Atlantic RIBs – Made in China and assembled in the UK, a brand-new make of RIB shall soon be carving its wake through our waters. Sensibly priced and built for family use, the Atlantic RIB is set to make a most welcome addition to the home market. HMS reports on both the boat and the driving force behind it.

Who can deny that taking up boating can be an expensive affair? For example, 50K certainly doesn’t buy you what it once did 15 to 20 years ago. The cost of raw materials, supply chain issues throughout and since COVID, plus a desire on the part of many brands to aim their blows at the lucrative luxury markets – all such factors have not only had a bearing on the price of boats in recent years but on engines as well.

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m - Deck layout is clean and spacious. Current standing only helm seat and console design is to be upgraded for seats and a new console.

Deck layout is clean and spacious. Current standing only helm seat and console design is to be upgraded for seats and a new console.

By way of example, about 15 years ago, we ran a very handsome, brand-new 8.5m Tornado RIB, the inventory of which included commercial-spec polyurethane tubes, the very latest Mercury Verado 250hp OBM with fly-by-wire technology, high-quality passenger seating for four adults, plus a full lazarette, a double stainless arch mast, all the electronics required and sufficient underdeck fuel tankage for a range of about 150 miles. The price? £50K! She was a cracking boat, one of the best we’ve had, but if you were looking to buy a similar boat and specification today, you’d be needing to budget for at least twice that figure.

The marine industry speaks a lot about getting new people into the pastime. It’s a frequent topic of conversation whenever the trade rubs shoulders, and a subject of concern to industry federations and boat show organisers too, who will frequently voice their belief that more effort needs to be exercised to ensure that boating, and in particular motorboating, doesn’t simply become an elitist pastime.

Atlantic RIBs 7.6m Boat Review

The concept driver

One man who understands the need for greater accessibility is powerboating veteran and MD of Atlantic RIBs, John Caulcutt. John was involved in the design and development of the very first RIB at Atlantic College back in the late 1960s. He subsequently went on to race with great success in the very first Round Britain powerboat race in 1969 with a boat he named Psychedelic Surfer. Perhaps not surprisingly, Psychedelic Surfer was a RIB – in fact, the very first RIB ever to be raced and one of a handful of craft to actually complete the arduous 1700-mile course that year. In fact, he’s the only person to have finished every leg of all three Round Britain powerboat races, doing so in a RIB ever time! In light of such achievements, John championed this unique form of powerboat and can rightfully lay claim to playing an essential role in the story of the RIB and its first coming into existence.

Atlantic RIBs 7.6m Boat Review

As for his business track record, few British entrepreneurs have aspired to John’s dizzy heights, and indeed, his achievements represent an extraordinary catalogue of successes in the world of music, marketing and promotion, the commercial airlines business, manufacturing and industry – not to mention his considerable contribution to charity, particularly fund-raising for the Royal Marsden Hospital. In 2023, he was awarded a CBE for services to charity. Throughout all his endeavours, though, John’s passion for the water has never left him. Hence, over time, he has owned not only some very fine classic sailing yachts but also a collection of pretty stunning motor vessels. But just as in the 1960s, John Caulcutt’s involvement with RIBs continues to be at the heart of his time on the water, as he is the current owner of two RIBs – plus now his aptly named own RIB brand.

 Currently fitted with twins; future models are to be changed to a single installation.

Currently fitted with twins; future models are to be changed to a single installation.

‘The motivation for the launch of Atlantic RIBs,’ he told PBR, ‘was a desire to make boating accessible to many more people. With my long-established contacts and manufacturing operation in China, I have the resources and importantly my own representation on the ground, so quality control is absolute. It’s the only way to work. My aim from the start has been to get people onto the water in a decent-sized family RIB in the most affordable way possible. It’s that simple. But delivering a worthwhile product at pretty much half the price of anyone else is not so simple or straightforward, of course. Absolutely every aspect of the craft and its manufacture has to be evaluated, quantified and dialled in with the utmost scrutiny. And when manufacturing in a foreign territory such as China, shipping costs are critical, of course, as they have a big bearing on one’s margins. It’s a complex affair, but if you understand the processes and have the right people in place, it is possible. As you can appreciate, though, it involves a great deal more than simply becoming an importer for a boat you’ve seen and liked at an overseas boat show, then bringing it into the UK with a margin added! In contrast, the business model of my partners and myself is entirely based on building a boat exclusively for the UK market, but in the best location possible to ensure not only quality but also that it comes in at a price that is competitive.’

Features & fit-out

The 7.6 Atlantic RIB made available to us was the very first of this new breed of RIB to enter the UK, and as a result, though this particular boat is now sold, it served as the prototype and a useful ‘test bed’ for all Atlantic product to come. I admit, though, that if it hadn’t been for the concept that I found so intriguing, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to publish a report on this craft quite so early on in the life of the brand – at least not until the boat on offer was a true representation of the production model to be sold. Nevertheless, allow me to talk you through my findings and the changes too that Atlantic will be making to all their subsequent craft. 

The finishing and attention to detail on this RIB make you feel you are actually onboard something rather more grand.

The finishing and attention to detail on this RIB make you feel you are actually onboard something rather more grand.

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m finish

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m - Attention to detail

Bow seating and storage.

