John Waldrip Kolius

Houston, Texas

April 1, 1951

John Waldrip Kolius

Houston, Texas

April 1, 1951

John Kolius proved to be a natural, gifted sailor at a young age.  His father bought a Day Sailor to race with John and his two older sisters when the three children were young. Soon, John was racing a Sunfish against adults. Racing on Galveston Bay featured strong thermal winds and Kolius became a good heavy air sailor. In 1968 at the age of 17, John along with Jay Williams and Dan Williams qualified for the Sears Cup to be raced on San Francisco Bay.  The three sailors thrived when the wind built up on the second day and they won the coveted trophy for the North American junior championship. In 1971, Kolius won the Mallory Cup for the men’s national championship.

His next step was to sail in the 1972 Olympic Trials which were won by Buddy Melges who went on to win a Gold Medal in the Munich Games. Kolius had finished ninth in the Trials. His eyes were opened to the effort that would be needed to qualify for the Olympics. In 1975, he won the Soling North Americans. Kolius and his crew practiced five days per week and raced in every possible regatta to prepare for the 1976 Trials. One year later he defeated Melges and future Gold Medalist, Robbie Haines in the USA Olympic Trials and went on to represent the USA in the 1976 Summer Olympics hosted by Montreal. Melges invited Kolius and his crew to train before the Games. It was a gracious offer by the reigning Gold Medalist.

Kolius and his crew, Walter Glasgow and Richard Hoepfner, finished with an 8-3-2-7-6-1 series to win a Silver Medal. The American crew was just .7 of a point shy of the Gold and had defeated East Germany on a tie breaker. It was a remarkably close regatta. Overnight, John Kolius became a well-known sailor in the USA.

Professionally, Kolius worked as a sailmaker. He also raced professionally and served as a coach. He continued racing at a high level, winning the J24 World Championships in 1979 and 1981.  In 1983, he was named skipper of the two-time America’s Cup defender, Courageous for the Defense Trials. His good showing in the ’83 trials earned him the helm of the New York Yacht Club’s challenger in 1987, America II.  The campaign missed the semi-final round. Kolius worked with Paul Cayard on the Il Moro di Venezia challenge in 1992 and was a coach for the all-women’s team on Mighty Mary in 1995. He tried to win the Cup one more time as head of Aloha Racing in 2000. In between America’s Cup campaigns, Kolius sailed a variety of offshore boats and was usually at the front of the fleet. In 2002 he even returned to racing a Sunfish and finished second in the World Championship at the age of 51. In recent years, he enjoys spending time fishing and helping young sailors achieve their dreams.

~ Gary Jobson

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