Les Sables, France to Cape Town, South Africa on a
Lagoon 400

Written by : Captain Ian Engelbrecht
Worldwide Yacht Deliveries

20 July 2011

After many many years of trying to twist the Lagoon agent's arm in South Africa to give us a small yacht delivery, eventually he succumbed and we were happy to accept an ex-factory Lagoon 400 bound for South Africa. Having dealt with French factories before we were not at all surprised that the launch and handover date to us were exactly as quoted - down to not only the date but also the time. Braving the weather we boarded the vessel and early the next morning were the first people in line at an electrical shop to buy a heater, having just come from the tropics on our previous delivery, which actually was also a Lagoon, but rather an ex-charter Lagoon 380.

We are generally to the point about what is good and what is bad, but we couldn't find fault as to the pro-activeness of the Lagoon staff. From our perspective we surveyed the vessel to ensure that we would have a fighting chance of arrival at our destination, which was a tricky route - across the Atlantic to Brazil - then across again the "wrong" way to South Africa - arriving in South Africa via a Southern South Atlantic winter, which I put out of my mind to help me sleep at night. The survey was of course also in place so that we could fully understand all the systems in place on the vessel. We ended up with a small snag list of maybe 3 items and a number of questions, all that were swiftly handled by Lagoon in about 2 hours.

On an amicable weather window we set out on our Bay of Biscay crossing quest, only to turn back with an instrument tracking fault. Again - sorted by Lagoon in about 2 hours. We decided to rest the night and leave the next morning as the weather was becoming more amicable and thus we did that.

We made superb time down the west European coast impressed with the vessel's performance, who's hands our lives were in, stopping only in Portugal just to bring our diesel levels up to scratch before our first crossing. As we headed down to Madeira we started getting low voltage faults on our instruments and had to manually steer for an amount of time on the trip. We decided that to cross the Atlantic under those circumstances would be a bit depressing, so we decided to abort to Madeira to see what we could find. After delving into the electrics, I found a computer electronic plug about to fall off the computer. I attached this and off we were again with great gusto. The weather at this stage was light and so we made marginal speed past the Canaries and headed for the deep. Way past the Canaries again the low alarm faults and manual steering thing began again. We considered going forward, but knowing what is available in Brazil, opted to turn back and sail into the weather headed for Canaries. This was a delivery time delaying move but was prudent and I'm glad we took that choice.

On approaching the Canaries we managed to get mobile signal and I contacted our agent with the update. His response was refreshing pretty much saying Lagoon will back us to the hilt. He suggested we sail into Las Palmas and contact the Raymarine agent there with no ado. I said "GREAT", we are just off there. So we sailed in to look for the Raymarine agent only to discover that the agent actually said "Las Palmas" and we were in "La Palma" - go figure!!! I was distressed to see that the "La Palma" was an overnight sail before we even began and I was now obviously behind on my delivery schedule. In a last minute act of defiance we did not sail to La Palma, but rather hunted down whichever Spanish speaking artisan we could find, bearing in mind we speak only English and Afrikaans and a broken Portuguese - no mean task I tell you. A mixture of laughter and tears.

Eventually all was solved with the culprit being under-torqued connections again at the instrument computer. Not trusting anything this second time around I discharged the batteries twice arming the auto-steering with maximum gain and response having it working so hard during that night that I felt sorry for it. Nonetheless no more faults, we sailed never to have any faults again, barring a bit of auto steering tweaking that I did enroute.

We approached Brazil into 35 knots of squally, unpleasant weather and had to use our close reach abilities to the limit to attain our target. We only managed to moor at midnight, prior to taking waves over the deck, so we were thankful that Lagoon is one of the vessels that actually doesn't leak. The owner of the marina, although midnight, was there to greet us which was great. We have been there a couple of times so he was out late waiting for us due us radioing him beforehand.

We left Brazil shortly after the general Brazil cuisine thing, which to stick to tradition includes large amounts of beer. This was now the tougher part, as due to our delays we were headed into the heart of the Southern hemisphere winter. This did not make us feel comfortable at all. We set about placing ourselves into a position where we could hopefully sail the south of the South Atlantic highs and north of the winter lows. I spent hours on the computer plotting where I believed the dreaded lows would move and studying the barometer. I surely believe that the barometer was quite uncomfortable, as it's slightest move either way I noticed.

We played this game going north and south, actually quite successfully three quarters of the way across. The inevitable happened twice for us, with one particular storm of note. Wind speed - 60 knots - we have been in worse. What made this situation special, if you can call an occasion like that special, was the fact that we had a roaring 40's low south west of a low impacting us. In other words we had two combined lows producing waves of around 800 NM fetch in storm conditions. The waves were dangerously breaking and so large we feared for our existence, bearing in mind I have been doing yacht deliveries for around 14 years and as you can imagine have hit all sorts of conditions. As would be expected the bulk of the storm hit us at night and this particular one lasted 36 hours. We took photos of a tanker passing us by about half a nautical away disappearing behind the mountains. I kid you not but the ship passed us after the waves had settled their breaking situation and so were less dangerous. The only comment from the ship was that they had throttled down to 6 knots and he mentioned with a sharp voice "YOU ARE ALMOST HALF WAY IN THE SOUTHERN ATLANTIC!!!". I did not mention to him that at one stage we were exactly half way in the Southern Atlantic.

After all this a high settled in and my mission was to approach to South Africa before any more lows came in with our name on it. We name storms but one wonders if they name us??? I was hoping for a non-south easter approach and so of course we approached on a south easter. Being knocked north by the storms we were into the weather with a south easter and so battled on our approach once again, but were thankful to eventually get in - a long scary one - but over.

Inevitably due to our conditions we suffered slight chafe on the Genoa. This was later decided to be on the chafe pad and only stitching so no issues there - thankfully. On leaving France we decided to leave our stack pack up to rather protect the main sail. This worked and so the main sail arrived in good condition - pity we had chafe on the stack pack- ha ha. You can't win them all. We have actually never had chafe on a stack pack up before so we'll need to rethink that one. We had a shower drain pump not working on arrival but Lagoon honoured that. All in all through all the vessel arrived in good condition and after our three day post delivery valet, the vessel in my opinion was shining, looking grand with no structural or damage issues.

In short, we as a delivery company are impressed by Lagoon as far as construction, backup and performance are concerned. Thank you Lagoon for the opportunity to assess your new breed of vessel and hope to see you soon.

Special thanks due to professionalism needs to go to Olivier D’Enquin, Lagoon Commissioning at Les Sable d”Olonne and Bruce Tedder of OCEAN 7, the South African Lagoon Dealers.

Captain Ian Engelbrecht
Worldwide Yacht Deliveries