enormous and will easily hold 20 people for a party. Eight can sit comfortably around the dining table, 10 in a pinch, so entertaining friends and family can be an all-inclusive affair.
The galley, which is to port and down a step, has all the amenities of a modern apartment’s kitchen and plenty of counter space for creating meals.
The nav station, as noted above, is on the 500’s centerline and commands an excellent view ahead. The table is large enough for standard paper charts and has enough locker space for all electronics and the navigator’s tools.
In the owner’s version, the starboard hull is the master suite with a large centerline double berth aft, a study and dressing room amidships and the large head forward. For those planning to live aboard, this suite offers enough space for all personal gear and plenty of privacy when guests are aboard.
The large portlights in the hulls feature screening for privacy
The port hull houses two large double cabins, each with its own head and separate shower. Guests will have plenty of privacy and will be insulated from others onboard, or from a raucous party on the afterdeck. More important, they will be as comfortable aboard the 500 as they would be at a luxury resort. (The trouble may be getting them to go home.)
Simple and elegant, the interior styling of the 500 offers the warmth of varnished hardwoods offset by off-white fiberglass trim. In the saloon, 360-degree visibility means that you always know what is going on in the anchorage or while under sail. The saloon is bright and with opening hatches fore and aft will be cool even at midday in the tropics.
Because such comfort afloat often comes with a high electrical bill, the 500 has been provided with a large battery bank that can be recharged with either shore power or a genset. The addition of a watermaker will mean that you and your guests can shower whenever you like.
It is easy to imagine living aboard the 500 since it is so spacious and so well thought out.
Catamarans had a surge in popularity in the late
90s and the Lagoon models led the way. With the backing of Group Beneteau and a history of high tech racing boat engineering and construction, the company knows how to build multihulls that are both extremely strong and fast through the water.
The 500 will be a lot of fun to sail. And while
driving the boat from the flying bridge, you will have a view that is rare among the cruising fleet. You should be able to make excellent passage times and will do so in a boat that promises to be as stable as a train on rails. The racing and ultralight cats may sail by the 500 but on average, the big new cat will carry her own over the course of a long passage.
Years ago a noted designer—L. Francis Herreshoff—referred to the accommodations aboard cruising boats as “a little cabin in the woods.” He meant that cruising boats of his day were simple, rustic and lacking in the amenities of home.
That day is just about gone, and the new Lagoon
500 is a fine example of what new cruisers want in boats for cruising, living aboard and exploring the planet. They want boats that sail easily, motor well, are safe and robustly built, and as comfortable as possible.
The new Lagoon 500 fills these requirements well. Not only will it not heel and can make good speeds, it offers all the style, luxury and comfort a sailing family could want.
BWS looks forward to sailing the new 500 offshore and will report the results in a future issue.
LOA 51’0” (15.54 m.)
LWL 49’0” (14.93 m.)
Beam 28’0” (8.52 m.)
Draft 4’7” (1.40 m.)
Displacement 32,300 lbs. (14,650 kg.)
Sail area 1,717 sq. ft. (159.6 sq. m.)
Water 254 gal. (960 l.)
Fuel 254 gal. (960 l.)
Air draft 82’0” (25.82 m.)
Engines Volvo 55-hp. diesel (x2)
105 Western Ave.
Annapolis, MD 21404
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