Sardinia is one of the jewels of the Mediterranean, an island where the sea and mountains combine to create spectacular scenery. When I traveled out there in the fall, most of the tourists had gone home and the locals were reclaiming the island as their own, the temperature had dropped to manageable levels, and it was the perfect time to go boating.
You are going to be biased about any boat you take out in these conditions. And the stunning Atlantis 55 I was testing seemed to be in perfect harmony with these conditions, as though the designers had Sardinia in mind when they set out to create this yacht.
The Gobbi designers have taken sports-cruiser design one step further into the future with this creation. By using double curvature glass and seamless installation, the pilothouse has the appearance of a sleek glass bubble with styling quite in advance of what you see on modern automobiles.
These windows take glass technology to new limits because they are stressed to withstand wave impact and to reject the heat of the sun. The glass sunroof is an integral part of the design, sliding back to give all the fresh air you want and to help exhaust any smoke from the cockpit barbecue. The pilothouse is open-backed.
At the stern there is a raised sunbed that covers the hinged lid of the garage below. Moving forward, there is a lounging area with seating that perhaps cannot decide whether it is a sunbed or a settee, but looks very inviting. Regardless, if you want informal dining out here, just press a switch and a teak table rises out of the deck ready for serving. For slightly more formal dining, there is another raised settee/table complex almost alongside the helm. Combine all this with the foredeck sunbed and you are spoiled for choices on the 55.
On a sports cruiser most guests want to see where they are going and the 55's designers did wrestle with this a bit. Apart from the helm, the seating is too low to give a view out of the windscreen. But at the compact helm you have excellent visibility. The seat is fully adjustable and you can sit or stand in comfort. The controls are well placed, though the trim tab switches are mixed up with all the others. I would also like to see a helm indicator.
The instruments are well-housed, along with the central Raymarine combined chart and radar. The bow thruster and autopilot controls are separated out and the ZF throttles are well placed for easy use.
The designers have gone for a modern style for the interior and it works well. In the pilothouse the practical gray seating is matched to a rich cream with royal blue highlights around the helm. Down below, limed oak paneling is used extensively, matched to a black-and-tan-checkered material on the settees, beds and trim. Top surfaces are mainly in black, which not only looks good but is also very practical.
When designing the interior layout of the 55, Gobbi has opted for just two cabins, unusual for a yacht of this size these days, with one forward and one aft of the saloon. Each cabin comes with its own bathroom, a layout that ensures complete privacy at night. The cabin styling follows that of the saloon with a discreet modern look; bathrooms are something special with teak decks, wood furniture and black tops matched to round showers and hemispherical glass wash basins.
The amidships master cabin restricts headroom over its angled bed and the curved shape of the cabin is dictated as much by the external space requirements as those inside. The saloon incorporates the galley where there are excellent food preparation facilities. The stars of the saloon are the stainless steel and glass tables that could grace a modern art museum and look more like sculptures than the practical, adjustable tables they really are.
The hull is a deep-V, with clean, smooth lines, and the underwater hull running right aft to terminate under the narrow swim platform. Conventional propulsion is used with the engines coupled to U-drive gearboxes and the propellers hung in the open, rather than recessed into tunnels. Teak is used in the cockpit and on the swim platform-the garage under the aft sunbed would work well with a small inflatable or RIB, making economical use of space.
For the main power, the 55 uses a pair of Caterpillar diesels, each one producing 715 hp. These give conservative performance by modern standards with a top speed of 33 knots, but the power pours in when the throttles are opened and the turbos cut in at around 1500 rpm. The boat comes up onto the plane in a very smooth way, the accent here being more on sophisticated performance rather than brute power. Even with the boat doing over six knots, with both engines in idle, it is easy to berth the 55 in a tight spot. She responds beautifully to throttle commands at low speed, with any additional help coming from the bow thruster.
We did not have any big seas to cope with on the sea trial off balmy Sardinia, but there was enough to suggest that this hull will cope comfortably with waves, with a little help from trim-tab adjustment when going into head seas. You also will need the trim tabs to level the boat in a beam wind-normal behavior for a V-hull. The steering feels less than positive but, once you get used to it, becomes easy and straightforward, with the twin rudders giving all the control you need.
There are only a couple of points that need sorting out on this very exciting boat. First, the wide pillars that support the curved windscreen do obstruct the outside view because you are so close to them. Then, the hinge arms that support the top-opening side windows seem awfully close to your head and could pose a threat in lively conditions. Finally, putting the main electrical connections right under the engineroom hatch is not a good idea; they were already showing signs of corrosion on the test boat. These aspects of the 55 are all curable and I am sure we will see changes on future models.
In sum, while the performance of this sports cruiser may be on the conservative side for those looking for rocket-ship excitement, you can cruise all day at 28 knots without the boat feeling stressed in any way. The real advance with this design is in the styling-the 55 is quite a head turner with its smooth glass shape. As we are seeing glass becoming a feature of advanced yacht styling these days, this new 55 certainly shows the world what life is like on the cutting edge.
Contact: Gobbi, (011) 3905 2385 4711; www.gobbiboats.com.