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Barry Thompson checks out the first Yanmar powerboat to arrive in New Zealand and admits it differs from what he expected.

A year ago I tested FatCat’s 4500 Fisherman Open, single console and tiller steer craft (Pacific Power Boat May/June 2022 issue). I concluded that article with the following summary. “Bloody good looking fishing boat mate, how much?” said a guy walking down the pier at Gulf Harbour. We had just launched the Yanmar VF23AZ at Gulf Harbour on a stunning June morning prior to heading out into mirror calm water to run this very different Japanese fishing boat. To be honest I wasn’t really sure I would like it, but after that remark I thought maybe I am being a bit hasty.

After running the boat I was pleasantly surprised. My earlier concerns were answered and I reckon the boat, given a few alterations will be well suited to the Kiwi fishing scene. Yanmar is a global corporate known in the marine industry, especially in New Zealand and Australia, for its diesel engines. But did you know there is another side to Yanmar that also targets the recreational boatie? They build boats. And not just a few small boats. Since 1972, Yanmar Shipbuilding Co., Ltd has been selling boats in Japan. In 2020 they re-branded to Yanmar Marine International Asia, and have expanded their reach to New Zealand, with the first models from their 17-boat range appearing at last month’s Hutchwilco New Zealand boat show and SCIBS. The introductory model to New Zealand, the VF23AZ, will particularly suit those looking for a no-frills fishing platform. There’s no shower or galley and limited accommodation, but then that’s why the boat is so fishing- orientated and targeted to the Japanese fishing market. In Japan, recreational boating is more about fishing than cruising and overnighting. However, Yanmar does a range of cruisers also to suit that market. Kiwis can be pedantic about the finer details, and while there are some shortcomings in the layout and execution of the concept, generally, it’s a decent boat. The VF23AZ is the smallest boat in the range, which runs from 7.50m to 15m, with every model being a hardtop or flybridge for models over 11m.. The VZ23AZ or Zarpa23-II is one of three boats in the Zarpa series, which includes two larger models, the Zarpa26-11 and the Zarpa28II. All three share the same primary platform with the space and dimensions determined by size.


While the VF23AZ has a pleasing low profile due to the SPS (more on that later) and looks sharp from most angles, it may also be detrimental. Some Kiwis will find the low height under the hardtop a bit daunting. I would like to see this raised to at least 2.0m, which is the height I would need if I wanted to stand to drive. The larger Zarpa 26 and 28 both have headroom. “This is something I hope to rectify in the future with either a higher cabin top or to remove the fibreglass hardtop altogether and replace with a removeable soft cover which I feel will bring it more into line with what Kiwi fishermen want in a boat”, says the importer. He added that the feedback he gathered when the boat was displayed at the Hutchwilco NZ Boat Show was invaluable. Amongst those are a larger overhead hatch in the full hardtop model, a hinged hatch on the live bait tank, a fully adjustable helm seat and the option of a second passenger seat. All that done I reckon it’s going to have a lot more local appeal. The helm seat is the only cushioned seating provided in the boat, but there are plenty of handholds for your passengers. It wouldn’t be too much extra to get a cushion made for the engine box if you wanted more dedicated seating. However, seated, it was fine, with good visibility all around. I wasn’t sure about having the instrument cluster on the opposite side of the wheel, but it somehow works. However, this does leave space in front of the helm for a decent size MFD, which you will look at more often than the tacho and engine instruments. Access to the forward cabin is via a fold-away solid cabin door. It was more a place to stow gear, although, with a full side-to-side foam berth, it’s also plenty big enough for a couple of people to overnight. There is a marine toilet under the squab but no shower aboard.

