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Kialoa US-1- Dare to Win - sailing with Jim Kilroy + Video

by Peter Allison on 18 Nov 2012
Kialoa US-1: Dare to Win . ..

The autobiography, Kialoa US-1: Dare to Win, written by Jim Kilroy is an absorbing account of a truly remarkable life of a man and his yachts.

From humble beginnings in Alaska, Kilroy and his siblings were raised by their courageous and loving mother in Southern California during the Great Depression. As a contributor to the household income a young Jim Kilroy quickly learned the value of hard work and resourcefulness.

His self determination and insatiable curiosity proved to be the keystones to his future success.

He learned to fly in the US Army Air Corps Reserve in 1945 and this led to long standing friendships with key players within the aviation industry. His engineering background and innovative eye led him into construction, including design of high tech facilities for the aerospace industry.

His highly successful business interests and a growing family did not prevent him from taking on civic leadership roles. He was a political insider for the Republican party and witnessed first hand the political careers of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He was also the Chairman of the committee in the Los Angeles bid for the Olympic Games.

The book details Kilroy’s many civic and business accomplishments. However, the main focus is on his extraordinary success in campaigning a series of five yachts, all named Kialoa, in ocean races around the world. The story begins in 1956 with Kialoa I and by the launching of the 73ft Kialoa II in 1963, Kilroy was already establishing himself as a formidable skipper. A bigger, faster boat would only enhance his reputation.

Before the completion of Kialoa III in 1974, Kilroy and his highly skilled, fiercely loyal crews had circled the globe on Kialoa II, winning races and breaking records in many of the blue water classic events.

The performance of Kilroy and his crews on Kialoa III from 1975 – 1977 was unrivalled and their list of victories culminated in winning the World Ocean Racing Championship. During this period they set new standards of excellence in maxi yacht racing with their winning ways.

Kialoa Dare to Win takes the reader on a sometimes wild and exhilarating ride to experience life on board Kialoa in ocean racing mode. The separate accounts describe the sometimes extreme conditions and the inherent danger to even the most experienced of crews.

A serious collision with another maxi yacht in a race off Sydney Heads, the tragic loss of 15 lives in the ’79 Fastnet race and crashing off mountainous waves in 60 – 70 knots of wind in Bass Straight are all part of the mix in these exciting chapters.

In contrast, Kilroy also describes the idyllic life of cruising in some of the most beautiful places on the planet both in between races and once he had retired from racing in 1990.

Over nearly four decades Kilroy established friendships with sailing royalty and legendary yachtsmen, some of whom were competitors, like CNN’s Ted Turner, and some who got their early break on one of the Kialoas, one of whom was Dennis Conner.

This inspiring and beautifully illustrated book will be loved by all people who sail or who enjoy the spirit the adventure. Equally, it is a compelling read for those who value the importance of motivation, participation, team work and positive leadership in business or their personal lives.



The audio clip below of an interview conducted by NewstalkZB's Peter Montgomery and Jim Kilroy, along with former Kialoa crew member, Roy Dickson, may take a few seconds to start - don't adjust your set, be patient as it downloads



As well as being a racing crew, the Kialoa's spawned an international family of friends, joined by their experiences. Kialoa US-1: Dare to Win as well as being a biography of Jim Kilroy and the Kialoas, also tells the story as seen through the eyes of various crew members over the years.

Here, writing specially for Sail-World, Peter Allison gives a personal perspective on what it was like to be involved in the Kialoa team and sailing with Jim Kilroy in particular.


On reflection, sailing with Jim Kilroy was a remarkable experience. I had the good fortune to sail on both Kialoa II and Kialoa III between 1970 and 1978.

The New Zealander Bruce Kendell had only recently taken over as the sailing master on Kialoa II when I first sailed on the boat in California. It was during the summer of 1970 that Kilroy decided to do the 1971 Transpac from Los Angeles to Honolulu and then cruise through the Pacific to Australia to compete in the ’71 Sydney-Hobart race.

On meeting Kilroy for the first time I was impressed by his physical presence and pleasant, engaging personality. On getting to know him better I soon understood why he had already been so successful both in business and on the water. He was a dynamic man with a huge raft of talents.

