One of the hallmarks of Sperry Charleston Race Week is the caliber of the event’s race management. The Principal Race Officers and their teams who run each of the event’s six race courses are among the most experienced in the sport. But it’s not just their experience that distinguishes this regatta, it’s the fact that maintaining a competitor-centric outlook is their No. 1 priority.
It all starts with Hank Stuart, who serves at the event’s Principal Race Officer, guiding the work of his fellow race officers. Stuart is renowned in the sport with nearly three decades of race management experience at venues around the country. The majority of his experience is at top-tier events such as World, North American and National championships. He is the current chairman of the Race Administration Division at US Sailing and an International Race Officer.
“It is an honor to lead such a dedicated race management team,” says Stuart. “We have over 200 volunteers at Sperry Charleston Race Week 2017. Our goal is to provide safe, fair and fun sailing for everyone. Joining our team is easy. Simply volunteer and give back to the sport that we all love so much. Fellow sailors will appreciate your efforts on the race committee.”
Here’s a brief profile of each of the event’s Principal Race Officers, circle-by-circle:
Tommy Harken, the PRO on Circle 1, grew up sailing in Charleston and has raced all around the Southeast. In high school, he competed in Y-Flyers and followed that with four years on The Citadel’s varsity sailing team. After that, he competed successfully aboard a series of J/35s and a Mumm 30 for almost two decades. Later, he became a force in the MC Scow, helping to establish a local fleet that thrived for the better part of 10 years.
If you race in the Midwest, there’s a good chance that you already know John Strassman, the PRO on Circle 2 (J/70 Class). Based in Milwaukee, Strassman grew up there spending his formative years as a racing sailor. He’s the current Chair of US Sailing’s Race Management Committee, a US Sailing National Race Officer, World Sailing International Race Officer and an active racing sailor who crams in as much competition as he can, usually as navigator or tactician aboard a couple of nice big boat programs on Lake Michigan.
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.
Wayne Bretsch, who will run Circle 4, has been a fixture on the sailboat racing scene for over three decades. He’s been an active member of race committees at events up and down the East Coast – and occasionally in the Great Lakes Region. He's the only person to have served as PRO at events that won US Sailing’s St. Petersburg Trophy in two consecutive years – the National Hospice Championship Regatta at Rochester, NY and the Beneteau 36.S North American’s at the Annapolis Yacht Club.
Taran Teague, the PRO on Circle 5 (our only offshore race course), is a big fan of Race Week. She competed here for several years and then five years ago decided to help out with the race committee work. This year will be her second stint as the PRO on the regatta’s offshore racecourse.
Meet Frank Pontious. He’s served as a volunteer at Race Week for six years, and this will be his third stint as PRO on the Pursuit Course. Pontious comes to Race Week from the Beaufort, SC, area where he’s a member of Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club. He’s been there for nearly 20 years, and was a member of the Atlanta Yacht Club for 20 years prior to that.