Everything is running just about on schedule for John Kolius and his America's Cup retrieval crew.
Kolius, you may recall, is the fair-haired Texan who took over the helm of 10-year-old Courageous during the 1983 Cup trials and sailed the old boat well.
That strong first effort at 12-meter sailing won him many admirers, including stalwarts of the New York Yacht Club, even though in the end NYYC picked Dennis Conner and Liberty to defend the Cup in the series against Australia II.
Now, Kolius, 34, is back with a well-organized campaign to regain the Cup in Perth in 1987. This time he has the full backing of NYYC and a full season of sailing the wild and windy Indian Ocean already under his belt.
And he has a plan.
Kolius, whose America II syndicate is testing and racing its two new 12-meter boats off Newport through July, said he sat down with syndicate organizers just before the start of the 1983 final series to map strategy for retaking the Cup should it be lost, as it was.
"What makes me happy," he said, "is that we made up a schedule at that time and we're within a week of it now."
America II is one of about 13 challengers from six countries expected to compete for the right to face Australia for yachting's most prestigious prize in February 1987.
Four other U.S. campaigns are in the running, most notably that of Conner, whose Sail America syndicate will launch its first new boat later this summer. "The boats are going to be different, the weather is different, the crews are going to have to be different." -- John Kolius
After more than a decade of sailing 12 meters, Conner is widely acknowledged as one of the best and probably the very best America's Cup skipper in the world.
Kolius is the first to admit he's still learning. To that end, he and his crew spent all last winter (Australian summer) sailing their first new 12-meter in the roaring afternoon gales off Perth.
No other syndicate -- not even the Australians -- managed to put a boat together in time to catch that first Australian season after the Cup changed hands, and Kolius believes the experience puts his organization ahead of the rest.
"It's a whole new regatta," he said. "The boats are going to be different, the weather is different, the crews are going to have to be different.
"We're going through major shifts of keels, weight distribution, design. We're learning every day, and it's not going to be easy to catch up with us."
In an effort to find out what boat design would succeed off Perth, where the winds average 20 to 30 knots (about double what they are off Newport) and the seas are accordingly big, Kolius had Sparkman & Stephens design a boat that could be adapted to a number of hull, ballast, keel and rig configurations.
Then he shipped a freight box full of keels to Australia and tried them all on the boat.
"The Australians are trying to confuse everyone now by saying winged keels (like the one on Australia II) won't work" in the heavy conditions off Perth, said America II syndicate chairman Chuck Kirsch. "But we know what works and what doesn't."
America II is keeping that information a closely guarded secret.
Based on what was learned last winter, Sparkman & Stephens designed the second America II and launched it May 24. This month and next, the two America IIs are sailing against each other off Newport, after which they will be shipped back to Perth for another winter of testing.
Next summer S&S will design the third and final version.
This is the plan exactly as envisioned by Kolius and the America II organizers 21 1/2 months ago. His $12 million-plus budget is about two-thirds of the way toward being met, according to America II fund-raisers.
Whether the rigid America II schedule will create a winner is a question of some dispute. John Marshall, who is overseeing design and construction of Conner's new boat, believes Kolius might be wasting precious "motivation hours" by subjecting his crew to such a heavy workload so long before the fact.
Marshall and Conner, by contrast, are concentrating on extensive scientific input to design a fast boat now and a faster one next year, and banking on their crew's long experience to assure good boat handling.
It's hard at this point to figure which is doing the right thing, because there is nothing to compare America II's progress against. Kolius' two white yachts looked wonderful sailing off Newport last week, but they were sailing against each other. No one knows how they will do sailing against other boats designed to go fast off Perth.
Much more will be learned next winter, when all the top competing syndicates send boats to Perth.
Meantime, said Kolius, "We have a pretty good jump. We started our research six to 10 months ahead.
"But what we did so far won't amount to anything unless we keep pressing," he said. "It's like the Italian race driver said: 'You have to rip the rear-view mirror off.' "