In coordination with Kendell, Kilroy was always fully involved in crew selection and ensuring the boat was match fit for forthcoming races. He was a standout owner/skipper and the primary helmsman on board. He always captained a watch and had an intimate understanding of how his boat handled and performed in all conditions. From a crew perspective, he always encouraged us to look for ways to increase boat speed, particularly in light air.

On the few occasions that we experienced either gear failure or a stuff up due to human error he always remained very calm and his only demand was to keep the boat moving as fast as possible while the problem was being remedied.

Routine tacking, gybing and sail changes invariably slow the boat down. Mistakes made by crew during any of these manoeuvres has a multiplying effect in reducing boat speed, sometimes for prolonged periods. To reduce the risk of error, we always had clear communication on deck to ensure all crew were in position and ready to carry out the change.

Executing headsail changes or spinnaker gybes on big boats in heavy conditions can be fraught with danger and can sometimes lead to pandemonium on deck if things go wrong.

There was an expectation on Kialoa that crew would maintain sharp visual awareness in carrying out their individual functions to reduce the distraction of everyone shouting at once.

Of course it was not all serious stuff..

Once Bruce Kendell established himself on Kialoa the light sprinkling of Kiwi and Aussie crew increased to the extent that ‘downunder’ accents and humour became a normal part of the camaraderie that we all enjoyed so much.

The 1972 Trans Atlantic race from Bermuda to Spain will be remembered as a non event by many due to the frustrating light conditions we encountered for days on end. We amused ourselves on Kialoa II by producing a Western satire on tape complete with a sheriff, gun slingers and saloon girls. Everyone got into the spirit of things with some outrageously funny skits.

Some of the guys obviously enjoyed being ‘saloon girls’ as we changed the production set from the cockpit to the water. On this particular day we were completely becalmed and most of the crew were swimming over the side. After some quiet discussion, a circle was formed, shorts came off and the Kialoa Aqua Ballet commenced. A number of highly skilful routines were executed before the piece de resistance.. a mid-Atlantic ‘moon’ to the sun.

We understand synchronised swimming started as a result of someone getting their hands on the video tape of this very fine performance.

From my personal experience both Kialoa II and Kialoa III were great boats to cruise and race on. We sailed to remote parts of the globe that some people could only dream of seeing. Kilroy always had high expectations and more often than not we enjoyed success in winning races for line honours in major ocean racing events. Kialoa III had an outstanding record for a maxi yacht in also winning races on handicap and shattering course records.

The wonderful crew camaraderie had a galvanizing effect in maintaining crew loyalty to Kilroy and his Kialoas over many years.

I sailed my last race on Kialoa III in the ’77 Sydney-Hobart in which we won both the elapsed and corrected time honours. Following this race we cruised to Auckland as the Trans Tasman event was virtually canned due to the number of boats damaged in the Sydney-Hobart race.

In 1987, I met up with Jim at the America’s Cup Defence in Fremantle, WA. He had been cruising on Kialoa III and invited me out for the final day of racing when Dennis Connor reclaimed the America’s Cup.

Jim was interested in what I was doing and I explained that I was the Sales and Marketing Director of a multi-national company based in Sydney. I mentioned that I had a framed aerial photograph of Kialoa III heavily reefed in the ’77 Hobart race on the wall of my office. The caption below ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ was not lost on our sales force.. or Jim!

He would be pleased to know that in business I applied a good many of the lessons learned on Kialoa in the importance of mentoring and training crew to sail as a cohesive team. Analogies could also be drawn with emphasis on continual improvement in our organisation, systems and the ability to be flexible with our strategic plan as conditions changed.

As Kilroy always challenged us to buy into the sailing of Kialoa in our quest for extra boat speed, we applied similar strategies to grow our business and gain that all important competitive edge in the market place.

The 446-page hardcover book is available for US $50.00 at Barnes & Noble, and online at www.Amazon.com, www.BarnesandNoble.com, and www.smithkerr.com.

Kialoa US-1:Dare to Win is published by Smith/Kerr Associates and its imprint Seapoint Books. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the John B. and Nelly Llanos Kilroy Foundation, to be contributed to youth sailing and educational purposes. For more information, visit www.kialoa-us1.com.


Sail-World will run an extract from Kialoa US-1: Dare to Win on Tuesday, along with Peter Allison's perspective of the incident on Sydney Harbour







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