Salona 37: 2007 Cruiser/Racer of the Year

From the stainless-steel grid in its bilge to the top of its aluminum rig, the Salona 37 is a well-made, great-handling, dual-purpose racer.

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Walter Cooper

The gap between racer/cruiser and cruiser/racer is ever narrowing because better design, construction methods, and materials, require fewer sacrifices on either side of the equation. This is especially true with the Salona 37. Designed by European design house, J&J, and built by AD Boats in Croatia, the Salona 37 is a boat that, thanks to its price, performance, and comfort, should be on many boat buyers' shortlist, regardless of which discipline one favors.As the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and this is especially true with dual-purpose raceboats. Take nonskid, for example. Most boats have variations on the molded-in, waffle-style nonskid. The Salona, however, has molded nonskid, but the pattern is raised, hollow circles. The grip is excellent. "The Salona nonskid," says BOTY judge Meade Gougeon, "will probably get even better with age, and wear evenly."Another example on the 37 is access to the steering quadrant, which on many boats seems to be an afterthought. On the Salona, a large hatch aft of the steering wheel opens to reveal the steering system. You may not ever have to get to your quadrant in a hurry, but if you do, you won't have to empty a lazarette to do so.The heart of the Salona 37's construction is a stainless-steel grid that ties keel, mast, and hull together. Encapsulated in fiberglass, the grid is a departure for Salona, which until now had been using grids cored with marine plywood. As one of our BOTY judges remarked, the 37's grid is a work of art, and demonstrates a belt-and-suspenders style of boatbuilding. The hull is solid glass below the waterline, and cored with Airex above and in the deck. There are watertight bulkheads fore and aft, and the aft bulkhead is forward of the rudderstock.While sailing the 37, we found the cockpit to be eminently workable, with plenty of room for trimmers. The boat was equipped with a performance package, which means all Harken gear is upgraded a notch or two. We removed the seat aft of the helm-which took all of two seconds-giving the helmsman lots of room. The conditions we sailed in were challenging, very light and puffy, but we found the boat responsive to every gear change. When sailing upwind, it was easy to keep the boat in a groove, and we were managing 5.6 knots of boatspeed in 6.6 knots of breeze. The boat accelerated quickly when the puffs hit, and the steering required only a light touch. It should be a simple process to prepare the bow of the Salona for big regattas; the anchor sprit is removable by unbolting only three bolts. The half-moon shaped deck hatch is big enough for hatch-launching the spinnaker, and it appeared to be free of any sailcloth-catching protrusions, although we'd take the extra precaution of surrounding it with Teflon tape.One of the benefits of a Salona build is the flexibility of the factory. The 37 is available with three different interiors, and three keel types. No matter where you sail, or what type of sailing you do, it's easy to order the boat that will work best for you. The fit and finish of the boat we sailed (hull No. 8), is exemplary. We especially liked the rugged, plastic floorboards, which looked like traditional teak and holly. The nav station, which is large for a 37-footer, is to starboard, and there's no bulkhead between the nav desk and the straight settee, which makes for an open feel. Across from the nav station is an L-shaped galley. Straight settees sit below lockers, which can be ordered and built so they're removable, and the settee backs rise to become small pilot berths. Base price for the Salona 37 is $218,000, and the boat we sailed, which had a full set of UK Tape-Drive sails and a basic electronics suite, is $250,000. We all felt the 37 is a lot of boat for the money, and this, combined with its workmanship and great performance, made it a natural as our top cruiser/racer.