Ted Turner enters Sailing Hall of Fame

SAN DIEGO -- Ted Turner was well-behaved as he, Dennis Conner and several other America's Cup greats were among the first class inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

More than three decades after he was nicknamed `'Captain Outrageous" and `'The Mouth of the South" en route to winning the America's Cup, Turner was neither as he gave a short acceptance speech on Sunday at the San Diego Yacht Club.

`'It's so great to see all my old friends," Turner said. "When I left the sport more than 20 years ago, everybody was a lot younger, and now everybody is older -- so am I," Turner said. "It's good to see my old pals."

Turner, who founded CNN and used to own the Atlanta Braves, was 38 when he became the last amateur skipper to win the oldest trophy in international sports in 1977. He turns 73 next month.

Turner and Conner, a four-time America's Cup winner, were among the 15 inductees.

Conner had a tamer nickname, "Mr. America's Cup," and he got into the game thanks to Turner. Conner, a San Diego native, went on to win the America's Cup four times and lose it twice.

"I got the chance to break into the big time, really, thanks to Ted Turner," Conner said. "I don't know if he regrets it now or not. It's a wonderful day. Thank you, Ted, for all you did."

In 1974, Conner and Turner sailed aboard Mariner in the defense trials. Mariner was excused, but Conner became starting helmsman and tactician aboard Courageous, which successfully defended the America's Cup with a four-race sweep of Australia's Southern Cross.

Three years later, Turner got his chance aboard Courageous, livening up the staid event during a four-race sweep of Australia.

While the National Sailing Hall of Fame includes all genres of the sport, 11 of the initial inductees had a hand in 17 straight America's Cup victories from 1893-1980, and three more from 1987-1992.

Others in the group who won the America's Cup as a skipper, crewman or naval architect are the late Capt. Charlie Barr, the late Capt. Nathanael G. Herreshoff, Ted Hood, Gary Jobson, Buddy Melges, the late Emil "Bus" Mosbacher Jr., the late Olin Stephens and the late Harold Vanderbilt. Lowell North, the founder of North Sails who won an Olympic gold medal and five Star class world championships, made sails for several Cup boats over the decades.

Another inductee, Paul Cayard, has extensive America's Cup experience, won the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1998 and sailed in the 2004 Olympics.

The rest of the class includes Betsy Alison of Newport, R.I., the US Sailing Team paralympic coach and five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year; Hobie Alter, whose Hobie Cat catamaran popularized sailing among the masses; and the late Joshua Slocum, who sailed alone around the world in the late 1890s. Slocum disappeared at sea in 1908.

Every living inductee attended. The posthumous inductees were represented by descendants.

Cayard has yet to win the America's Cup, but he has the distinction of helming both a challenger and a defender. He steered Italy's Il Moro di Venezia during a 4-1 loss to Melges' America3 off San Diego in 1992, then was Conner's helmsman in a 5-0 loss to Team New Zealand in 1995.

In 1998, Cayard became the first American skipper to win the Whitbread Round the World Race. He's currently the CEO of America's Cup syndicate Artemis Racing of Sweden.

"I'm flattered and honored to be included in this group," said Cayard, 52, who won the Star class world championship in 1988. "Somehow I feel I'm a little undeserving, but hopefully I'm young enough to win a few more times and earn my position in this illustrious group."

Cayard has crewed with four fellow Hall of Famers -- Melges, Jobson, North and Conner.

"I haven't won the America's Cup so that would be a nice little accomplishment," Cayard said.

Jobson, who was Turner's tactician in 1977, said it would be interesting if all 15 of the Hall of Famers could have been in the same boat at the same time.

"What would happen is you'd have great admiration for each other. I'm not sure who would steer, but it would be a great exercise," said Jobson, a commentator, author and president of US Sailing.

Alter was a Southern California surfer who designed the Hobie Cat in the late 1960s because he wanted a boat that could be easily launched from the beach.

"A lot of people used our toys," he said Sunday. "The main reason we made them is so we could use them."