By Toby Haws
'More like a limousine than a sports car'...when it comes to the Atlantis 50, Toby Haws wants to be a passenger, not the pilot.
Rising from the respected Gobbi shipyard in Italy, the Atlantis brand was formed by the Azimut-Benetti group in 2001 to complete its overlapping range of motorboats from an entry-level 10 metres up to the custom designs of Benetti and Fincantieri. The fifth design in almost as many years, the Atlantis 50 was conceived by a collaboration between the Atlantis Design Division and architect Carlo Galeazzi, which drew on the successes of the popular Atlantis 55 and bundled them into a more concise package.
Having debuted in Cannes, the Atlantis 50 joined the larger Azimut 103S in being presented at the Dubai International Boat Show this year, emphasising Azimut- Benetti's confidence in the Middle East market. Joining its sisters in being heralded as a ‘world boat', the 50 instantly stands out as a marvel of modern engineering with its mass of sliding glass covering the main deck cockpit-cum-saloon area, which, like the flagship 55, slides back at the press of a button to open up the entire area. Continuing the automotive theme, the side windows on either side also depress at the touch of a button, scooping in wind when underway if fresh air is preferred over the air conditioning.
Lying at the dock, the high-rising sheerline that slopes off towards the bow marks the Atlantis 50 out from many of its rivals that lie on an even keel, a fact that merely accentuates its bulbous hips and intriguing joining of the guard rail just aft of amidships. The high chines at the bow stretch way astern along the hull, which though not overly aggressive, allow for a maximised beam without a corresponding problem in larger waves. The blue-pigmented topsides are broken by a host of non-symmetrical portlights and a half-eye window that indicates the intention of the interior to benefit from natural light. Rising up to the superstructure, the electrically-dropping side windows dictate the splitting of the side glass in a vertical motion, which sets the Atlantis apart from the current winking eye styling many designs benefit from.
Obviously designed for Mediterranean (stern-to) mooring, the deep bathing platform is protected at both quarters by the bulwarks protruding down from the shoulders to create a sheltered environment for either sunbathing or safely storing a small tender or PWC while underway. Large storage lockers cater for watersports equipment, fenders and safety gear, while normal access or the launch/retrieval of a PWC/tender is undertaken by a customised retracting gangway, which extends from between the two large sunpads on the aft deck. Stepping up to the teak-stripped gangway that separates the two convertible sunpads, the high roof of the superstructure emphasises the space allowed within the deck saloon. Glass panels surround the space to create a very open environment, encouraging the user to lower the dining table to port and fill in the space with sunpad bolsters to create a massive amount of sunbathing space stretching the full length of the port side, which even extends onto the coach-roof beyond the curved windshield. Sinking onto the aft bench, the all-weather fabric creates a firm but comfortable perch, with large air-conditioning vents streaming cool air onto passengers and cooling the entire area when the aft panel is in place. To starboard, a small griddle, sink, fridge and icemaker are hidden behind smooth-topped cabinetry to keep all surfaces and visual lines clear when not in use, with a wooden chopping board covering the basin that could double up for freshly caught fish preparation.
Under the teak sole, a service hatch drops down to the small engine room, where the twin 800hp Volvo Penta D12-800s were set high to allow for their V-drive configuration. Despite being well lit and with a walkway aft between the engines to the genset placed centrally to the rear, some systems looked quite difficult to access in an emergency, though all normal service filters and checks could easily be attended to. Though a small area, ventilation is well considered with massive fans ducting any heat generated away from the area immediately. Returning to the main deck, the off-white colouring of the upholstery contrasts with the slightly darkened glass and deep mocha colour of the starboard-placed helm console. Matching the automotive ideals behind the electric sliding roof and side panel windows, the helm sports a leather-covered stainless wheel with the standard Volvo throttles easily to the right hand. The helm seat is a manual-adjustable bolster arrangement, while the dash has a well-angled area for Raymarine chart-plotter and instruments, a strip of analogue dials placed well forward so as just to be in eyes reach, but looking somewhat of an afterthought despite their good position. Storage is provided under the foot support, and to impress at night, a flick of the underwater light switch will highlight the water at the stern to create a halo effect in the water.
