Kolius, who organized the crew, also enlisted Fort Lauderdale realtor Mike Smith, Victory '83's bowman in the last America's Cup series, to handle the high-skill athletic challenges on Windquest's pointy end.
Obviously, an SORC win makes Williams and Manchester, Frers, Ulmer-Kolius, Sparcraft, Barient, Ockam and even aluminum look good.
Still, DeVos had to use no little leverage to put together such an impressive team. As volunteer chairman of the America II syndicate, he's raised more than $10 million for Kolius' America's Cup campaign. Also, he spent a good deal of money with U-K on Windquest's sails.
"The arrangement," said DeVos, "was that we'd buy all the sails from him, and in return John would drive, organize the crew and help set up the boat. But then we decided to enter America II in the worlds (where she was third), and it would have been bad policy to bring him back in the middle of that."
Even without Kolius, Windquest is doing well. After three races she stood second in class IOR-B to Fujimo, another Frers 50, and third overall in the 55-boat fleet.
In the Lipton Cup she was second to Fujimo. She was fast off the wind, but in that race and throughout the series she has struggled when beating directly into the breeze.
"She just isn't pointing upwind as well as the others," said the bearded Bertrand in a rare moment before the race when he wasn't locked in intense concentration. "It takes time to set these boats up right, and with a Dec. 22 launch, we haven't had time."
Bertrand is a study in how deadly serious the SORC game has grown. In two days of sailing, a full day of practice before the Lipton Cup and all day during the race, he never cracked a smile nor issued an idle remark.
"He's a good helmsman," said one crew member, "but he's too intense. He's not much of a leader. He never tells the guys in the middle of the boat what he's doing, so you don't get involved the way you should. He's a real Finn-type, a one-man band," said the crewman, referring to the single-handed Olympic class in which Bertrand won his medal.
Bertrand regards chit-chat as the enemy. He shuts it off by order. Nor is he charitable about crew error.
But he can drive a boat fast, and the others pulling the strings on Windquest can, too. It's no palace of gaiety but the job gets done.
At one point Thursday the crew raised a new sail on which U-K had failed to attach tell-tales--little yarn strings fastened to the leading edge to show if it is adjusted properly.
Smith, the bowman, saw the flaw, jumped into his seat harness and instantly was hoisted along the headstay, skittering diagonally up the sail like a pirate with the tell-tales in his teeth. He fastened a pair one-third of the way up and another two-thirds of the way--50 feet off the deck under full racing conditions--and was back down in a flash, an impressive demonstration of skill and teamwork.
But as good as Windquest's crew and gear are, they aren't perfect. Old-fashioned sailing mistakes cost them any chance of catching Fujimo.
Coming into the second turning mark off Miami, the brain trust misjudged the strength of the Gulf Stream. The nearer they came to the mark, the farther north they were washed by the rushing force of the current, so strong it nearly pulled the inflatable buoy under water.
Bertrand spat out an expletive as he crabbed the boat against the current, losing time in order to make the mark.
And at the next rounding, navigator Marshall had his bearings right as Windquest neared the Lauderdale sea buoy, but Bertrand and Love had the wrong buoy in sight. Windquest ended up 200 yards from where she needed to be and Fujimo slid away to a commanding lead.
After the race Bertrand was pleasant enough. "Good job," he told the crew, then went forward and fell asleep on a pile of sails.
"You should have seen him in the Boca Grande race," said Dick DeVos. "He took the wheel at noon and drove nonstop through sail changes, squalls, and all kinds of activity. He didn't turn the wheel over until after midnight, and the whole performance was flawless--not a lapse." Windquest won that one.
Rich DeVos said it was Dick who lured him into competitive sailing. "I had a Columbia-50 on the lakes. Dick started racing it and we've just taken it from there."
DeVos now owns a Swan 51 sailboat with a Bertram 48 powerboat as its tender on the Great Lakes, two 150-foot Feadship oceangoing motor yachts, a new Hatteras 60-foot sport fisherman, plus Windquest.
But can money buy the SORC?
"I don't think so," said Dick DeVos. "A fairly high ante is required to play, but once you've anted up, you can't buy the win.
"It's a team effort," he said. "It requires motivation and a dedication to winning."
And, of course, a willingness to do as you're told.
Even on your own boat.
Windquest's fortunes took a plunge in the Ocean Triangle race last weekend when she finished seventh of 10 boats in her class. That finish moves her well back in the rankings for both class and fleet honors, though she is not out of the running.