Let's get this out, right up front. The French builder Dufour has given us a strange-looking boat. Its aesthetic appears to have been derived by crossing French catamaran styling with megayacht features. This is not so surprising when you consider the designer is Philippe Briand. But before you pass judgment, I would ask you to consider that you need to evaluate a boat's appearance from two aspects. First, how does it look from the outside. Then, how does it look from the inside. If we were to step aboard the Atoll 50 and look out those vertical windows, the entire picture might change.

The Dufour Atoll 50.

The Dufour Atoll 50.

It doesn't matter where we start, everything about this boat is different, with the exception of the rig. The deck has a deep well-deck forward. This depression, or well-in-the-deck, is about 16 inches deep and about 6 feet long. Aft, the cockpit has been turned into a combination cockpit and saloon area, with shelter provided by the house overhang. There is no saloon below, so this area is it. This saloon-cockpit area is on the same level as the galley in the pilothouse. You could comfortably seat a crowd in this cockpit. This is very much like a catamaran layout and obviously designed for a dryer and warmer area than Seattle. There is a folding canopy that allows the saloon area to be enclosed. Twin wheels leave the middle of the cockpit open for access to the swim step.

The interior follows through on this cat-type design approach. Look carefully and you'll see the advantages and disadvantages of a catamaran layout. The boat is laid out in two mirror images. From the galley area in the pilothouse you step down steep ladders port and starboard into the hull where there are quarter cabins aft with double berths. Leaving the galley and going down forward, you enter an area that opens to four staterooms, each with a double berth. A special ventilation system has been designed to bring fresh air to these "buried" staterooms. There are four heads on this boat. Combining the cockpit, saloon and galley on the same level will make this interior feel big. As an exercise in spatial manipulation, this is an ingenious layout.

The hull shape shows a deep midsection that kicks up sharply at the stem. As you might expect, the beam has been pushed to the max, and the L/B is 3.03. That's just too beamy for me. The beam is carried to the transom. There is little doubt in my mind that this is a case where the hull was wrapped around an interior layout.

When evaluating any boat it's important to find valid benchmarks for comparison. That's a tough order with
this boat.

That's fine in itself, but you can't expect a boat with these proportions to be a swift sailor. I doubt speed was in the design brief.

The D/L is 170. 1 look at this ultrawide hull and the forward placement of the keel, and I get concerned about this boat's ability to balance well. Draft is 5 feet, I 1 inches. The rudder is a spade, with plenty of balance area.

The rig is a tall fractional-type with swept spreaders. The SA/D is 20.6. This is enough to provide reasonable off-the-wind speed to this unusual boat.

When evaluating any boat it is important to find valid benchmarks for comparison. That's a tough order in this case. I can think of no other boat that offers this combination of features in a similar configuration. In a recent National Public Radio show featuring European pop music, the comment was made that Americans are too conservative. I immediately took this as a slam. But now I'm not so sure. I appreciate the opportunity to review such a radical departure.

Our Best Estimate of sailaway price : $358,000

This unorthodox design blends features from catamarans and monohulls.
Ballast9945 lbs.
Sail Area1268 sq. ft.;
Sail Area to Displacement ratio20.6
Auxiliary85 hp
Fuel180 gallons
Water390 gallons


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.