Radenko Milakovic is more than the owner of the Swedish boatbuilder J Craft. He acquired the shipyard and brand 15 years ago with an eye toward improving its classy, retro-style cruisers. With 20 deliveries to date from J Craft’s Torpedo range, Milakovic has his eye on something big yet again. He’s bringing the Torpedo, and J Craft ethos, to American shores. In fact, the first American version of the Torpedo arrives here next year. In the interim is the effort to educate buyers about what sets the builder apart.
J Craft got its start in 1999 with the Cabrio Cruiser, built and designed by J Craft’s founder, Björn Jansson. The 38-footer (11.6-meter) reflected classic styling, wrapping around modern fiberglass construction and mahogany veneers. The Cabrio Cruiser gained a high profile when King Carl Gustav of Sweden took delivery of hull number one. He still owns her to this day, too.
Coincidentally, Milakovic chartered a Cabrio Cruiser for a summer in the mid-2000s in the Mediterranean. He and his wife liked the looks and the general experience, but the boat’s small rudders affected handling. Upon learning about Volvo Penta’s IPS system and its maneuverability advantages, he inquired about buying a new hull to install it. While he did buy one, J Craft’s designer, Johan Hallén, ultimately advised that best results would come from a purpose-designed hull. That led the entrepreneurial-minded Milakovic to approach the then-ill Jansson’s estate to acquire the yard and marque. In 2009, two years after the acquisition, J Craft premiered the results of rethinking the boatbuilding efforts, the Torpedo (above).
The 42-footer (12.8-meter) is as much of a head-turner as her predecessor. Her glamorous profile evokes images of the 1950s and 1960s, for example. Additionally, she boasts speeds approaching 50 knots and responsive handling. Notably, the Torpedo attracts superyacht clients seeking a distinctive tender or chase boat. If you attend the Monaco Yacht Show, certainly you’ve seen J Crafts shuttling superyacht clients to and from the harbor, too, on behalf of shipyards and brokerage houses.
However, Milakovic is quick to emphasize that J Crafts are more than toys. These are yachts for owners wanting to take the wheel themselves and thrill to the experience. They’re further for clients who wouldn’t blink at heading offshore for a few hours. In fact, Milakovic says customers regularly cruise from St. Tropez to Sardinia. Plus, the shipyard runs each launch in the sometimes-unforgiving Baltic Sea off its home in Gotland. While J Craft has exhibited at American yacht shows in years past, it’s currently making a concerted effort to appeal to U.S. buyers, with U.S.-specific designs and equipment.
Consider, too, that each J Craft requires 8,000 man hours to make. From the mahogany decking, clad in 18 coats of gloss, to the Nardi stainless steel wheel (just like the one on racecars), everything is handmade. Everything is done in Sweden as well. And, of course, personalization is welcome. Choose from a variety of colors for the hull and equally colorful sunpad and cockpit seating. Select from Italian leathers and leading designer fabrics. Ask for a berth below, or a settee to escape the summer sun.
Lastly, request a test drive from the shipyard and at the fall boat shows. You’ll definitely want to take the helm yourself.
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