Next morning—same morning, sorry—Crewman Scott Self met a visitor with head in hands. A man who knocks about a bit, Self had helped campaign the crack ocean racer Improbable during an eventful season and had not been home for four months. The last time he talked to his parents, he recalled, they said, "We thought, like, you ought to come home." Then he remembered what he was doing in South Dartmouth, Mass. and went to wake Kolius.
Kolius put on a brave show for a good five minutes. "What's the matter with you, Scott?" he demanded. "What-cha holding your head like that for?" With that Kolius leaped lightly out of bed—and fell lightly to the floor. Eventually, they all made it to the yacht club, where Kolius refreshed himself by participating in a pickup game of baseball played with Ping-Pong paddles instead of bats. And on a crystalline day these Texans, loose as tapioca, set out to whip the well-slept but tightly wound opposition.
Whip them they did in a brilliant display of helmsmanship and teamwork. They made all the right moves at all the right times, and they took gleeful advantage of a monumental miscue by Hall and Colie, both of whom overstood the weather mark on the first leg of the Olympic course. Rounding the mark in the lead, the Texans set their spinnaker a fraction of a second faster than seemed possible, and after reaching down to the next mark they jibed around onto the new leg with sails perfectly trimmed in a single fluid sweep. Tacking upwind, they dug their toes in and hiked out nimbly to keep the boat on its lines in a brisk sou'wester, and even after building up a big lead they continued to press. In short, they sailed with a dedication that Ahab himself might have admired.
Hall and Colie spent so much energy covering one another that they lost all hope of finishing with the front-runners, and their chances of winning the cup blew away with the wind as they slogged in sixth and eighth. That put them second and third for the series.
As they painfully learned, swinging was only one element of the Kolius equation. He had teethed on Sunfishes and somewhat later had defeated seven of the nation's top junior skippers to take the Sears Cup in 1968. The following year he came close to roping the Mallory on his first try, ultimately winding up third. He will sail anything and everything and do so with a light, deceptively casual touch that is a joy to behold. Nor does he choke when the going is sticky. In the seventh race, for example, Kolius found himself trapped at the starting line while the rest of the fleet peeled him off on the committee boat. Dead in the water as he put on the brakes to let the procession go by, his sloop bobbed miserably and began drifting backward as Hall and the others raced away. Despite this handicap, Kolius managed to blow off half the fleet en route to the first mark, and even the Texans' severest critics dug that maneuver.
With the Mallory Cup safely put away and a date lined up for dinner, Kolius harpooned another beer and began training for the lively days ahead. Next comes a series of races at the posh Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club of Oyster Bay, N.Y., where they aren't going to dig the rebel yell all that much, and then perhaps a shot at the U.S. Olympic sailing team in the Soling Class.
If the selection committee is looking for brilliance with resilience, it need search no farther than down around Houston, the town John Kolius calls home, y'all.