Ted Turner, skipper of the 12-meter yacht Courageous,
Ted Turner, skipper of the 12-meter yacht Courageous, in Newport, Rhode Island, on Friday, morning, Sept. 17, 1977. Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Robert Child

Ted Turner is 78, and age and illness have slowed the man once known as “The Mouth of the South” and “Captain Outrageous.” But he still some of the old gleam in his eye.

He flashed it on Tuesday night upon receiving the New York Yacht Club Medal, then reminding members of the venerable private club in Manhattan that it initially wanted no part of him in the early 1970s.

“The first time I was put up for membership here I was turned down, but I came back,” he said, smiling. “I wanted to defend the America’s Cup and I couldn’t do that if I wasn’t a member of the Yacht Club, so I had to join, and I’m glad I did.”

The feeling clearly was mutual as the current membership of a club that has included Franklin Roosevelt, John Jacob Astor, Jay Gould, Ted Kennedy, August Belmont, Walter Cronkite and various Vanderbilts honored Turner.

The occasion not only was the medal presentation but also a screening of an NBC documentary, “Courageous,” that chronicles Turner’s victory in the 1977 America’s Cup in a boat by that name.

Noel Robbins, left, skipper of Australia, talks of his yacht’s defeat as Ted Turner, right, of Courageous, basks in victory on Sept. 13, 1977. The U.S. 12-meter yacht won the America’s Cup race off Newport, RI., by one minute, 48 seconds. Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

It premieres at 2:30 p.m. on June 17, after NBC’s coverage of the first race of this year’s America’s Cup Final in Bermuda.

Before the event, Turner was asked whether he can believe it has been 40 years since his victory. “No, it seems like yesterday,” he said in an interview with Newsday. “But it was.”

Turner still is in touch with members of the crew, seven of whom were in attendance on Tuesday, and he recently was aboard Courageous itself. But his days as a sailing captain are behind him.

“I get out on the water, but I’m fishing,” he said. “I’m a fly fisherman. Sailing was a lot of work. I’m almost 80. The 11-or 12-man crew, that’s a big group to get together every weekend to go sailing, so it is a real challenge. I admire the people that are doing it, but I couldn’t do it. Nobody in their late 70s is out there on those boats anyway. They’re all younger because it takes a lot of physical exertion.”

That was no problem in 1977 for Turner, already famous as the owner of the Atlanta Braves and not yet even more famous for founding CNN and otherwise revolutionizing modern media.

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