There is no galley, so if you are going to any cooking, I suggest a rail-mounted Magna BBQ. Fishing space is always an important consideration, and the VF23AZ has plenty. This is divided between the open bow with its deep coamings and flat surfaces and the aft cockpit, providing ample foot space for 4-6 fishermen. An interesting feature is how the helm side door swings into the bulwark to open up more potential fishing space in the cockpit. The engine box doubles as somewhere to sit or mount a bait board. I would go for a rail-mounted bait board and have an esky bin handy for your bait. Some of the standard features on the boat included twin rear boarding steps with a drop-down stainless ladder, two skylight hatches and bow and stern rails. There are three underfloor lockers, so there is plenty of provision for your catch. The centre one is dedicated as a live bait tank. This is a simple system that uses natural water flow rather than any pumps. It’s a huge space that works very effectively. Rod holders will need to be added, but again rail or deck mounted, there is plenty of space. You may notice from the images that there is no deck windlass installed. This is an option; you can choose a deck-mounted windlass or a below-deck drum winch. There is plenty of space in the anchor locker for either.


Yanmar spent a lot of time developing the hull lines using 3D CAD technology that enables highly accurate moulds. Construction is GRP. The deep vee hull shape provides an excellent ride, and I found it extremely stable and soft riding in the choppy waters during our test. However, I missed the ability to stand at the helm, which may be easily fixed with a larger opening sunroof. Even with only 90hp, the boat is quick to plane and quickly reaches the engine’s maximum 3850rpm. It is also very dry, pushing the spray low and away from the boat. This boat is not about speed, it’s about having a good ride when underway, especially when trolling. Yanmar diesel engine technology is ideally suited to slow running with quiet and smooth operation. As part of the power train package of the boat, the trolling device allows you to run the engine at very low rpm, economically, for long periods. With the engine running at 600rpm and the slow speed engaged, the speed can be as low as .5-1 knot, which when run in conjunction with the sail will just about give you a ‘spot-lock’ position. This can be adjusted higher if you have a stronger current or wind. The boat’s heart is a a four-cylinder 4JH3-HTZY1 Yanmar diesel and, running through a Yanmar SZ 113 sterndrive. This compact 90hp engine gives the VF23AZ a top speed of 26 knots @ 3850 rpm. At low-speed trolling mode, the fuel burn is a respectable 3.0 lph, @ 1500rpm. If your fishing grounds are well offshore, you want the best range possible from the standard 100-litre fuel tank. Cruising around 3000 rpm will give you a speed of about 16 knots and a fuel burn of 13-15 lph.

One of the unique features of the VF23AZ is the unique trolling system or SPS (Sail Positioning System). Now, what the hell is that I hear you say? The name derived from old sailing ships with four or more masts and was the sail nearest the stern. It was as far aft of the balance point of the hull for maximum leverage. Simply put, it is a pair of small sails specially developed with fishing in mind, such as stopping without an anchor and drifting along with the current while holding the boat at a fixed heading. You can easily drop them down when not required, and when you find your fishing spot and want to drift, you raise them and let the wind and current do the rest. Certainly, something I have never seen before on a powerboat. Plus, it works exceptionally well.


Yanmar Marine International’s mission statement is “Shaping the future of exceptional marine experience with innovative technologies”. They have achieved that and gone outside the box to present something challenging the norm. Does it work, and will the Kiwi market accept it? Only time will tell. But wait, there’s more. When you look at the Yanmar brochure, you will see a lot of other models that would be well suited to the Kiwi market. One is the VX30BV which was on display at the recent SCIBS in Australia. A 10m cabin cruiser powered by a single Yanmar 8LV350, it ticks all the boxes for space and appointments for anyone looking for a combo fishing/ overnighting sedan. This may be the next model that Yanmar brings into the country. If so, I look forward to getting aboard.


  • Boat Design Name: Yanmar VF23AZ (Zarpa 23II)
  • Year Launched in New Zealand: 2023
  • Style: Walkaround
  • Builder: Yanmar Marine International Asia
  • LOA: 7.50m
  • Beam: 2.24m
  • Deadrise: 11.2 deg
  • Max Speed 26 knots
  • Construction: GRP
  • Fuel Cap: 100 litres
  • Engine Make: Yanmar 4JH3-HTZY1
  • Drive System: Yanmar SZ113 sterndrive
  • Propeller: 17″ SS

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