Rising up out of the sea of the mighty Azimut/Benetti group, the Atlantis brand of yachts started out a couple of years ago seeming like a small and attractive island. Lately, however, it has established itself as a significant player in the sport-cruiser market, with six models in the Atlantis range. When you take the considerable experience that already goes into its modernist designs and add in the stylistic and technological inheritance from the parent group, with its reputation for quality and beauty, the day may come when we think of the 50 as the link to a new and distinctive style of yacht-Atlantis found.
That emerging style can be clearly seen in the top of the line models, the new 50 among them. Atlantis has done a lot with glass technology, reflected in how both the windscreen and the opening sunroof are made from panels of double curved glass. These combine to create a beautifully shaped crystal curve, like a glass bubble rising above the hull, which endows the 50 with its unique character and style. This is serious glass, over half an inch thick, and while it must add an enormous amount of weight and cost to the design, the resulting style is certainly worth the effort.
The blown-glass motif continues in a more modest form in the panels behind the sunroof, though the smooth flow is slightly spoiled by the hard angular lines of the side panels. Straight lines are necessary here to allow for the large opening side windows-and a yacht does need air and light. More's the pity for how they contrast with the wonderful curves above. Yet the sporting look is enhanced by the low arch mast, which extends the line of the hardtop to the rear over the cockpit. While this may seem like a complex design, the overall effect is very exciting; you can sense the latent energy in the design, a panther waiting to pounce.
The standard Atlantis 50 has an open cockpit, but this hardtop version is one option that I would find hard to dismiss. Overall, the Atlantis range offers choices to help the owner find his bliss: sporting looks combined with a sumptuous and comfortable accommodation. This may be only a 50-footer, but down below there are three double cabins, plus a generous saloon, while still leaving room at deck level for a spacious cockpit. The hardtop remains open at the rear, so the deck saloon runs out into the open sunbed aft.
It comes as something of a surprise to find another double sunbed opposite the helm in the partially enclosed saloon. The helm is to starboard and has everything you need for control, including bow and stern thrusters, an adjustable wheel and well-placed throttles. The seat squab can be raised for standing at the helm, while in front there is an impressive display of instruments with the analog engine dials placed well forward on individual nacelles away from the primary navigation displays.
The trim-tab control switches were badly placed, however, and I found myself activating the wipers every time I tried to adjust the tabs. To compound this confusion, there is no indicator (although it is available as an option). Visibility from the helm could also be improved: The wide and angled windscreen pillars block out large sectors of the view ahead. The tinting on the glass also generates reflections from the dark brown and white panels.
I have no complaints about the rest of the cockpit, where there are all the features you need for a comfortable life on the water. Behind the helm there is a barbecue grill, an icemaker and a refrigerator, which serve a teak table surrounded by a settee. The stern area is one large sunbed; what's smart here is how the center section of the bed lifts to reveal a teak walkway leading to the passerelle.
Stowage for the tender is restricted to the rather narrow swim platform; ropes and fenders can be stowed in large lockers built into the transom. Stairs on either side lead onto the side decks and forward to a third sunbed on the foredeck, a case of visual flow translating into reality. Everything works out well at deck level too.
Still, the true star turn is down below. Step down through the door and you enter a world of peace and tranquility. The blond teak woodwork complements the cream coverings and chocolate fabrics of the furniture and paneling. Restful and timeless, the saloon is an understated refuge from the sleek modernity and bright sunlight on deck.
The three double cabins pose quite a design challenge. The forward master has an en suite bathroom, while the two after cabins share a bathroom that is en suite with the port double cabin (and which also serves as the day head). The bathrooms are generous with space; round showers and hemispherical glass washbasins are the design highlights. Two of the cabins have good headroom, the exception being the starboard twin, which has standing headroom only in the entrance. The berth is tucked under the cockpit.
The galley located next to the saloon has reasonable facilities, although the two-ring cooktop may prove a bit limiting for producing a meal for six. To make up-and perhaps encourage-bringing aboard prepared meals, the designers have gone to town with the fridge/freezer, tailor-made in stainless steel to fit.
Comfort in harbor is assured on this Atlantis, but you don't call a yacht a sport cruiser without reason, and that reason had better include performance at sea. The verdict, thanks to the two 715 hp Volvo Penta diesels, was 31.4 knots-good considering that we had a lot of people aboard. But I would consider the optional 800 hp Volvos, to top out at over 35 knots. That is more like the sports-cruiser performance that owners will demand.
The hull has a 16-degree deadrise and a fine entry, which combine to give a smooth and controllable ride. There was an erratic sea running during the trial, the result of previous strong winds, but the boat handled this well. There were no apparent vices in the handling and the controls worked well (apart from that little issue with the trim tabs and windshield wiper controls mentioned earlier). Having to constantly try to look around the too-wide pillars to make sure nothing is in the way was tiring, and the tinting and reflections on the windscreen did not help. When you think of how the optimum emotion for an express or sport cruiser ought to be a feeling of carefree joy, the driving experience of the yacht is less than it should be. We trust that we shall see improvements.
The engines are installed with V-drive gearboxes to create a compact installation; even so, space is in short supply in the engine compartment, though it is adequate for general maintenance access. The noise levels are reasonable for this class of boat, but with conventional propellers and shafts there is some vibration felt at mid-range engine speeds.
Overall I found much to love in the Atlantis 50. In this highly competitive sector of the market, it's one express that looks to be a leader of the pack.