Whether Koch drives his own boat or not is a big or little issue. depending on where you're coming from. For folks in Wichita, it is not a pressing matter. "For the most part, they are amused by this America's Cup thing," says Harry Litwin, an old friend of Fred C. Koch's. "They think he's wasting a lot of money."
David Koch—who escaped with severe smoke inhalation and bruises in February 1991 when USAir flight 1493 collided with a commuter plane on a runway in Los Angeles—sees greater risks for his brother: "I think it has to be a tremendous letdown for Billy when all this America's Cup stuff is over, even if Billy wins. 'My god,' he must think, I spent all this money, and for what? For this cup?' "
In his office, listening to the beat of rain on the roof and watching gusts pummel the blue skirts on Kanza across the compound, Bill Koch shrugs off the risks. "I'm sure if I win the America's Cup, I'll say it's been a great success," he says. "And if I lose it. I'll still say it's been a success. I'll probably binge on some of my wine collection for a week, no matter what."
He smiles placidly. "And then I'll go find some other mountain to climb, some other passion or love. I don't know why, but I like taking on challenges that people think can't be met and then meeting them. And meeting them in a way I think is totally reasonable and totally logical but totally against the way everybody else does it."
He's a contrarian�, a Don Quixote tilting at the wind instead of at windmills. But as Dennis Conner has recently discovered—and as Koch's brothers already knew—William I. Koch is at his best when the wind rises.