Boat Review: Zen 24

It’s not often that we here at SAIL get to test-sail production sailboats from Japan. Personally, this is the first one I’ve ever sailed, in a test or otherwise. It is a remarkable little vessel.
Author:
Publish date:
zen24

It’s not often that we here at SAIL get to test-sail production sailboats from Japan. Personally, this is the first one I’ve ever sailed, in a test or otherwise. It is a remarkable little vessel, with a remarkable pedigree, as it was designed by Yoh Aoki, a Zen adherent who made big headlines in 1974—in Japan at least—when he completed a singlehanded circumnavigation by way of Cape Horn in a 21-foot plywood boat he built himself.

Aoki knows what he is about. Check out some photos and drawings of the Zen 24, and you’ll see it has a very serious, yet attractive hull form—lots of beam carried well aft, with a narrow entry up forward behind a sweetly flared plumb bow. The boxy little house is well proportioned, and the short fixed bowsprit adds a dashing bit of style, besides being rather useful. For a boat its size, the Zen 24 is also quite unique in that it has a fixed fin keel and comes standard with an inboard electric motor.

I sailed the boat on Chesapeake Bay in 9 knots of wind and was honestly impressed by its performance. Our test boat was fitted with a poorly cut mainsail, with a slightly over-long luff that prevented us from achieving a full hoist, but still we managed to point reasonably high. We were fully powered up at a 40-degree apparent wind angle in 12 knots of apparent wind and could easily pinch to 35 without giving up too much. We had no instruments, and I had estimated our best speed at about 6 knots, but then SAIL executive editor Adam Cort flashed by in a bigger boat and noted he had clocked us at over 7—which ain’t too shabby for a boat with a 21-foot waterline.

The Zen 24 shows off her long waterline and lots banners and flags at the dock prior to our test sail off Annapolis

The Zen 24 shows off her long waterline and lots banners and flags at the dock prior to our test sail off Annapolis

Better yet, the helm is incredibly predictable. Take your hand off the tiller, and it takes some time before the boat changes course and starts slowly rounding up. The Zen 24 is also very stable for its size—all the beam translates to lots of initial stability, and the ballast keel locks the hull in place once it’s heeled over a bit.

The interior looking forward. An enclosed head on a 24-foot pocket cruiser is always appreciated

The interior looking forward. An enclosed head on a 24-foot pocket cruiser is always appreciated

Spatially, the boat is well endowed, with an interior that is as roomy as you could hope for on a 24-foot boat, complete with a private enclosed head. On deck you’ll find plenty of space in the cockpit, and I was impressed with how easy it was to move forward to the bow. The shrouds land inboard on the side of the coachroof, so you can quickly skooch by them while also clinging to them for support.

A nice array of flexible solar panels mounted on deck helps keep the battery bank charged

A nice array of flexible solar panels mounted on deck helps keep the battery bank charged

I loved the electric motor. Having all the extra torque at low power made it very easy to maneuver the boat at close quarters, and the sensation of silent speed at higher revs is quite delicious. I was told the motor, which is fed by a 48-volt battery bank, can run five hours at 5 knots without a charge. I’m not sure I believe that, but you can always hang a little outboard from the stern bracket as insurance. You can also order the optional inboard diesel engine.

What I didn’t like about this boat was the mainsheet control. Ours had the standard single-point sheet led to a cam cleat on the cockpit sole, and the only way I could reliably release the sheet was by stomping on it with my foot. I’m sure this could be easily fixed by re-angling the cleat, but I’d much rather have the optional traveler, which runs the full width of the cockpit. With that and a properly cut mainsail, I’m quite confident you could sail this boat very aggressively in a strong breeze. I’m sure you’d have a blast doing it, too.

zen24%20interior%20illustration

Specifications

LOA: 24ft 10in

LWL: 21ft 7in

BEAM: 8ft 7in

DRAFT: 3ft 11in

DISPLACEMENT: (half load) 4,079lb

BALLAST: 1,213lb

SAIL AREA: 270ft2

DESIGNER: Yoh Aoki

BUILDER: Aoki Yacht, Osaka, Japan

U.S. AGENT: Aoki Yachts Inc., 669-777-8011

Photos by Charles J. Doane. Top 2 photos, interior head photo and boat illustration courtesy of Aoki Yachts

Related

190314-viddy

St. Maarten Heineken Regatta: A Source of Hope

The tagline for the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is "serious sailing, serious fun." However, for the inhabitants of St. Maarten, the event is more than just a festival of great music and some of the best sailing around. Local blogger Angie Soeffker explains the impact the race ...read more

SPOTX-1500x1500_front

Gear: SPOT-X Satellite

Hits the SPOT The SPOT-X two-way satellite messenger is an economical way of staying connected to the outside world via text or e-mail when you’re at sea. As well as the messaging service, it has a distress function that not only alerts authorities if you’re in trouble, but lets ...read more

_8105684

A Kid’s Take on the Northwest Passage

Going North—and West Crack! Crunch! I woke with a start to the sound of ice scraping the hull of our 60ft sailboat, Dogbark. In a drowsy daze, I hobbled out of the small cabin I was sharing with my little sister. As I emerged into the cockpit, I swiveled my head, searching for ...read more

Nathan-Bates-San-Diego,-CA

SAIL 2018: Reader's Photographs

Are you out there sailing, cruising and living the sailing life? If so, we’d love to see it. Send your sailing photos to sailmail@sailmagazine.com And don’t forget to sign up for our free eNewsletter. Check back for updates! We set sail from Chicago on a crossing to Saugatuck, ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Let her breathe When the wind’s so light your cigar smoke goes straight up (or it used to, before having fun was banned) any well-designed yacht with a clean bottom will somehow keep on sailing if you ...read more

Standing Rigging suggest crop

Ask Sail: State of Standing Rigging

Q: I have a 1974 Aquarius 23 that I am fixing up. I am wondering if I should replace the standing rigging no matter what, or if I can just check it over. I think that it is original, but I am not sure. It seems from what I have read that I should at least replace the wire, but I ...read more