Museum Acquires Kilroy Collection

Jim Kilroy aboard Kialoa III in the Miami to Monetgo Bay race 1971, Photo by Dick Enersen.
Jim Kilroy aboard Kialoa III in the Miami to Monetgo Bay race 1975, Photo by Dick Enersen.

Mystic Seaport Museum announces the donation of a significant collection of 20th century yachting materials related to the renowned sailor John B. “Jim” Kilroy Sr. and his yachts named Kialoa. This donation was made by Kilroy’s daughter Patrice Kilroy, who wished that the story of her father and those who sailed with him would be preserved and shared with future generations.

The materials contained in the collection include personal correspondence, design memoranda, drawings, ratings protocols, race notes, planning items, logbooks, annotated charts, photos, scrapbook clippings, movies, plaques, trophies and other materials which document 50 years of American yachting at the highest levels of competition.

“Jim Kilroy and the Kialoas were synonymous with big boat sailing during a transformative time in the sport. The best amateur sailors aspired to crew for Kilroy. Many of his crew went on to impact sailing in their own rights. Mystic Seaport Museum is the perfect place to keep the Kilroy-Kialoa Collection safe and accessible for marine historians and generations of sailors to come,” said Sheila McCurdy, Mystic Seaport Museum trustee and past commodore of the Cruising Club of America

From 1956 to 2005, Kilroy owned and raced five Maxi boats carrying the name Kialoa. The racing successes that Kilroy and his amateur crews achieved on every ocean of the world are exceptional. In 1975 alone, they won 11 major ocean races, including the Transatlantic, the Fastnet, and the Sydney-to-Hobart Races. The Hobart win in 1975 set a record time that stood for 21 years despite the advances in materials and technology that transpired during those decades. Kialoa IV won 20 out of 24 races in 1981 and held the Maxi Yacht World Champion title for five years between 1981 and 1987.

This collection is important not simply because it documents the success of the Kialoa campaigns, but because Kilroy and the Kialoa boats were at the forefront of many advances in yacht design, construction, crewing, and technology. An early Kialoa was one of the first racing yachts built of aluminum, and Kialoa IV was an early example of the use of carbon composites and Kevlar, both adopted from the aerospace industry.

Kilroy famously used computers to aid in planning, analyzing and measuring success, and his early adoption of onboard computer data collection and use of computers to assist in tactical decision-making was at the forefront of what has now become the industry standard.

Kilroy was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2014. He passed away in 2016.

Mystic Seaport Museum is excited to begin cataloguing and digitizing this collection so that it can be shared with researchers, scholars, and enthusiasts alike. This is an important acquisition for the Museum as it advances the collection into the modern era of yacht racing.