The Backman 21 and the RS Elite with their under £20,000 price tag look set to stir up the existing keelboat market

A couple of interesting new keelboats to catch the eye at this year’s Schroders London Boat Show were found nestled in among the dinghies and small catamarans in the north hall. The Backman 21 and the RS Elite, although aimed at slightly different markets, were both in a similar under £20,000 price range and look set stir up the existing keelboat market.

Unlike the RS Elite, designed by Phil Morrison as a modern day Squib, the Backman 21 is more of a Mini Transat trainer. This racy-looking one-design sportsboat with canting keel, twin rudders, daggerboard, asymmetric spinnaker and articulating bowsprit, comes from the drawing board of the Swedish designer Hans Backman who based the design on Mini Transat technology. But according to Maria Backman, who handles the company’s PR, Hans has been careful not to take the design to extremes and has designed her as an easy-to-handle club racer.

The idea is to have a crew limit of 270kg but the use of the canting keel within sportsboat fleet racing has yet to be decided. Chatting about the sportsboat rule and the proposed rating, Backman said: “We’re not too sure about the rating yet but this, and whether we can use a canting keel, will be discussed at the next committee meeting. If they won’t allow the canting keel, we can lock the keel in position and race it anyway.”

Ovington Boats, known for building huge numbers of quality boats including International 14s, B14s, 49ers, 29ers, Mumm 30s and more recently the Rogers 6.5 Mini Transat yacht, has taken charge of the build process and should have the first epoxy glass/carbon boat on the water by the end of March.

Like many Mini Transat yachts the Backman 21 features several dinghy layout ideas, in particular the lightweight carbonfibre Skiff-style rig (mast weighs just 16 kilos) with its twin spreaders and mainsheet system led along the boom back to a Harken block on the floor of the cockpit. Although the Kevlar sails, from Roger Hall in New Zealand, are included in the £19,990 (inc VAT) price of the boat, Backman tell us the choice of sails is open.

Because the boat on show was the plug we had to visualise the layout of the three/four berths. According to Maria Backman, the sleeping arrangements will be basic but functional.

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RS’s new keelboat, the Elite, has been designed as a one-design modern classic – classic, metre-style lines but with modern, minimum maintenance characteristics. Keeping costs to a minimum, with a starting price of £16,950 ready to sail, RS have built this new Phil Morrison boat in glassfibre throughout, although it does sport a carbonfibre composite mast.

With a draft of just 1.1m, the Elite will be suitable for club/match racing with the idea being to build fleets with similar strength to classes such as the successful Squib and Flying 15. According to RS’s Nick Peters the biggest interest so far is from Hayling Island Sailing Club where over 10 boats have already been sold.

Although it was difficult to visualise, on the prototype on the stand at the show, the exact layout of the finished product, Peters says: “We’ll be keeping things as simple and fuss-free as possible. All the controls, including the symmetrical spinnaker lines, will be led back to the cockpit with the twin poles situated along the boom.”

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