Test: Salona 35

By: Kevin Green , Photography by: Kevin Green and Salona Yachts

salona 35 Aesthetics, racing performance and family-cruising versatility — all for a decent price salona 35
salona 35 Just enough rake and shear to make her easy on the eye; wedge-shaped waterline and flattened-out stern ensures she’s nimble upwind and down salona 35
Salona 35 Salona 35
salona 35 Full-size navigation station faces forward, with enough bulkhead space for several screens in addition to the Garmin 720 plotter here salona 35
salona 35 Full beam at transom for roomy cockpit; 32” wheels rotate through moulded slots in gunwales; easy access to swim platform salona 35
salona 35 Oversize H46 and H44 Harken winches for primaries and halyards comfortably give heavy-duty control when the wind picks up salona 35
Salona 35 Salona 35

The performance-cruiser category is one of the holy grails for yacht designers — get it right and the market is lucrative. Kevin Green predicts a bright future for one such yacht, the racy Salona 35.

Test: Salona 35
The right stuff

Getting it right is often measured by success on the club-race scene, but these boats should also be able to house the family comfortably for the summer holiday. Having just spent an afternoon on the Salona 35, I feel this is one particular boat that really does understand both sides of the performance-cruiser equation.

Following the launch of the 38, itself a worthy successor to the award-winning 37, the new Salona 35 comes from pedigreed stock. An evolution of the Salona 34 continuing to do well on the European club-race circuit, the 35 sports a more spacious cockpit, re-worked hull and, most importantly, a tantalising price tag.

To compete with the large production yacht producers of France and Germany, Salona Yachts was formed in 2002 to produce niche-market boats. These craft have a little more time spent on them, and the result is a model list incorporating quality components — Harken, Sparcraft, Spinlock — and optimised race options for its IBC (infused basalt carbon) premium models.

Positive impressions

First impressions and aesthetics are important for most of us sailors, and the Salona should definitely garner interest on this front. Unquestionably built to rate well on IRC (a sister ship in Europe has a TCC of 1.001), the tall-sided hull has minimum flares all-round with just enough rake and shear to make her easy on the eye, while the wedge-shaped waterline and flattened-out stern section is intended to ensure she goes upwind and downwind nimbly.

Carrying the beam aft to give enough buoyancy to hold the Salona's centralised rig (stepped near the keel) puts the centre of effort nicely where it's most effective. Also, using the full beam at the transom gives the cockpit plenty of room and this is cleverly enhanced by the use of modest diametre (32") twin wheels rotating through moulded slots in the gunwales, also ensuring easy boarding and access to the swim ladder when in cruise mode. The transom bulkhead is removable and has 8mm inlaid teak (as have the side benches), with a removable teak cockpit table.

Ahead of the moulded GRP binnacles, the mainsheet falls easily to hand but with enough room for a dedicated trimmer to work. The 6:1 mainsheet blocks give excellent purchase and the Harken track controls are there as well. Towards the front of the cockpit sits a set of oversized Harken winches, H46 for primaries and an H44 on the cabin top for halyards, comfortably giving heavy-duty control when the wind picks up. Twin banks of spinlock jammers neatly manage all Dyneema lines as they emerge from the deck guttering. Incidentally, these GRP coverings are strongly laid-up and didn't creak or flex underfoot as I doused the mainsail.

Weather protection should also be good for crew thanks to a moulded track for the removable sprayhood, which, along with deep coamings, makes this a nicely sheltered cockpit when offshore. Sensibly, avoiding the fashion for saloon-style doors, conventional washboards seal off the interior effectively and sturdy grab rails either side are handy for tether attachments.

Meanwhile, atop the main hatch are Nexus NX2 instruments, the first I've seen factory-fitted. Also fitted was the company's NX2 Autopilot system on an impressively strong HP-40 linear drive attached to the top of the rudder stock, which has an easily-accessible emergency steering system.

Saloon with a twist

The two-cabin layout and saloon set up is a fairly traditional, well-proven design, with galley and navigation station and bathroom aft and the lounge/dinette forward. The wood is blonde teak and nicely brightens the area, while the carbon fibre steps give a weight-saving, high-tech contrast to the smoothly finished mahogany fiddles and satin varnished joinery. Quality touches include solid mahogany door frames, strongly-built cupboards and drawers, plus plenty of other practicalities, including sturdy handrails and a durable slatted floor made of teak and holly.

In race mode the suede coverings on the soft furnishings would require protection, but everything else looked sturdy enough to cope with wet kites. The surprisingly spacious starboard bathroom has an open wet locker aft. The bathroom with manual head is nicely moulded, although the small portlights limit ventilation here and throughout the hull. Tacticians will appreciate the full-sized navigation station facing forward in front of the bathroom, with enough bulkhead space for several screens (in addition to the Garmin 720 plotter on our review yacht).

Lifting the companionway steps on gas struts reveals the 29hp Yanmar. The three-cylinder engine sits high on its saildrive foot, revealing most of the essential service points and shrouded with dense soundproofing — this can also be accessed with rear entry from the aft cabin. Attached to the engine is an 80A alternator to keep the 100A/hr house battery and starter battery charged.

