Eventually he began racing maxis, which go 80 feet in length and carry a crew of up to 30. He named his first maxi Matador after one of his father's Texas ranches, had a Picasso bull painted on the spinnaker and started buying up high-priced sailing talent. "I thought if I got all the best sailors in the world on it, we'd go out and win everything. I was wrong. We came in last."
The problem, as Koch saw it, was that everyone had his own agenda—one trimmer didn't like the helmsman, another wouldn't use sails he hadn't sold to Koch himself, and the French crew members swore at Koch's friends. "It was a nightmare," Koch says. "So I threw all the stars off, including a couple of guys who had helped win the America's Cup and some Olympic medalists. I said, 'I'd rather sail with my friends.' "
Thus, Koch's Corollary Number One: THERE IS ONLY ONE EGO, AND THAT IS THE BOAT'S.
Next, Koch went around to some 20 yacht designers, soliciting designs. Nautical architects, he concluded, built what looked fast, but they had no empirical evidence. "I'd ask each one what made a boat go fast, and he'd give mystical explanations, not scientific ones," he says.
Koch's Corollary Number Two: BOAT SPEED IS A SCIENCE, NOT AN ART.
"I said to our group at the time, 'Look, none of us can really tell what is a fast boat,' " Koch says. " 'So let's go out and get 30 different designs—a very light small boat, a very heavy big boat, short fat ones, long skinny ones.' We found that there was a cluster of yachts that were all very similar, and others that were either much faster or much slower. I said. 'Let's compare the two extremes. What makes one boat slow and the other fast?' And by doing that, we were able to evolve some new hydrodynamic theories of yacht design that allowed us to come up with Matador�."
The new boat—tagged with a "2" instead of the customary "II" because Koch judged the improvement to be at least "to the power of two"—flew in the face of accepted design practices. The average maxi weighs 90,000 pounds, for instance, but Matador� weighed 100,000 pounds. Trim tabs on keels to give boats more lift had been discredited, but Koch's keel had a tab. The Matador program consumed five years of tank testing, computer modeling and sailing trials on one-quarter-scale models, and the research finally paid off: Koch's team won the 1990 and 1991 Maxi World Championships.
For his Cup campaign Koch has retained the key technical people from Matador and several of his maxi afterguard, including navigator By Baldridge, tactician Andreas Josenhans and main trimmer Per Andersson. all of whom had the giddy experience of beating Conner and Cayard in the big boats. The key questions to be answered now are 1) How much will Koch drive his boat in the defender finals, and 2) Will America� or Kanza—Koch can choose either for the finals—be fast enough to win when he does?
Koch is frank about his shortcomings. He has taken private sailing lessons, going out off Point Loma with Melges and a four-man crew in a 38-foot Class A scow, an instrumentless and keelless sailboat that flips over when mishandled. "The idea is to imprint a little more of what horizon means, the angle of heel," says Melges, the 1972 Olympic Soling-class champion and a three-time Yachtsman of the Year. "It's a tool to use in helping Bill close the gap between himself and Paul Cayard or Rod Davis, who have been sailing for more than 20 years."
Although Koch seems to have decided that for the next two weeks his team's helmsman will be Will Vary, "I think it's Bill's clear goal to steer as much as he can," says Jobson. "And he's better than people give him credit for."