Sagitta and the tale of the Eight 8-Metre family

I can’t remember where I found it but I felt it was worth a wee story !

So here is K-19 Sagitta, that super slick and super pretty 1929 Eight. She was designed and built for Mr. Charles E. Nicholson who happened to be her …. designer and builder ! And Sagitta is, at least to my knowledge, the only Eight that made it to a cigarette card. Officially these little pieces of cardboard were used to stiffen the packaging but back in 1880 or so the tobacco companies started to use the cards to promote their product and so, with a 2023 oops, what better way to promote the sport of Int. 8-Metres sailing ?

Anyway, Mr. Nicholson successfully raced Sagitta on the Solent and then build another Eight to the same plans; Anthea. She had her home port in Honolulu and her owner Gary Pione sailed her mostly around the Hawaii archipelago. Easy to imagine what a miserable life that boat and her boss had out there. I recall Gary sending me a report of a 500 mile spinnaker run which I immediately and unilaterally declared as the longest in the history of the Int. 8-Metre Class.

But that was her twin sister, let’s go back to Sagitta ! In 1934 Charles Nicholson sold her to the Hon. Mrs Emily Pitt-Rivers, to my mind one of the greatest British yachtswoman of all time. Sagitta was her first Eight but not her last, a year later she ordered Reality, a new Eight from Charles Nicholson, two years later she bought Ilderim (Tore Holm 1936) from Marcus Wallenberg jr. and snapped up Carron II (Fife 1935) from Laurieston & Lewis. She didn’t trade anything in, of course not, she wanted them all ! You see, just like the rest of us, Mrs. Pit- Rivers wanted to wake up in the morning with a choices such as; what Eight will it be today? Shall I take the Fife, the Tore Holm or the Nicholson and if it is the Nicholson, which of the two shall it be? Well, actually she had 3 Nicholson boats to choose from, as she also owned the magnificent Foxhound, an ocean going race yacht inspired by the Int.12-Metre Class with which she later won the Newport to Bermuda Race.

Her father was Lord Forster and well, of course he had four Eights of his own too; the 1926 Fife Finola, the 1928 Fife Eight Unity, the 1930 Fife Finola II and the 1930 Nicholson Suzette making it a proper Eight 8-Metre family and, trust me, the family fleet didn’t end there.

And what happened to Sagitta? Well, for the past 30 years she has her home at HSS in Helsinki. She is actively raced and maintained by Timo Saalasti and his crew of longtime friends who all love that boat to bits. She’s a real great Eight and, if anyone is interested, then please know that Timo will probably consider selling her in about 50 years from now, but knowing Timo, he may hang on to her for a wee bit longer too. You see, the fact that she was one of Mr. Nicholson’s personal Eights makes her really special, having been part of the Pitt-Rivers armada makes her really special, being the personal Eight of Timo Saalasti is ridiculously special and then making it to a collectable John Player cigarette card.. well that has to top the bill ! These cards are real collectables and although I fear the odds are against me, I bet Timo will pick up smoking John Player just because of this card !

John Lammerts van Bueren

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