Bow seating and storage.

The boat is a professionally built, well-finished leisure RIB, based on a hull of sports boat-type design. To be clear, it is not an offshore performance craft suited to long-distance voyaging. Rather, it’s designed and built for families to enjoy picnicking aboard, doing a spot of fishing from, visiting a favourite beach or perhaps undertaking some gentle coastal exploration. The Atlantic’s fit-out is neither meant for foul-weather use nor offshore conditions. Sure, it’s a RIB that will look after you and will happily take you across the Solent on a fine day, but it’s built for fun not for endurance!

The current boat features Iroko teak decking. New models will feature Flexiteek.

The current boat features Iroko teak decking. New models will feature Flexiteek.

Plentiful seating for families and friends with under seat storage.

Plentiful seating for families and friends with under seat storage.

The boat’s fit-out includes a semi-wrap-around lazarette in the stern – ideal for family members and kids when underway or for use when relaxing at anchor. This unit also offers one of at least three places on board where personal items can be stowed, though it has to be said that these are not necessarily watertight, so it would be wise to stick any clothes, etc. in dry bags before placing them within the boat’s lockers. The current helm seat is to be changed on the production version to a pair of bucket-type seats set directly behind the helm console, which in itself will be of slightly larger proportions than the one shown here in the pre-production photo shoot. In other words, the internal fit-out will be more aligned to the UK market as opposed to the current Med-styled form of set-up. Up on the foredeck, the 7.6m features a typical deck layout with a central table for your picnicking but also a wrap-around seating unit that follows the contours of the forepeak. Additional locker stowage is accessed within this unit. Being 7.54m overall and having a beam of 2.7m, the Atlantic provides a good amount of space on deck with no unwelcome pinch points. All her fixtures and fittings appear to be of a very good standard and there was no area of the RIB or any particular element where I felt quality was lacking. I found her well put together for an entry-level craft, with no apparent compromises having been made despite her reasonable price tag. 

Bolster protection to back rest.

Bolster protection to back rest.

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m - Chunky switches on dash.

 All her fixtures and fittings appear to be of a very good standard and there was no area of the RIB or any particular element where I felt quality was lacking.

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m

Atlantic RIBS 7.6m grab rail

Behind the wheel

As for the boat’s handling and performance, this is a tricky one – for two reasons. Firstly, a southerly was blowing straight up the Solent off Yarmouth, and the tide was not in our favour either. But we did find some smoother water close to shore, whereupon the hull was given a fairer opportunity to show its merits without being expected to leap from crest to crest through the rough. In the calmer water, her moderate-vee hull showed itself to be stable on flat water at speed with no signs of irregular behaviour. She handled well when put into some more testing turns, but due to her big-diameter, blue-water-styled tubes, she doesn’t heel to the extent that a deep-vee hull would, so a more sensitive hand on the throttles is required.

Simple screen offering limited protection

Simple screen offering limited protection

The other matter that made a proper test of the 7.6m challenging was the fact that it was very overpowered. The twin 115hp rig meant the boat not only suffered from being much too fast and flighty, but the weight of the rig also served to imbalance her. For a family boat, this degree of power was inappropriate, and even for the purpose of our test, I didn’t even try to push the boat to its max. It would have been an irrelevant exercise anyway, because due to my subsequent recommendations, all the production craft going forward will be rigged with a single Suzuki 175hp Lean Burn outboard – in other words, an engine model much more suited to the Atlantic’s intended market and customer base.

Transom fixtures and fittings.

Transom fixtures and fittings.

Front of house

We will clearly need to return to undertake another test of the finished production version of this 7.6m later in the year, whereupon we’ll be able to give more than our initial impressions and projections as to the Atlantic’s fit-out and handling. But one thing is for sure – this RIB is going to find a very welcome place for itself in the market and will undoubtedly provide a good few people with a very nice first boat and a great introduction to the pastime.

Carl Whitewood - Atlantic RIBs - Metre Yard

Carl Whitewood

In addition to John Caulcutt, other members of the Atlantic team include Chris Smith, who owns Auto100, one of the largest independent car dealerships in the UK. It is through this network that the Atlantic is set to be distributed nationwide. Also, Carl Whitewood, who has been offering brokerage services for over 12 years and owns the classic yacht brokerage, The Metre Yard. Atlantic RIBs will have its own service yard based in Winchester.

In conclusion, the Atlantic’s design may not represent anything particularly new or original – I’ve seen and tested many very similar craft over the years – but what it does represent another welcome addition to a sector of the market dedicated to family boating and value for money. Based upon this, we shall follow Atlantic RIBs’ fortunes with keen interest and keep you posted as to the new brand’s progress.

What we thought

For

  • Great value for money
  • Suitable for families
  • Good starter package

Against

  • Current helm console & helm seat
  • Current engine HP

Specifications

  • LOA: 7.6m
  • BOA: 2.7m
  • Max. power: 250hp
  • Engine shaft: EL
  • Max. people: 13
  • Fuel capacity: 240L 
  • Design category: C

Price (Ex. VAT)

  • £29,500 Ex, OBM. 
  • £52,800 (Inc. VAT) Inc.
  • 1 x Suzuki DF175APX

Contact

www.atlantic-ribs.com

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