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New boat: Zen 24

2012 October 9

Sailing is a sport of balance. It's the art of juggling the forces of the wind, waves and current to move the boat from one place to another. Balance is the design philosophy behind the Zen 24, a 24-foot, fractional sloop with inboard electric motor, imported to North America from Japan. Its designer, Yoh Aoki, is a Zen master for whom balance is more than marketing buzzword-balance is a way of life. Balanced living leads to peace and happiness.

A boat designed by spiritual beliefs may be a little disconcerting for a skeptical and practical sailor. After all, Zen Buddists ponder seemingly impractical questions like "What is the sound of one hand clapping." Not to worry, Yoh holds a Guinness record for sailing a 21-footer around the world. He knows small cruisers.

The Zen 24 handles well upwind and downwind, in a wide range of wind speeds, bucking the trend toward designing downwind sleds. The cockpit is long enough to accommodate five adults (the tiller is short, too), but there is enough room forward for a proportionally sized cabin. The cabin comes with a portable head in an enclosed space, but a standard marine head optional. The cabin has room for an optional galley.

The batteries for the inboard electric motor have a five-hour lifespan before recharging from a standard marina electrical hookup. The Zen 24 is quiet and smooth under power, like an electric car. A gas engine can replace the electric one.

At 4,000 pounds, the 24 is trailerable and an optional trailer is available, but the boat has a fixed keel and is designed for the water, not the road.

Few sailboats imported to the U.S. come from Japan, with North American sailors sailing boats from France, England or the U.S. Maybe that will change with the Zen 24, if we follow the Zen saying, "Don't seek truth-just drop your opinions."