In the 1980s, Croatia - then part of Yugoslavia - built up a sizeable yacht charter industry. It was never then on the scale to rival long time favourite Greece, but it was large enough to get itself noticed as an attractive coming destination. Then came the various Balkan wars - one of them involving Croatia itself - and the disintegration of old Yugoslavia. Croatia is now the ex-Yugoslav republic with almost all the coast line!
Since the wars ended the growth of the croatian yacht charter industry has been little short of astonishing. In an industry notoriously short of credible statistics, we suspect that Croatia must now be a serious rival to Greece. There are a number of expalanations for this remarkable success:
The country is naturally blessed with sailing waters as good and varied as anywhere in the world.
After the war, the Croatian government went out of its way to encourage and indeed subsidise the re-building and building of the necessary infrastructure - most obviously the marinas.
Northern Croatia is a 4 hour drive from most of Austria, and southern parts of Germany. Even Dalmatia, where perhaps the best sailing is to be found - is only 6 hours away. This was always a big advantage, but in the wake of 9/11, when Germans in particular were reluctant to climb on an airplane, it catapulted the industry forward.
Sailing holidays in Croatia now include almost everything that customers could conceivably want. There are thousands of bareboat yachts to charter in bases from Pula and Cres in Istria, to the massive yachting centres of Zadar, Sukosan, Sibenik, Murter Island, Split, & Dubrovnik. Each one of those can be chartered with a skipper for those without the necessary experience. There are sailing flotillas from Split, and an RYA Authorised Sailing School on Murter Island. The opportunities to spend one week afloat and another ashore are endless.
One of the problems for the British used to be that getting there was expensive and there were not enough seats on such planes flew there. Things started to improve in 2004, with regular charter flights to Split at least. For 2005, there are flights to Opatija in the north, Zadar to get to central Dalmatia, Split, and also Dubrovnik. Getting to Istria is easy. Just fly EasyJet to Venice, or Ryanair to Trieste. The first has hydrofoil links to the excellent sailing of Pula; the second is a transfer bus away from Portoroz (actually in Slovenia), and Pula. Croatia is now the sailing destination for the British - the destination that has it all!
Christopher LONGMORE - Owner of Top Notch, a GibSea402 based in Turkey and of the Global Yacht sailing holidays group.