Four polished island steps descend below to a cool, calm and controlled environment of offset naturals, the deep chocolate brown of the dash returning to an overhead strip in the fabric panels and stripped wenge flooring deepening the atmosphere and slowing the interior down. This is then contrasted by the blond matt teak wood used for the overhead storage, adjustable table and minimalist galley. Two aft cabins are split either side of the companionway -a double to port and the other two singles. Both benefit from the strip of portlights in the topsides to provide natural light, and the continuation of the styling palette with the blond teak curving through the doorways to create storage and bed pedestals. Thick pile carpet adorns the sole, while brown leather detailing circles around the walls and padded bed surrounds to prevent knocking into the low set beds. While the starboard twins benefit from a small wardrobe, the double to port has less obvious storage, but a greater benefit of two-metre headroom and a door that leads into the day head - effectively becoming an ensuite at night. Wall finishes in the cabins copy that of the main saloon, which is an intriguing padded mesh overlay that has the effect of creating a glistening look that contrasts with its texture. The day head is very much a wet room, with a circular shower cubicle inset with a teak shower grate, full length mirrors backed onto the doors, a glass-topped counter and above-counter basins adding to the contemporary feel. The day head further benefits from full headroom, getting rid of the claustrophobic nature some heads create.
In the saloon, the L-shaped banquette and adjoining adjustable table faces the in-built flat-screen television, with the galley offset to port outside of the forepeak master cabin. Seating up to six for dining or socialising, this table also lowers to create a further double berth. In the galley the blond teak wood gives way to a graphite-coloured glass counter, which is inlaid with an induction hob and deep single basin, storage cupboards and a microwave above; underneath a large fridge and separate freezer storage cater for longer passages. Sliding racks allow easy access to all lockers, with custom-made stowage for crockery, and it is here by the galley, where access can be found to water system stopcocks under the wenge flooring.
Moving forward to the forepeak master, through a coloured door with chunky handles - though with surprisingly no door retainer - the same colourways and materials continue, with the mocha ceiling strip leading forward to the bedhead, broken only by the coach-roof hatch and square-shaped, brushed aluminium downlights. Ample hanging storage, three draws under the bed and head-high storage is continued in the blond teak on both sides of the raised island bed, which are given the look of continuing down to the padded brown leather bolster by the adjustable metallic blinds that cover the portholes when privacy is required. Stylish LED reading lights are provided at the bed head, along with all the necessary audiovisual, lighting and air conditioning controls. The en suite follows a similar pattern to the day head with a more dark graphite counter theme, offering plenty of room for washing off the excesses of the day.
While luxuriously appointed for the guest, taking the helm resembled driving many modern sports cars that calm any racy inclinations. Sitting on the foredeck to experience the acceleration, the take up of the twin 800hp engines was exceptionally smooth - perfect for not disturbing those on the coachroof sunbathing. Back at the helm, the lack of vibration under heavy throttle was very noticeable, even when the turbos kicked in at just over 2,000 rpm, however the engine room could be slightly better insulated.
The Atlantis 50 offered a very tight turning circle, digging in well and seemed to make little work of the small afternoon chop off DIMC, with very little need for trim adjustment.
There is no disputing the stylish finish and design that has gone into the Atlantis 50, especially in the dynamic provision for creating large amounts of sunbathing area. The striking exterior design sets it apart from the mould, while the interior is one that encourages the owner to use it. However, powering around at 32 knots was slightly disrupted by the heavy frames of the superstructure that I found to be an obstruction to complete visibility on the helm. Although not uncomfortable to pilot, I envied those relaxing on the sunpads and benches around me as they had the better deal. Though well appointed, the Atlantis is far more like a limousine than a sports car - there is far more enjoyment in being a passenger than a pilot. A perfect boat for chartering or for the owner with an appointed skipper, the Atlantis 50 could easily become a weekend retreat offering unimpeded access to the sun.