Editorial courtesy of Sailing New Zealand, October 2000

Story by James Fleet

Ah, the joys of sailing a keelboat while still feeling the performance of a skiff. This is what most people will tell you when speaking of another one of Steve Thompson’s trailer yacht flyers, the T750.

Atomic is what I’d call a race boat, sleek lines, big powerful rig and an open layout. Of course you’ve got your usual trailer yacht perks of being able to go sailing at a variety of venues around the country, and the ability to maintain your boat without the expensive hassle of travel lift. Aside from the perks that most trailer yachts offer, Atomic has got a little bit over others in that it is a one-design type boat. The boat is ideally suited to being built by an amateur, as it does not require the in-depth knowledge of a highly trained boat builder to get an acceptable, finished boat. The amateur builder can choose to buy the drawings (complete with full size mylar patterns), build it from scratch, or alternatively, he or she can choose from a number of components moulded professionally by Thompson Marine, a licenced boatbuilder. In the case of Atomic, the owner had the boat built entirely by boatbuilders Concept Marine.

In my opinion boats similar to Atomic are the direction that sailing is moving toward. I hate to say it, but people out there who are itching to have a go at sailing, are not really going to be drawn to the sport when they hang their legs over the side of some old forty footer, doing five knots in fifteen knots of breeze. Sure, there are sailors around who like the benefits of having a boat that they can holiday on, but if someone asked me to point them in the direction of a boat that gives a novice sailor a good idea of what racing sailboats is all about, I would be taking them down to Westhaven to have a look at Atomic.

Not everyone is agile enough to sail a skiff and not everyone is rich enough to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into a performance keelboat, let alone maintain one. But if Sport boat designers can keep popping out little gems like Atomic, I am sure that the task of growing the sport of sailing, at all levels in New Zealand could become a little bit easier.

With an experienced helmsman on board each boat, I think that Atomic, along with a few other clones, would make for a thrill-seeking regatta or offer a great teamwork module for corporates. Old time skiff sailors who don’t believe in towing a lump of lead around, could slice through wake of their words on Atomic in a 20 knot southerly.

ABOVE: Atomic in full flight

The hull of Atomic is built in glass over foam fashion, providing a reasonably light and rigid hull. Her long sleek lines are pleasing to the eye and her flared sides add extra performance, along with a real racing boat look. As with most modern day trailer race yachts, the decks of Atomic are really clean, making crew manoeuvrability in the boat not much of an effort. Winches are kept to a minimum, although spinnaker size would suggest the need for a couple of grinding posts, with Monk and Taylor included here. The mainsheet traveller system is very standard and mounted around two-thirds of the way back in the cockpit. The auxiliary engine is tidily tucked away below a hatch, situated right in the middle of the cockpit floor, amongst a number of rail type footsteps that prove to be quite handy in the hustle and bustle of tacking or gybing the boat.

The rig personifies overpowered sailing. A tall, reasonably stiff triple spreader mast, from the Sparloft, is accompanied by an impressive wardrobe from Doyles Sails. My favourite happens to be the big red masthead chute featuring in the photos in this article (funny that!). Other than "big red", Atomic has three headsails, one mainsail (incorporating a couple of reefs) and one more masthead gennaker, for tighter reaching. The gennakers hang off a C-Tech carbon prod that doesn’t budge an inch and is retracted when not in use.
To look at the photos some might say that the boat would struggle in a solid breeze, but I am assured the both masthead gennakers have been flown in excess of 20 knots, without any major problems. I can also assure readers that I would definitely be hunting out the longest straw when Gennaker trimming jobs are chosen, as the load on the sheet can be, shall we say, significant. However, this does not pose to be too much of a problem as the gennaker sheets can be happily tailed to one of the two small winches, situated on either side of the hatch (but I would still sooner be rail meat).

ABOVE: Launching Atomic at Weshaven was a breeze.

With victories in the Sport Boat division at Hamilton Island race week, on two occasions, I am not surprised when told by the designer that Atomic is capable of taking line Honours in mixed fleets against much larger yachts. She, along with her design, also complies under New Zealand’s latest Sport Boat Association Rules . The day that we chose to go for a sail could not have been better. A 15 knot sou’wester was piping in under Auckland’s Harbour Bridge with the tide following it swiftly, flat water and a steady breeze – perfect! From the time the boat bore away under mainsail off the jetty, it was obvious that we were in for a bit of a ride. Hoisting working sails and hardening up on the wind, the boat made her own path as we trucked along slightly overpowered. Being over powered upwind was not too much of a problem and the boat seemed to relish having too much rag on. Bearing away to hoist the big gennaker, we ran into a couple of minor problems as far as wine glasses were concerned, but soon enough we were accelerating under the considerable amount of power provided by the big gennaker. The boat felt quite slippery downwind and was very responsive to the solid southerly squirts that we were receiving. Not unlike the boat Men At Work III (Thompson 850, featured in Sailing New Zealand earlier this year), Atomic definitely liked to be sailed as flat as possible. To ensure this, the helmsman had to be very alert as to when and from which direction the big gusts were going to arrive. All the Ronstan Systems on the boat worked effectively and I was rather surprised to see that some of the smaller running equipment could handle the high loads that it was subjected to downwind. The beauty of trailer yachts was again evident as we hauled the ship out of the water, courtesy of a 2-litre wagon, and used the simple winch and bracket set-up to pull the keel up. Along with the three that are presently being constructed in New Zealand, Thompson 750’s are also under construction in the USA, Europe and Australia. For more information on the 750, contact Steve at Thompson Marine.

ABOVE: Good trim as Atomic knifes upwind.