Hal Smith is a name you’ve probably heard at various events around the sport. He’s been coming to Charleston to sail since 1974 and has volunteered at Sperry Charleston Race Week for at least 13 years. This year, Smith will once again serve as the PRO on Circle 3. It’s just one of many regattas that he’s managed all around the Southeast.
“Predominantly, what I do is one-design keelboat events,” explains Smith, “but I do branch out now and then. I’ve been PRO at the Hospice Cup on Lake Hartwell and the Sunfish Worlds up in North Carolina. I’ve also had that same role at a number of Melges 24 events over the years, as well as an annual championship on Lake Ontario.”
Smith not only officiates regattas, but also enters his boat in a race or two on occasion. “In 1974, my wife Sally and I bought a Catalina 22 because we knew we wanted to sail. At the time, I had no idea that you’d race something as slow as a sailboat,” Smith says. “A year later, we were traveling all over the country to race. We actually won the nationals in that class one year.”
Smith discovered his passion for race management by way of the 1996 at the Summer Olympic Games in Savannah, Georgia. He wasn't working on the water at that event, but it spurred him on to seek the qualificatios necessary to run significant sailing events. Since then, he and Sally have traveled to regattas across the country and met wonderful people. One of their favorite stops, he says, is Sperry Charleston Race Week.
“Being part of a widely respected and very fun regatta has its own rewards,” he says. “Racing in Charleston Harbor is about as challenging a buoy race as I think there is. The current and the winds here mean that even the best tacticians, skippers and PROs are challenged. So, being a part of a regatta that attracts the best is a great honor. For me, I regard it as a privilege.”