This Jim Antrim--designed sportboat has innovative, well-executed features, achieves the difficult task of combining ease of handling and stability with sportboat performance, and is a gas to sail. The cockpit received high marks because the seats are wide, the stanchions angle outboard slightly to make it possible to use the lifelines as a comfortable backrest, the anti-skid is excellent, and there are solid bracing points are built into the cockpit. We also liked the watertight locker for the outboard engine and fuel tank in the center of the cockpit beneath the sole. This gets the engine off the transom when it's not in use, keeps weight low and in the middle of the boat, and keeps gas fumes out of the belowdecks area.
The hull is light and stiff, and finish is excellent. The Ultimate does have two curious features: an out-turned flange hull-to-deck joint and a deck-mounted sprit. The aesthetics of these features can be debated, but we found that the hull flange deflects spray from the cockpit and the low-friction deck-mounted sprit is a snap to deploy. The Ultimate's retractable 750-pound bulb keel reduces draft from 5 feet, 6 inches to 2 feet, 10 inches, making trailering easier without sacrificing performance.
We sailed the boat on a breezy day off Annapolis. The helm was smooth and responsive; the well-sized rudder, bulb keel, and balanced sailplan made it easy to keep the boat flat and in the groove upwind; and the highly maneuverable hull and blade jib made tacking relatively painless. Once we bore off and popped the asymmetric spinnaker, the boat was powerful without being intimidating and easy to coax up onto a plane. The Ultimate 24 represents the evolution from the old-fashioned 24-foot keelboat to a modern, easy-to-trailer performance keelboat that could very well energize new sailors as well as veteran racers.
Price: $41,995 (FOB La Selva Beach, CA) includes sails and trailer.
Builder: Ultimate Sailboats, La Selva Beach, CA; tel. 800-724-5820, www.ultimatesailboats.com
Construction: Hull and deck are hand-laid E-glass vacuum-bagged over a balsa and foam core. Carbon fiber, Kevlar, and S-glass are used to reinforce load points. The mast, bowsprit, and rudder are carbon fiber. The boom is aluminum.
Draft (keel up/down) 2'11"/5'6"
Ballast 750 lbs
Displacement 2,040 lbs
Sail area 355 sq ft
Power 5-hp outboard
Displ.-length ratio 96
Sail area-displ. ratio 35