Living , Modern




From earning a silver medal at the Olympics to skippering several America’s Cup entries, John Kolius has competed successfully at the highest levels of sailing.


Kolius’s first boat was a Sunfish and he grew up sailing at the Houston Yacht Club through the Ragnot program. In 1968, John won his first major championship, the Sears Cup. He was 17 years old. Two years later at the age of 19, Kolius won the US Sailing Senior Championship for the Mallory Trophy. It was not too long after that he began sailing Solings and preparing for the Olympics. In 1975, John won the Soling North Americans and in 1976 an Olympic silver medal.

Kolius became an America’s Cup competitor in 1983, skippering Courageous against National Sailing Hall of Famers Tom Blackaller in Defender and eventual cup defender Dennis Conner in Liberty. Kolius was recruited for his second Cup effort in 1987, this time as skipper of America II. When the America’s Cup shifted to IACC yachts for the 1992 Cup, Kolius sailed as part of the Italian team, Il Moro di Venezia, in which he placed third at the IACC Worlds in 1991. He coached the team to a second place in the 1992 America’s Cup. America3 recruited Kolius as a coach for their all-woman’s Cup run in 1995. Then when the Cup traveled to New Zealand for the 2000 event, Kolius put together the Aloha Racing Team.

Throughout his sailing career, John has won numerous championship events. He is a two-time winner of the J/24 Worlds (1979 and 1981), the 50-foot World Championships in 1992, the Kenwood Cup in 1994, and the 1997 Admiral’s Cup just to name a few. John was also part of the team that helped kick off the Ultimate 30 Pro Racing Series in the late 1980s and went on to win the Ultimate 30 Championship in 1989.

Kolius learned his sailmaking skills and honed his sailing through mentors Martin Bloodworth, Owen Torrey, Hans Fogh and Buddy Melges. In 1983, Kolius opened the Texas franchise of Ulmer Sails which then became Ulmer-Kolius. Several years later, Kolius sold his franchise, finding himself too busy with America’s Cup events to be able to participate in the business. Ulmer-Kolius then became UK. In the 1990s, Kolius opened Regatta Sports and Rigging, which later became KO Sailing. Currently, Kolius has retired from operating KO Sailing. He continues to coach and support the business in an advisory role.


Not many people have had the success on the water as John. In a time of heavy boats that were so hard to drive downwind, he was one of the best downwind helmsmen ever. I raced with John for years, during the old SORC days, John would drive every minute of every race, including the St. Petersburg/Fort Lauderdale Race. There were no drivers at that time that were that strong who could drive for that long.

– Farley Fontenot, Executive Vice President of Quantum Sail Design


Accomplishments and Honors

Year(s) Places(s) Event
2008 1st Melges 24 Atlantic Coast Championship
2005 1st J/80 North American Championship
2002 2nd Sunfish World Championship
1998 Boat of the Week Key West Race Week, OD 48 Abracadabra
1998 1st One-design 48 World Championship Abracadabra
1997 1st Place Team Admiral’s Cup MK Café
1995 First to Finish Transpac, Cheval (with a broken mast)
1994 1st in Class, 1st Overall Kenwood Cup Growler
1992 1st 50-foot World Cup Champosa VII
1990 1st 50-foot World Cup Abracadabra
1988 1st Stienlager/Line 7 New Zealand Match Race Cup
1988 1st Bermuda Gold Cup Match Race
1988 1st Place Team US Team Racing Hinman Trophy
1987 2nd 1 Ton North Americans
1986 1987 America’s Cup America II
1985 1st in Class B SORC Morningstar 50’
1984 1st in Class B SORC Morningstar
1984 1st in Class E Newport Bermuda Road Warrior
1984 2nd 1 Ton North Americans Road Warrior
1983 America’s Cup Courageous
1983 1st in Class and 5 in Fleet SORC Morningstar
1981 1st Championship of Champions
1981 1st in Fleet Chicago Mac Race Thunderbird
1980 1st Sardina Cup Acadia
1976 Olympic Silver Medal Soling
1979, 1982 1st J/24 World Championship
1975 1st Soling North American Championship
1971 1st Mallory Cup
1968 1st Sears Cup


  • Filter Nominees

  • Reset

Preserving America’s Sailing Legacy

Engaging Sailing’s Next Generation

Stay Connected to the National Sailing Hall of Fame