Atomix 500 RIB

By: Norman Holtzhausen

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The latest edition of the popular Atomix 500 RIB boasts a new interior layout and a hotter engine – all adding up to a satisfying, family-oriented package

Atomix 500 RIB
Atomix 500 RIB

Following the launch of its first boat in 2006, Atomix has attracted attention as a producer of quality vessels at an affordable price. And the boats have a strong New Zealand heritage. Its factory, located in China’s Zhejiang province, was built with technical input from High Modulus to ensure quality production, while the boats themselves were designed by Bakewell-White Yacht Design.

The 5.05m RIB 500 was one of the first designs out of the Atomix factory, and it found immediate favour among sailing clubs and water sports enthusiasts. Several were also sold to individuals seeking an affordable, safe boat. RIBs are very forgiving for first-time boat owners with limited boat-handling experience.

Atomix has just launched the second generation of the RIB 500. It has taken on-board all the feedback received from previous buyers and incorporated a host of new features into the new model.

The basic hull structure and design remains unchanged. It’s a hand-laid, GRP foam sandwich, vee-hull with a five-compartment PVC tube fitted around the sides.

Changes include new folding grab-handles – they are now along the top of the pontoon rather than along the outside. On either side at the stern, a nylon cleat/grab handle unit has been fitted to facilitate berthing, while a moulded fairlead with roller is now installed over the bow tube.

But the major change is the completely redesigned interior layout. The original fore-and-aft ‘jockey’ style seating, reminiscent of a motorcycle configuration, has been replaced with a side-by-side double seat with moveable backrest. This is more comfortable, as it provides back support for two people. It also enables driving in a semi-standing position, with the moveable backrest serving as a butt support.

Despite the wider seat, there is still sufficient room to easily move around it. Under the hinged squab is a lift-out moulded plastic tray suitable for wet gear. Another storage area under the tray accommodates additional items. The shorter seat unit now provides more practical space on the cockpit floor behind it for storing bulky gear such as a chilly bin or dive gear.

The new wider console is also far more practical for fitting electronics, and the boat comes standard with speedo, rev counter, fuel gauge and trim indicator. The dash now has plenty of space for fitting a fishfinder or chartplotter as well as a VHF radio. A hatch below the dash area opens, giving access to the battery and electrics. This area can also be used for dry storage.

Forward of the console, a small squab and backrest provides further passenger seating. The console is finished with a stainless steel rail that extends past the edges of the windscreen and down either side. This offers a secure handhold for passengers seated on the pontoons or on the forward console seat.

The other significant change to this model is the switch to Honda powerplants. Atomix Distribution NZ is now an authorised Honda dealer and has standardised on Honda engines.

The BF50 is one of the lightest four-stroke outboards in its class, weighing a mere 93kg dry. These new electronic fuel-injected motors are also ultra-economical, and the new Boosted Low Speed Torque (BLST) technology gives this engine unrivaled torque under fast acceleration conditions. Perfect for the Atomix’s light hull.

The boat features a number of other subtle changes ‘under the covers’. The under-floor 80-litre fuel tank has been moved forward into the bow area, greatly improving the riding characteristics under light load. Because passengers tend to sit at the rear of the boat (especially with the previous seating arrangement), the bow had a tendency to lift under heavy acceleration. Moving weight forward through the new seating arrangement and fuel tank location has solved this problem.

I have first-hand experience of the previous model, and the most striking difference is the lightness of the steering. Atomix’s sales and distribution manager, Richard Cains, has says the new engine allows a realignment of the steering mechanism – a significant improvement over the heavy turning force required on earlier models.

The benefit of the low-speed torque of the new engine and the further forward weight distribution was immediately apparent when accelerating from a standing start. With two people in the boat and a full fuel tank, the boat climbs on the plane in seconds.

The hull remained pretty level throughout and at no point did the bow rise enough to impede visibility. The big tubes easily deflected the spray, and we remained dry even when jumping some large waves. It is of course an open boat, so passengers are at the mercy of the elements.

We threw the boat over a few wakes and got it airborne a couple of times. The hull’s 17.5o deadrise gives a soft landing, and the big pontoons offer a tremendous sense of confidence. Thanks to the enormous buoyancy of the pontoons, the boat is never going to heel over much in tight turns.

A common use of a boat this size is for launching divers, and the Atomix 500 succeeds to a degree. Although there are grab ropes on either side to assist in the retrieval, it is still quite a job to clamber back onboard with diving gear.

Cains says they are working on a custom boarding ladder that fits over the pontoon, and this will greatly ease that process.

The boat is supplied with a stainless arch over the outboard area, although it was not fitted to the test boat. This arch can be used for mounting a bait board, safety equipment – or towing. Although not really a ski boat, the engine certainly has sufficient grunt to pull up a skier, especially when lightly loaded.

The best thing about these RIBs is that they’re relatively hassle-free. Cleaning up after a day’s boating is a simple job with a hose. The cockpit floor is above the water level and is self-draining through the engine well area. This is aided by a small auxiliary drain in one corner.

The boat’s supplied on a single-axle, multi-roller trailer, and launching and retrieving is simple. The rollers are self-centering, so the boat can be powered onto the trailer (where marina regulations allow it). Because of the light weight, the entire package can be towed by a relatively modest family car.

This remains a superb boat for its price. The design improvements reflect Atomix’s commitment to customer feedback, and the new sales model gives purchasers peace of mind for after-sales service and support.

To arrange a demo or for more details, contact Richard Cains on 0508 ATOMIX.

(price as reviewed $29,995)

Construction:  Handlaid GRP Foam  sandwich with PVC tubes
LOA: 5.05m
Beam: 2.32m
Deadrise: 17.5º
Displacement: Approximately 500kg with engine
Engine: Honda BF50 four-stroke
Fuel: 80-litre under-floor tank
Trailer: Single-axle mutiroller

Atomix distribution
Atomix recently revised its distribution model in New Zealand. Originally selling direct from the factory, it found that most buyers wanted the reassurance of a dealer network.

Richard Cains has come aboard as sales and distribution manager for New Zealand, and the company has set up a new showroom in Auckland’s Glenfield.  Bryant Marine at Half Moon Bay Marina and Gulfland Marine on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula are the first dealers to be appointed.

Atomix has also changed its import process, bringing in factory-trained staff to finish the boats to the purchasers’ specifications. This has enabled a two-way flow of knowledge, with factory staff getting some idea of what consumers require while local agents get insight into the building process.

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