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Jim Kilroy's Kialoa Fits His Style, Has No Interest in America's Cup

June 21, 1988|Rich Roberts

Sardinia, St. Tropez, Hawaii, Spain--this is the other world of big-time sailing. It's Jim Kilroy's world.

Kilroy touched down in Long Beach recently, bringing the fifth and latest of his Kialoa maxi boats to the West Coast for the first time to blow off some limited competition in the Long Beach Yacht Club's annual race week. That's as close as the founder and chairman of the board of Kilroy Industries, commercial and industrial developers, ever gets to his El Segundo base of business operations.

That's also as close as Kilroy wants to get to the America's Cup, which may or may not be conducted at San Diego someday.

"I think it's a zoo," he said. "I can't be that uni-dimensional. I have my business. I have my family. To take two years out of your life and devote it to something as silly as sailing, I just can't see that."

At 66, Kilroy's wavy hair is snow white, but he is tall, lean, energetic and well established in style through 32 years of campaigning the Kialoas. At Long Beach, an onlooker was startled to see the 79-foot aluminum sloop leave the dock without him.

Later, on the 45-foot tender, Kilroy explained: "I never take over the boat until the sails are up. Allan takes the boat out and Allan takes the boat in."

Allan is Allan Pryor, a New Zealander whose job it is to take care of Kilroy's boat, wherever in the world it is.

"It's Allan's boat when we're not racing," Kilroy said.

Well out to sea, Pryor hoisted the mainsail, Kilroy stepped into a rubber dinghy towed by the tender and motored over to climb aboard Kialoa and take the helm.

During races, he steers the upwind legs, Pryor the downwind legs. Often Kilroy's wife Chantal is aboard, handling the traveler winch on upwind tacks, sunning herself downwind.

The instant the race is over, Kilroy returns the helm to Pryor, collects his personal belongings and summons the dinghy.


"We have a very loose group," Kilroy said. "There's not much talking. It's a very quiet boat."

Sometimes Kilroy lets Dennis Conner steer his boat, as he did in the first round of international Class A (maxi) competition at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands last April when Kialoa opened defense of her world title with a victory.

"Dennis comes aboard at his request, but we put limitations on Dennis," Kilroy said. "He can't rob our crew anymore."

Kilroy estimated that as many as nine of Conner's winning crew at Fremantle in '87 first sailed with him on the Kialoas. Conner has even tried to lure Kilroy into the Cup. It's not for Kilroy.

"You make boating your life, and that can be a tragedy," he said.

Kilroy also is well acquainted with Conner's current archrival, New Zealand merchant banker Michael Fay, whom he sees as an updated version of Australia's Alan Bond. Bond parlayed his participation in the Cup into an international business empire.

"Michael's doing exactly what he wants to do and what he said he was going to do. He's going to 'out-Bondy Bondy,' " Kilroy said. "Now everyone knows his name around the world. He set up a scheme and a plan to do it. He's having a lot of fun out of it.

"He can't be criticized for what he's done, if you take a look at the basic concept. He moved it in a direction that helps Michael Fay."

Fay, now based in San Diego awaiting the event, bristles at the suggestion that his motives are merely mercenary.

"I've discussed this with Jim many times," Fay said. "I tell him, 'No, no, I'm not doing that.' He just winks at me."

Kilroy also has had some former hands involved with the New Zealand challenges. Laurent Esquier is a key administrator. Roy Dickson, the father of former skipper Chris Dickson, "has sailed with me on and off for the last 15 years," Kilroy said.

After Fremantle, there was talk that perhaps the next Cup would be sailed in maxis, which are larger, faster and more spectacular than 12-meters.

"We would oppose it within our association very vigorously," Kilroy said. "Just take a look at what's happened in the 12s. All the 12s are throwaway boats.

"You build a boat to fit an area and go to another area and build another boat. You've taken it out of the hands of private ownership and put it into the hands of (syndicates for) very specialized boats for specific areas.

"Each of us has his own boat. We refine it, we modify it and we try to fine-tune it for (certain) areas, but that's the boat we may sail for five years. (The America's Cup) would destroy Class A yachting. There would be no benefits for us."

Sailing Notes

COLLEGE--UC Irvine, coached by Craig Wilson, is the first West Coast team to win the national championship since UCLA in 1978. Irvine also won in '72. Competing against 15 other schools at Richmond on north San Francisco Bay, Irvine, led by John Pinckney of Newport Beach, also was the first team to sweep the dinghy national and team racing titles since '83.

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