Given the depth of ill will, everybody involved was surprised last fall when Bill suggested that David come to San Diego and sail with him in some of the defender races. In his New York City office, David says, "I'd love to, but he has accused me of so many awful things. I mean, how could I do something like that with someone who is suing me?"
Still, blood is thicker than water, or in this case, salt water. Last year David turned down an offer to be chairman of Team Dennis Conner. "I gave Dennis money for all his earlier campaigns," David says, "and I would have supported him generously if he were not racing against Billy. But I told him that while I don't like the way Billy has conducted himself, I do have affection for him as a brother, and I would like to see Billy win the America's Cup.
"I can't bet against my brother."
Bill Koch enters the room, takes in the dozen or so women waiting on sofas and folding chairs and gulps. He says to the women, I understand you guys are all mad at me."
He has come down from his America� office to put out a fire. His female staffers are upset that a team party to be held the next night at Koch's house is to be augmented with pretty women from outside—"bimbos," it's rumored among the staffers. Koch, blushing, explains that crew members had complained after the last party that there hadn't been enough women to dance with, and he had promised to rectify the situation. He says there will be no "sleazy girls," just nice women, volleyball players, "because it's my home, and I'm an elegant guy, and I want to maintain the elegance."
In no time the women are laughing. The meeting breaks up with Koch promising that, if the women want, he'll invite a couple of male models to the party for balance.
"The important thing," Koch says afterward, "is that I listen to their concerns and let them air their opinions. Then the problem goes away."
Your first impression of Koch, if you meet him outside a courtroom, is that he is guileless—open in the way of many Mid-westerners, blunt but without a trace of meanness. "I'm surprised when I read all this nasty stuff about Billy," says Kippie Fleming, a first cousin who lives in Wichita. "I never heard him say bad things about anyone. He's sweet, like a big teddy bear."
"I don't think any of the descriptions you read in the paper—obsessive, unstable—characterize Billy in the least," says 82-year-old William I. Robinson, Mary Koch's brother. "Except maybe in the minds of those who dislike him so much. Billy is a very compassionate guy, unlike the rest of his family."
Taking a visitor on a tour of his traveling art collection—a breathtaking display of sculpture and paintings that chokes the $30,000-a-month house he rents on Point Loma—Koch moves briskly past a Monet, a C�zanne, a Grant Wood, two Remingtons...and lingers at a framed photograph of his five-year-old son, Wyatt. "Here's the best work of all." Koch says. "I love him more than I've loved anything in my entire life."