Port side, the L-shape galley uses the confined space well, and includes a twin-burner LPG stove/oven under a thick composite work surface — though its lid was fiddly to open — and the 40-litre top-opening fridge should carry enough victuals for the designated eight race crew.

Accommodation comprises a forward double V-berth and an aft double. The bow cabin is fairly unadorned but nothing is lacking — side shelves, two sets of wardrobes and a seat. Natural light is adequate with a large top hatch and portlights, while LED spotlights take care of reading for the night owls. Under the twin foam mattress is the 200L water tank — so remember to empty it in race mode to take weight out of the bow.

Race ready

The GRP decks are clear, with tie rods going into the stainless steel grid — and my only gripe was a lack of strong non-slip surfaces. Long genoa car tracks abutting the cabin top are welcome and should allow the slot between sails to be closed, though I'm not sure about the set up for barber haulers.

Large cleats are all-round, and a vertical 700W Quick windless and stainless steel roller track for the rode should mean no dramas. The pulpit is laid out to allow a carbon fibre bowsprit to fly an asymmetric spinnaker, and the Harken below-deck headsail reefing roller is another quality touch.

The test boat came with a Sparcraft tapered mast located well aft in the hull, allowing for a large fore triangle to fly both non-overlapping headsails (favoured for IRC rating) and the 140 percent genoa for cruising. Sweptback rod rigging, an adjustable backstay and quality Rutgerson sliders complete an effective performance rig. Our boat came with high modulus material Dacron sails (a tighter weave to reduce stretch and a more durable version of Dacron), practical in cruise mode. In race mode the boat can be easily set up for both symmetrical or asymmetric spinnakers, but a yacht this size and hull shape usually benefits from poled-out spinnakers to sail deeper (rather than wider and faster).

Hull builds can either be standard, hand-laid GRP or infused epoxy/vinylester for the performance IBC model (220kg lighter). The J&J design house has penned performance cruisers for Beneteau, Elan, and Grand Soleil, so has plenty of runs on the board. But Salona owners, the AD car component company, engaged English design wizard Jason Ker to optimise the lead T-keel on its performance models, like the one we looked at. As the laws of gravity tell us, the lower the weight the more the leverage, so Ker's 2.15m T-keel is intended to allow the Salona to carry her 69sqm sail area for longer, and this was definitely noticeable when the southerly gusts came down on us.

Overall, underwater hull sections are fairly classic IRC/ORC fodder, with a flat aft section for downwind and acceleration, but with enough rocker for those start-line dial-ups. Also commendable is the structural set up — the inner hull liner is reinforced with carbon fibre and all main bulkheads are bonded to the hull with laminate and structural adhesives, while deck fittings are backed with alloy plates.

On the water

Motoring out, the twin-blade folding propeller pushed us to 7.5kts as the revs maxed out at 4000, with no vibration and little noise coming from the transmission or engine. Climbing on top of the cabin I unzipped the sail bag and jumped back down into the cockpit to hoist the mainsail without any dramas, thanks to the Rutgerson sliders smoothly taking the sail up the Harken mast track.

The composite wheels felt pleasant and gave direct feel from the large spade rudder through the cable linkage. Also to hand at the starboard binnacle was the headsail outhaul, allowing me to easily fly the large 140 percent genoa and then bring it in tight against the inboard rod shrouds as I hardened on the blustery southerly. The hull stood up well to the gusts, without any trimming required on the main or track, but as the angle of heel increased my feet sought some grip and none was found, so I'd add a couple of teak chocks near each helm.

Sitting outboard comfortably on the teak slats, I could just see the foresail tell tales as the boat naturally wanted to climb higher, with negligible pressure on the wheel, indicating a pleasingly balanced rig and reminding me the deep spade rudder was also doing its job. Looking towards the companionway I noted 6.6kts boat speed on the Nexus NX2s, the analogue gauge reading 30 degrees with the true wind at 13kts.

The Salona confirmed she had a slippery hull, reaching 7.8kts as the wind gusted between 14 and 16kts, exceeding her polars and bringing good omen to those aspiring club racers. With my confidence gaining I threw the Salona into a series of tight gybes, bringing little complaint and noting good acceleration (and minimum wash) as the 10m hull spun around. My only wish was it was a night when some twilight racing was on so we could join in.

It's easy to see why Salonas have won European and US awards and have accolades on the race tracks over there. It's because these boats are built from the keel up to be performance yachts rather than hotted-up cruisers, and the tantalising base price shouldn't alarm the bank manager unduly either.


  • Practical overall design with many options
  • Functional ergonomics throughout
  • Versatile and sufficiently powerful sailplan


  • Lack of foot support at helms
  • Cooker work-surface attachment


Salona 35





Length overall


Length at waterline





1.75m, 1.5m (shallow), 2.15m (racing)


5300kg (5080kg for infused)







Holding tank



Yanmar 3YM20C saildrive

Rated hp

21, 29 (optional)

Sail area

69.5m² (total), 37.5m² (genoa), 32m² (mainsail)

Price as tested


Priced from


For more information contact Ted Church at Picton Marine Brokers (03) 573 7008 or visit pictonmarine.co.nz, greenlinehybrid.com or salonayachts.com.

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