It’s a warm afternoon in late June and I’m cruising aboard a gorgeous J Craft Torpedo in the St Tropez Gulf, in the heart of the French Riviera. The epitome of elegant and sleek lines, her varnished wood decks shine beautifully under the late afternoon sun. Passing by dozens of docked megayachts, we glide into the small and exclusive port of St. Tropez. Our German captain expertly approaches the pier closest to town so we can step off in style. A few tourists take pictures of us and of our classy boat that represents the savoir-faire of a timeless era and exudes an irresistible allure.
St. Tropez may be J Craft’s social playground in the Med, but these motoryachts come from way up north in the Baltic Sea where their soul is intertwined with their Viking heritage. It is particularly in the island of Gotland where Swedish boatbuilder J Craft and its master craftsmen and craftswomen have strived to maintain the ancient local traditions that have defined the region’s shipbuilding history.
J Craft is rooted in Sweden’s rich seafaring heritage and its people are descendants of the Vikings who settled in Gotland in the 12th century. J Craft was born in 1999 with the first 38-foot Cabrio Cruiser. It took a whole year of work, but Hull #1, Polaris, was delivered to her new owner, His Majesty Carl Gustav XVI, King of Sweden, in August the same year.
A striking 1950s and ‘60s retro vintage-style boat, the Cabrio Cruiser was distinguished by classic design, beautiful materials, exquisite engineering and state-of-the-art, thoroughly modern technology. Polaris was built around a modern fiberglass hull with mahogany veneer and powered by two Yanmar engines with straight shaft propulsion.
Based near St. Tropez, Polaris is still being used 20-plus years later and remains the Swedish King’s favorite boat for Mediterranean cruises. His Majesty operates his own boat and was happy to surprise the owners of hull # 18 of the Torpedo model during its delivery in 2019.
In 2009 J Craft introduced the 42-foot Torpedo. With the original founder falling ill, the company was quietly acquired by entrepreneur Radenko Milakovic, in order to safeguard the yard’s precious heritage. The new owner has been actively involved in the birth of the new Torpedo model that, although retaining the Cabrio Cruiser’s elegant and timeless design features, was a brand new and upgraded interpretation of her older sister’s vintage style.
J Craft designed the Torpedo’s hull in direct cooperation with Volvo Penta to accommodate the rudderless IP system that offers effortlessly intuitive and precise handling. J Craft Torpedos are equipped with the latest generation Volvo Penta IPS engines (Volvo Penta IPS 500, 600-R or 650-RS) for speeds of close to 50 knots and exceptional maneuverability. They have regularly undertaken long trips, in the South China Sea from Hong Kong to Hainan, in the Baltic Sea between Gotland and Stockholm, and in the Med where they frequently cruise from St. Tropez to Ibiza or to Sardinia and back.
All the completed boats are tested in the fierce Nordic waters surrounding Gotland to ensure maximum capability, performance and safety for owners around the world.
The entire construction process is unhurried and characterized by exacting craftsmanship, a key aspect that everyone in the yard takes great pride in maintaining, under the guidance of master builder Johan Hallén, who has been with J Craft since its inception. Quality, in its most traditional form, takes time and it is not surprising there is a lengthy waiting list.
J Craft mixes unique values in a product of unparalleled quality, beauty, strength and durability.
For example, the Torpedo’s mahogany decking, which is lacquered and varnished 18 times, the leather trim and stainless-steel finishes, are all built to last thanks to ancient traditions and carefully selected manufacturing processes.
J Craft’s stands for great woodworking skills. The Torpedo’s polished woodwork is made from sustainably sourced, rainforest-free West African mahogany. The graceful, curved lines are made out of solid wood by using a steam-bending technique that has not changed since the Vikings built their original long ships.
This is all complemented by gorgeous Nardi steering wheels, fine Italian leathers and luxury fabrics from top designer brands. The result is a glamorous accessory for a new-life perspective on the water where excellence and innovation are in perfect balance.
The open cockpit with two sundecks is designed to comfortably accommodate up to 10 adults plus a captain for day cruises. The spacious cabin, when needed, sleeps up to 4 guests in comfort.
J Craft will be available in the USA from 2023 onwards. Mr. Milakovic foresees the opening of a US office in Fort Lauderdale to ensure prompt assistance to the lucky owners in the Americas.
A Torpedo to US specs, complete with gyro stabilizers and latest technologies, will be presented during the first half of 2023 and you can expect to see this head-turner while she cruises New England in summer 2023.
I could easily visualize classy J Crafts docked at mansions with private docks in South Florida as well, whether in Palm Beach, Bal Harbor, South Beach, Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove, or Coral Gables. These boats would add sophistication to anyone’s home.
With her classic, figure-of-eight shape, the Torpedo is much more than a clever collection of lines and curves. The unique design is the result of a long heritage of knowledge of the sea and the most contemporary Dolce Vita or det ljuva livet, as the Swedes would say!
For more information go to www.j-craftboats.com where you can also configure your very own J Craft Torpedo.
My deepest thanks to Radenko Milakovic, owner of J Craft, who kindly invited me to spend a couple of days between Port Grimaud and St Tropez to experience the magical charm of his boats.