I know that the older hulls perform very well and like you i also prefer a more moderate beam. To be honest you have educated me over many posts to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a wider beam taken all the way back versus a more moderate beam. If I were in the market for a new boat, then I would also look for a moderate beam with a moderate freeboard, fine lines of entry with a forefoot that is not too shallow and a hull with some rocker. What I find missing from these older hulls is a chine which assists form stability as you know but which I like the look of. Also I find that in the Salona 35 that the coach roof is too rounded for my liking. A more modern approach would be to have it flatter. Also, i like the option of a bathing platfrom with integrated ladder for chilling at thatbanchorage after you have arrived befiore everyone else
What I am on about is aesthetics more than anything else.
A brilliant boat though and like the Dehler, if it found its way onto my berth, I would be one happy sailor.
You are right about the chines and it is not only related to aesthetics but significant in what regards to increase hull stability at utilizable angles. Its importance is relative but it is one of the many little improvements that makes a boat better. Another one is twin rudders. Dehler has not them Elan and other cruisers have already them. It's importance can be relative to racing but not for cruising since it just gives more control over the boat with significant less effort on the rudder and with less deeper rudders.
Regrading beam brought back, as you have seen on those pictures, even when it is not all brought back there is a noticeable difference in design regarding 15 year old designed boats. Regarding the ones that have them all brought back that is so in what regards Max beam but not beam at the water line. It is a pity they don't give usually that measure because it would show significant differences. Boats can have max beam brought almost all back and have completely different hulls on what regards the under-body at and near the transom. And finally you have beam that it is not related with the beam brought back as many seem to think.
Well, not finally because the final chapter should go with preferences regarding aesthetics that as you say are important, I would say very important even if slightly irrational
I would say irrational because what should be logical was one to like what is functional to him and his sailing but we know it does not work that way. Regarding functionality what you say regarding the bathing platform make all sense...I just hate the inelegant big fat ass that they visually give to a sailboat with all beam brought aft.
That could be solved with a 180º pivoting platform but till know no one come with the idea.
Regarding hulls like the ones on the J boats or the Salona, versus equally moderated beam boats with all the beam brought aft I would say that even if with a crew they can result in a better performance, That would not be the case with a short crew or solo. So, even if in a well designed hull that would not make a big difference, in what regards cruising it makes sense to have a beam all brought back even if at the cost of a slight loss of performance. The slightly superior control will justify that. In what regards aesthetics every one has his own likings but what is true is that all beam brought aft will provide a very large cockpit at the steering post (unless a rudder is used) and that can be dis-comfortable and less safe. That is even more true in boats with a big beam.
Regarding beam I would say that narrow beams are very much a minority in what regards cruiser likings. They will provide a specially good boat upwind (and a comfortable one in what regards sea motion) but a boat with less interior space and most of all a boat the heels a lot.
It seems that the preference of cruisers go to beamy boats, the ones that sail with less heel and are especially easy to control and sail in any point of sail except upwind (they can sail upwind but not as well as less beamy boats), specially with the beam brought back. As most cruisers go against the wind motoring it makes perfect sense having those boats as the mainstream market for cruisers. It makes also sense as fast boats for voyaging since voyagers take most of the times the trade winds and go downwind most of the time.
There are some parallel here with the rigging of old tall sailing ships. Almost all of them had square sails and just one or two latin sails to go really against the wind if needed to. They used that rig because it was the best to go downwind even if that was a poor rig to go upwind. They had rigs that performed much better upwind but they just did not use them because almost all sailing was done on the trade winds were the square sail rig was more efficient. We can argue the same way regarding beamy boats versus narrower boats for voyaging.
For the ones that really go upwind, or sail in areas of very variable winds a less beamy boat makes sense. Many performance cruisers, specially all that are intended also to perform at some club regattas opt for this type of moderate beam. The boats sail with less heel than the narrow ones and with more than the beamy ones. They are also more comfortable in a seaway upwind.
They can offer the better overall performance, even downwind but in this case at the cost of a more difficult control. Even so the downwind control will be far superior than on the narrow ones. Beam is a big factor in what regards stability, the major one at low angles of heel and downwind you want a rock steady boat and not a boat that rolls a lot when waves are hitting the boat laterally.
On a narrow boat, because form stability is a lot less, only a very good wheelsman can prevent that rool movement because if it it is not immediately corrected by the rudder the boat needs to heel to get the RM from the ballast and that can cause an oscillating dangerous pendulous movement. A beamy boat can go safely in autopilot in conditions a narrower boat needs someone experienced at the wheel, and even so...it is less easy or safer.
It is all a question of balance in what regards the use the boat will have ant the performances one wants to see maximizing. No wrong or right here, except if one buys a boat not suited for him or the type of sailing he wants to do...and here aesthetics can be dangerous because they can lead you to a boat that is not the boat you need or want in what regards sailing