Zen 24 Tested

It’s not often that we here at SAIL get to test-sail production sailboats from Japan. 
Author:
Publish date:
Zen 24 at sail

Zen 24 at sail

A saucy little cruiser from the Land of the Rising Sun

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.

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 that beam translates to lots of initial stability, and the ballast keel locks the hull in place once it’s heeled over a bit.

The boat is well endowed spatially, 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.

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.

ZEN-24-R2

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more