The Croatia-built Salona range now has a new importer in the United States, who showed three boats at the Miami Strictly Sail show last month: a powerful-looking 44-foot sports cruiser, and a 38-footer and 33-footer along the same lines.
I’ve had soft spot for this young company—it’s only 12 years old—since a brief sail on their 45 (forerunner of the 44) a few years ago. The European market is packed with high-quality performance cruisers, and it takes perseverance to break into that niche.
Salona’s emphasis is on speed combined with precise handling, much like J/Boats but with more concessions to cruising comfort than most of the current J line. A comparison with bigger C&Cs or Denmark’s X-Yachts would not go astray. The boats are designed by veterans J&J Design, who also hail from Croatia and have many successful production designs to their name.
Each of these Salona models bristles with functional and clever little design features, such as transom seats that lift off to become passarelles for boarding, and a recessed mainsheet traveller that can be covered over while in port. The boats are strongly built, with vacuum-infused layups of triaxial cloth and vinylester resins and a stainless steel frame laminated into an inner strengthening grid to distribute keel and rig stresses. They are beefy boats, relying on generous sail area and sleek underwater lines for their speed.
The 44 slots right into the sweet spot for cruisers of this ilk. She can carry a big racing crew, but at the same time a couple can easily handle her, as most sail controls are convenient to the helms. Cruisers will love the U-shaped galley and big nav station in the standard three-cabin, two-heads layout, with a spacious owner’s suite forward. Displacing a hair over 20,000lb and displaying a hull form that’s neither too beamy nor too shallow, the 44 is moderate in all respects, which indicates a seakindly disposition and predictable handling.
The Salona 38 on show at Miami had more of an edge to it. It’s also a J&J design but its keel has been optimized by hotshot IRC maven Jason Ker. In the old idiom it would be called a racer-cruiser, but these days the lines between racer and cruiser have blurred to the extent that boats like this perform both functions successfully. Take a peek belowdecks and you know this is no stripped-out racer, though; there is an abundance of attractive teak trim, a generous amount of stowage space and comfortable accommodations for a family of six.
The newest model at Miami was the Salona 33, introduced last year. Complete with retracting sprit and a deck layout that would suit a savvy singlehander as well as a full racing crew, this is more of an obvious race toy than either of its sisters. Down below, a simple but functional layout, sparsely trimmed in teak, will serve perfectly well for weekend or longer cruises with a couple or a young family. It looks like a lot of fun. Hopefully it will do well; there is no obvious direct competitor in this size range, save the slightly shorter J/97.
There have been other attempts to bring Salonas into the U.S., but with a determined importer and a strong, distinctive model range, this Croatian company ought to meet with success.