2016 was decidedly a year of lows and highs – two Elites were lost in the January 2016 Cowes fire but were quickly replaced with new ones by their enthusiastic owners (notably numbers 100 and 101), whilst a rare second-hand one was also purchased by a Cowes resident out of the Burnham fleet. Furthermore, post-season, we were delighted to receive the news that two owners previously racing out of Lymington would be moving their boats to Cowes for the 2017 season. Since the first Elite arrived on the Isle of Wight in 2011, the fleet has therefore now grown to 6 Cowes based boats, with a seventh expected once shipped from the China factory.
The 2016 season saw some wonderful close-quarter racing amongst the resident Cowes fleet over selected weekends from April to September, with a mixture of Solent Series shoreline and Cowes Keelboat Championship committee boat starts. Soak Therapy eventually emerged as the overall victor on points. Cowes Week saw 20 boats competing, the fifth year in a row that the total has grown and more than any other White Group fleet bar the Redwings. No Riff Raff, a Hayling Island fleet visitor, triumphed, winning both the week overall as well as the inaugural contest for the Trihandled Trophy over the first four days. Two Cowes boats also made the journey down to Hayling Island for the Southern Area Championships held in September, with Centurion the top placed Cowes boat, achieving a creditable tenth place out of 22.
Looking ahead, the 2017 season will once again see five weekends of shore-based or committee boat starts run by the Cowes Combined Clubs & Classes Association, Tuesday night handicap racing run by the Island Sailing Club (an Elite beat a fleet of 60 odd boats on one such occasion), the opportunity to participate in the June Round Island Race in the Sportsboat category (see the class website archives for tales of Elite derring-do) and our customary dedicated start during Cowes Week at the beginning of August. Reflecting interest in the RS Elite by residents of Bembridge and Seaview, for the first time there will also be a class event on 17/18 June held under the aegis of the East Wight Combined Clubs. Cowes boats are also expected to compete in the UK National Championships at Hayling Island from 20-22 July.
The focus of the Island fleet remains on attracting additional boats and long-term ownership through invitational exposure to crewing and helming opportunities throughout the season. We are quietly confident that the fleet has reached a tipping point, reflecting a combination of critical mass and momentum, and hope that many of the other RS Elite owners across the country will visit us during 2017 to experience the thrill of racing in the incomparable Central Solent.