Ted Turner, outlier | Block Island Time


In 1977, a character named Robert E. “Ted” Turner was the skipper of the 12-meter racing yacht Courageous, while competing in the America’s Cup off Newport, Rhode Island. (I’m writing this column 150 yards from where the boats were moored at Bannister’s Wharf.) Turner is an interesting guy who thinks outside the box. He is also a very competitive type. He is aggressive. Turner was known as The Mouth from the South, Terrible Ted and
Scandalous captain. He’s a guy whose personality could suck the air out of the room; however, he could deliver with the hyperbole and histrionics he was known for in his youth. He was the sage of a sage. Over the years, while sailing from Newport, I have seen Turner sailing around 40 feet such as the American Eagle and sporting his trademark engineer’s cap while calling the shots from the helm . One day while cruising with some friends heading north from the Pell Bridge, I saw the guy nodding, gesturing and shouting commands. It was obvious to me that the guy knew how to lead as he called out the command “Let’s go! Hoist the spinnaker!”
A sailor from Newport and Edgartown named Cindy Alten-Delotto sailed with Turner. Alten-Delotto is a formidable lifelong sailboat racer who has amassed a lot of experience in the Sheilds class as well as the 12 meter class. Alten-Delotto’s sailing experience is impressive; she is able and all business on the bow of a boat while doing spinnaker drills. Recently, we spoke in Newport about this expansive sailor, businessman, media pioneer, sports team owner and rancher named Ted Turner. According to Alten-Delotto, “Ted Turner is a passionate man in every sense of the word, and that passion defines the way he has lived his life. Ted had a terrific workout on
the course of the race, demanding the best from his crew, the boat and himself. She also talked about her business acumen and her passion for the environment. “Ted had the financial means to buy more land
for its own use or not and is one of the fourth largest landowners in North America. He fiercely protected nature and its most impressive animals from extinction. (More on these animals, later.) Alten-Delotto went on to explain how he sailed with Turner in the 12-meter national championships several years ago:
“It’s a real pleasure to meet you,” she said, (as he looked her up and down.)
“What are you going to do for me today on this boat?” he said.
“Well sir, I’ll make sure your spinnaker comes up straight and fills perfectly every time.” Then I will make sure it happens the same way, and I will do it as many times as necessary during this
regatta,” she said.
“Good, but that remains to be seen,” he said.
Ted Turner was pleased with Cindy Alten-Delotto’s work. Turner is not for the faint of heart.
Coming to Cincinnati, Ohio, Ted Turner didn’t have it easy; at 24, he suffered tragic losses. Thereafter, these losses fueled his will to succeed and push himself in the pursuits of his life. These losses taught him to be brave. Turner studied classics at Brown University, raced sailboats and probably raised a little hell. If we combine a strong ego with intelligence and swagger, chances are we’ll see a very colorful, Alpha-like character. As a child, Turner piloted a dinghy called Penguin. He was known as “Turnover Turner, the Capsize Kid”, which explains how he pushed his boat and himself while
in competition. At Brown, Turner captained the sailing team and won three national titles.
After attending college, he started racing larger boats and became a fixture on the international racing scene. His offshore racing victories are legion. As he charged towards his future, Ted Turner proved to be a savage and competitive force, and it was how he ended up beating the Australians at Newport in 1977. Courageous closed Australia in all four races. Impressive things in the world of sailing. In addition to shopping Courageous, Ted Turner was involved in his other ventures. His work ethic is commendable and it has served him well in his long game as a highly successful businessman.
When we sail a boat, we notice that sailing is all about balance. When everything is working in sync, a sailboat will move through the water with outspoken sailors and in an assertive manner; the sum of the parts of a boat constitutes the whole. Also, when we experience a balanced helm, we can let go of the helm and let the boat do what it is designed to do. We can leave it alone and just observe what it is doing, and the elements are doing to maintain the balance. While sailing, there are many lessons to be learned about how things will naturally fall into place if we step back and let them, and let the boat do what it’s supposed to. Likewise in nature, if left to its own devices, it determines what it needs without human interference. It’s a fait accompli that Ted Turner must know intrinsically.
Turner owns a 113,613-acre ranch in Montana called Flying D. He also owns ranches in Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Argentina. The Flying D is a working ranch with 5,000 head of bison, also known as American bison. In addition, there are several other species on this ranch such as: moose, elk, gray wolf, antelope, bald and bald eagle, cougar, badger and other small birds
species. Turner’s ranches are huge ecosystems where animals and habitat seem to be balanced of their own accord. The bison almost disappeared when man became the apex predator and began to slaughter them to feed the workers during the construction of the railways. An estimated 60 million bison inhabited the northern plains grasslands in the 1800s. Bison are highly intelligent animals and instinctively know how to manage their food and water sources. they can actually feel where the water is under the ground and will dig to find it. These amazing animals and their co-species can balance their own habitat if allowed. Ted Turner just created the
a space for this ecosystem to thrive by simply getting out of the way; just like the balanced helm of a sailboat. As previously stated, the Flying D is a working ranch and provides buffalo meat for the open market.
Finally, an outlier is someone we can’t just define or put in a box. An outlier cannot be contained just as a creative mind cannot be contained. And, Ted Turner is such a person.


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