Photography by: ALLAN WHITING

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Designing a successor to the Salona 37, one of the most respected European yachts of the decade, can’t have been an easy task for J&J Design. Little wonder the Salona 38 retains most of the 37’s DNA, with the odd chromosome tweak here and there. Allan Whiting reports.

The Salona 38 sailing yacht. A great example of the fact that, if it ain't broke, don't fix it?

Working from the base that "if it ain't broke, why fix it", J&J Design has retained the Salona 37's hull shape and keel dimensions, but given it a tad more length and beam, with a nearly-plumb stern. The test Salona 38 sported a stubby bowsprit, but that's essentially for a cruising gennaker; racers will probably opt for conventional kite and pole.

The 38's rig preserves the 37's proportions, but with a slight increase in mast height and sail area. A triple-spreader rig with rod rigging was fitted to the test boat, but there are several options.

Although almost identical to the 37 in coach house and deck layout the 38 has some important differences: strip windows down each side of the coach house streamline appearance, and the more vertical stern provides additional cockpit length and width for an improved twin-wheel layout.

The Salona 38 stays true to the original design in preserving a relatively narrow coach house, with wide sidedecks. This thinner house slightly restricts headroom at the beam ends of the saloon, but the plusses are wider decks for easy crew movement and a narrow shroud base to allow tighter headsail sheeting angles and complete freedom in overlapping jib design.

A German mainsheet layout sees the sheets disappear beneath sidedecks and emerge just forward of the coaming winches, with the sheets at an angle that should eliminate winch-drum overrides.

The 38's larger cockpit area features a teak cover panel over the no-compromise, sole-mounted traveller and a teak-faced transom beam. When cruising, the traveller car can be cleated to port or starboard and the panel dropped over the track and lines, forming an unobstructed floor. Likewise, the transom beam offers sailing security, but can be removed for racing or water access at anchor.

All hinges and latches were oversized, suggesting great durability, but panel fit was variable.

Step down the Salona 38's seaman-like companionway and you enter a traditional-boat world. Other than for new horizontal-grain, light wood finish the inside is virtually unchanged from the 37's practical interior. It's all proved to work but lacks a 'wow!' factor.

A portside galley features a large, gimballed three-burner stove with oven and a foldaway cover panel that enhances bench space. There's a top-loader 80lt fridge/freezer and beneath the double-sink, a 50lt day fridge.

Opposite the galley is a large nav station, with full-sized chart table and electrical and electronic equipment centre.

The saloon seats six around a central drop-side table and the settee backrests raise to form crew bunks Pullman style, held in place by integrated webbing straps.

The forward cabin is fitted with a double vee-berth that lifts on gas struts to reveal copious sail storage space beneath. In concert with that arrangement is a large deck hatch above the bunk, while a second hatch to port sits above what is an optional forward head space.

Our test yacht had a two-cabin/single-head layout, but two-cabin/two-head and three-cabin/single-head versions are also available.

The main head is situated aft of the nav station. It's spacious and incorporates a shower and wet locker.

Suction cup-lift saloon sole panels hide one of the Salona's chief claims to fame: it's very strong construction. Pull-up the sole and some of this inbuilt ruggedness is revealed. A saloon-long and shroud base-wide stainless steel lattice is integrated with the hull inner moulding, tying the shrouds, keel and mast step together in a stress-sharing connection. The keel bolts are massive.

Not visible is the boat's handlaid GRP hull and deck construction, with sandwich laminate above
the waterlines, carbon-fibre panels at hull stress points and clear gelcoat below the waterline. Salona ibc versions are made with a vacuum-infused layup that employs air-evacuating membranes to ensure there are no residual gas pockets in the resin.

All Salonas are claimed to exceed Germanise-Lloyd specifications; in the case of some criteria to a level 200 per cent in excess of requirements. Integrated forward and aft collision bulkheads are watertight.

A 30hp Yanmar made light work of motoring the Salona 38 out of the tight US Yachts' moorings in Sydney's Darling Harbour. The boat manoeuvred responsively forward and aft without prop walk and the 'green' motor pushed it along at 7kts-plus, without much noise and almost no vibration.

Sydney Harbour put on a building nor'easter for our late-winter test, with breeze ranging from 5 to 12kts. This was the boat's maiden sail, so what turned out to be quite sparkling performance would doubtless improve with some tuning. For example, the mainsail topped out before achieving optimum tension, so, in the absence of a Cunningham, we sailed upwind with a tad more hollow than ideal.

