Sunday, 11 April 2010

Big Game Hunting.

As the first rays of sunshine landed on Oxfordshire this week we stirred from the winter hibernation and reminded ourselves that warm weather equals sailing. Well, that’s the theory.

The rise in air temperature was sufficient for us to head south with friends Margie and Steve (Lagoon owners) to resume our search for a big cat. Not the big game hunting you’d expect to find in Africa, although mind you they do produce some fine beasts down there, but no these cats were French, didn’t bite, positively purred with comfort but were no slouches with a breeze up their tail.

We were VIP guests of Fontaine-Pajot keen to show off their new Lipari 41 which we’d seen at Southampton along with half a million others, or so it seemed. After half an hour or so of wandering around (it really is that big), and having run out of cupboards to open, the engines were started and we headed out into the Solent. Not much wind but enough to hoist the sails and check out the light airs performance. She actually did rather well. Six knots through the water for 12 knots true. She tacked well enough and didn’t need the jib to be backed. Under power she was very manoeuvrable, as you’d expect with a couple of 30HP Volvos and variable pitch props. Jo was taken with the galley but lamented the lack of work surfaces. The heads in the guest hull were fine and Jo was very impressed by the washing machine in the starboard forward locker but we thought the shower in the owner’s cabin a bit cheap and bordered on the skinflint! Karen, the helpful F-P agent in the UK, said the shower could be upgraded. The right answer.

We liked the way all lines lead back to the helm position but were not impressed by the lack of vision of the port stern from the helm. When docking that could be embarrassing. The instruments were viewed through the spokes of the wheel and programming the chartplotter was awkward. The autopilot (Furuno) worked a dream and was totally silent unlike the Raymarine kit we had on Starquest. It held the course and impressed. The helm nav kit layout needs some more thought. However, by contrast the internal nav station was one of the best we’ve seen. Not only is it very practical but looks as if it’s actually designed to be used, unlike a lot of chart tables in cats which are token additions, presumably because for the charter market they are not used. The owner’s suite was spacious and the ‘office’ (well desk space, cupboard and shelves) was usable. The guest cabins were sensible doubles with a generous heads.

A large deck locker gobbled up the fenders, anchor chain and warps. It also housed the electric windlass with dual control; from the helm and also from the foredeck.

Engine access seemed good but there was not enough room in the engine bays to accommodate a generator. That would have to be sited in a deck locker in the cockpit.

Sail operation was effortless thanks to some beefy winches and the dinghy was easy to raise and lower thanks to some sturdy davits. Standard practice is to leave the outboard on the dinghy – which is just as well because there’s no way we’d be able to lift the 9.9HP brute perched on the stern.

Conclusions? Well, the test sail did impress. But, one very annoying habit the French have is to quote a basic price and then ‘extras’. Except the extras and not extras at all but essentials! This means the ‘basic’ price is about as meaningless as a politician’s promise. Who do they think they are kidding? One can’t help but feel being taken for a ride.

That apart, we liked the boat much more than we thought we would and she handled well in light airs. A passing ferry did make us bob about a bit and that made us wonder how she’d handle in a bigger sea. We’d need to go out in something more than a Force 2-3 to find out. With a few reservations, and the sour taste of their crazy pricing policy, we loved it. But how will she compare to the new Lagoon 400? Stay tuned.

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The Crew

The Crew
On board at Lymington