Sports & Recreation

From the Archives: The Brown Connection at America’s Cup

By Jay Barry
July 31st, 2023
Black and white image Ted Turner at America's Cup in 1977 by John Foraste

At stake this month in waters off Newport is the longest winning streak in sports history, this nation’s 126-year domination of the America’s Cup. In reality, the Cup is a battered Victorian mug costing only 100 guineas. In myth and legend, it is the Holy Grail of international sailing. 

Seven graceful twelve-meter yachts, each costing more than $1 million to design, build, and equip, came to Newport in June hoping to make the finals. Two boats had strong Brown ties: Courageous, with Ted Turner ’60 as skipper; and Independence, skippered by Ted Hood, father of Rick ’79 and Teddy ’81, both members of his crew.

Ted Turner: ‘I don’t get involved if I don’t want to win’

Ted Turner is an Atlanta multimillionaire who owns the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, two TV stations, a radio station, and an outdoor advertising agency which he took over at twenty-four when his father died. Turner is sometimes known as the Rhett Butler of Baseball, the Mouth of the South, and Terrible Ted, but several things about the brash Atlanta sportsman are certain: the man is interesting, respected, and regarded by many as the best ocean racer in the world.

Twice winner of the Yachtsman of the Year Award, Turner won the Congressional Cup last March in a blue-chip field that included Ted Hood (fifth) and Lowell North (ninth), original skipper of the dark horse Enterprise, this summer’s third American Twelve. “Ted Turner is a complex man,” says Bob Giordano of rival Atlanta station WBS-TV, who was in Newport to make a film on Turner (aptly titled Captain’s Courageous). “He has the enthusiasm and naivete of a child combined with the cunning and shrewdness of a river boat gambler.”

Turner also has a competitive fire burning inside, even in a volleyball game against a rival Twelve crew. Talking all through the game, Turner labels an erring teammate a “dodo” and yells “aw-right, aw-right” when an opponent fouls up.

When Courageous led with a 14-7 record in July, Time observed: “Come September 13 it could be Ted Turner's favorite person—himself—who has the American helm.” Turner admits he came to Newport with that in mind. “I don’t get involved if I don’t want to win. But I’ll still get up the next day if Courageous isn’t picked. It’s just that the sun won’t be shining and it will hurt like hell.”

Ted Hood: Sailing’s Renaissance man

The New York Times said in June that Ted Hood “never starts talking; Ted Turner never stops; Lowell North is somewhere in between.” The fifty-year-old Hood is considered the Renaissance man of sailing, the only one to have won racing’s big four—the America’s Cup (1974 in Courageous), Mallory Cup, Bermuda Race, and the Southern Circuit. The soft-spoken Hood also designed, outfitted, and cut the sails for Independence, thus becoming the first man in history to control every aspect of a twelve-meter, from drawing board to helm. Hood and his wife Sue (who has frequently crewed for her husband in races) have four children and live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where Ted Hood heads one of the most prestigious sail-making companies in the world. Hood and Turner have been friendly rivals all summer. “You certainly have to respect Ted Turner,” Hood says. “He’s a driver, a competitor, and in his own way he makes all of us work a bit harder.” Sue Hood points out that during the winter her husband made changes in Turner's boat, Courageous, to make it faster. “To him, this was just a matter of integrity, of mutual respect,” she says. “The whole idea is to keep the Cup.”

Rick and Teddy Hood are both engineering students, having chosen Brown over such schools as MIT, RPI, and Cornell. The boys cut their sailing teeth as part of a six-man crew in a 1975 race from Newport to Plymouth, England, in Robin, a forty-foot sloop. The fleet ran into a hurricane the first day, and it was four days before anyone had a square meal. Rick, who celebrated his eighteenth birthday during that race (his mother had smuggled a birthday cake aboard), did some extra celebrating in England when Robin won. The boys have interests beyond sailing. Rick is involved in music, mostly piano and guitar, is a budding cartoonist, and is deeply committed to Big Brothers. Teddy is interested in mountain climbing, canoeing, and navigation. Several years ago he designed a single-handed rowing shell. He’s also studying meteorology, which pleases his mother. “Now I can rely on Teddy instead of the TV weather men,” she says. “He’s more accurate.”

This article originally appeared in the Brown Alumni Monthly, September 1977, Vol. 78 No. 1

What do you think?
See what other readers are saying about this article and add your voice.