Even without the benefit of sea trials the Salona 38 was an impressive performer. It was happy to sit at 28 to 30 degrees apparent and made 5kts-plus to windward, with a best of just over 6kts in a 12-knot lift. Eased off the wind into a tight reach it accelerated briskly to over 7kts.

German mainsheet layout, a full-width traveller and tight headsail sheeting angles make trimming a doddle, while broad sidedecks without leg-cramping toerails invite the crew to a rail-sitting party. In the interests of safety, however, the forward deck sections - 'adventureland' - have teak toerails to help the bow folk stay onboard.

Small twin wheels were sited so that the helmsperson could sit on the sidedeck seats and play the wheels without reaching for them. The wheel needed only a very light two-finger movement that was relayed instantly to the deep rudder. Steering for wind shifts didn't require handfuls of wheel movement and sail trim changes could be felt as slight helm-pressure variations, suggesting the steering arrangement has been done by someone who knows how to steer a boat. Sailors who like a tiller will love the Salona 38's wheel steering.

Although broad of beam aft the Salona 38 isn't as extreme as some recent boats, so there's not a no-man's-land of cockpit to cross between tacks. The helmsperson also scores lift-up sole wedges for foot braces, allowing comfortable inward seating. 

Salona's 38 is a fitting successor to the award-scoring, race-winning 37. With more sail area and optimised IRC and ORC ratings it should prove equally as popular in Europe and attract a new following in Australia.

The boat's balance from the helm is as good as it gets in a cruiser-racer and crew work is aided by wide decks and a low coach house profile.

This stylish, well-made, relative newcomer to the Australian yacht scene has a new home, in Sydney's Darling Harbour. US Yachts, importers of Hunter cruising yachts, is also Down Under dealer for Salona Yachts.

Salonas are built by AD Boats that was founded in 2002, in the Dalmatian Coast city of Split, Croatia. The company was an adjunct to its parent, AD Plastik, which until then specialised mainly in automotive component manufacturing.

The initial release was J&J Design's Salona 45, followed by the 40 and 37.  The Salona 37 was a standout design, scoring European and US Yacht of the Year Awards and numerous regatta victories since then.

In late 2007 AD Boats was acquired by the German Prevent Group, after which the Salona 34 was launched and in 2011, the Salona 38 - a replacement for the 37.

The Salona range now consists of the 34, 38, 41, 44 and most recently, the 60. In addition to the cruiser-racer lineup is an optimised ibc series, with the emphasis on IRC and ORC performance. The 'i' in ibc is for infusion (vacuum-infused construction); the 'b' is for basalt fibre, which is used in bulkhead construction; and 'c' for carbon that's used for rudders, masts, spreaders, booms and poles.

Salona construction is more labour-intensive than that of mass-produced yachts and the company's location in Croatia, where labour costs are lower than in Western Europe, gives it a significant price advantage. Salona claims custom-build quality at a mass-produced-yacht price.

tradeaboat SAYS…
The Salona 38 comes with an excellent performance pedigree and in standard trim should make an ideal cruiser and club racer. Optimised boats have great potential as IRC/ORC racers, while still being usable as cruising yachts.
Construction seems to be a cut above that of mass-produced yachts, yet pricing is kept reasonable by low country-of-origin labour costs.
It's good to see a performance-boat range in the US Yachts' lineup.



Hood sails, boom cover with lazy jacks, bottom paint, below-deck jib furler, cockpit shower, battery charger, hot water system, NX2 electronics, chartplotter, VHF radio, teak cockpit sole, rod rigging, Dyneema halyards, and backstay adjuster


MATERIAL: FRP monolithic and sandwich hull and sandwich deck
TYPE: Keelboat
LENGTH OVERALL: 11.5m (no bowsprit)
BEAM: 3.62m
DRAFT: 1.98m; 1.75m and 2.28m (optional)
WEIGHT: 6300kg
BALLAST: 2270kg

BERTHS: Two doubles; three doubles (optional)
FUEL: 100lt
WATER: 180lt

MAKE/MODEL: Yanmar diesel
TYPE: Saildrive
PROP: Two-blade folding

MAINSAIL: 45.50m² (fully battened)
HEADSAIL: 42.9m² (furling)

US Yachts,
Sydney by Sail, Festival Pontoon,
Darling Harbour, NSW
Phone: (02) 9281 4422
Fax: (02) 9280 1119

From Trade-a-Boat Issue 432, Oct-Nov 2012. Photos: Allan Whiting.

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